Funded PhD position in Tübingen

21. 11. 2017

Bez popisku

The Ebershard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany, in conjunction with the Department of Human Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology offer the following PhD position:

Three-year PhD position working in the research group “Tools and Culture among Early Hominins", part of the large-scale 5-year ERC funded project STONECULT.
Background: Cultural adaptations have allowed humans to colonise the planet. While discovering the roots of human culture has been described as one of the 125 most important scientific questions of our time (Science, 2005, anniversary issue), it remains unclear when such forms of culture first arose in our lineage. Progress in this area has been hampered by a lack of null-models (or referential frameworks) for different cultural scenarios against which the significance of different forms of early stone tools can be evaluated. Simulation, like agent-based modelling, is a promising tool to provide these models.

As part of the STONECULT project the PhD candidate will use published data (as well as data that our team continues to produce) to write software that can repetitively and realistically knap, in 3D, flakes from virtual stone cores. The reliability and validity of the simulation will be tested against cores and flakes created in
controlled experiments (these data already exist) and against flintknapping experiments. Once the knapping process has been simulated with reasonable external validity, the program will then generate virtual assemblages following increasingly complex knapping rule sets (null models or referential frameworks). These virtual
assemblages will then be analysed using standard archaeological methods and compared with published data sets on the earliest stone tool assemblages. The required physical, quantitative models for knapping were not available until very recently. Thus, this program will be the first of its kind, and its implementation will be an academic challenge. Under supervision, the candidate will have to translate these empirical findings (experimental knapping of real stone in the laboratory that leads to complex 3D patterns) into programming code. The production of this program requires an interdisciplinary treatment, extending beyond programming skills, and may include mathematics, physics, material science, archaeology and general understanding of empirical testing. We are aware that this specialized combination of skills will not be present at the start of the PhD, and thus represents no hindrance. Skilled members of the supervision team will lead the candidate in producing the software so that this combination of skills will instead be acquired by the candidate along the way. Overall, this project will lead to the education of an interdisciplinary researcher with intermapping knowledge at the interfaces of fields such as informatics, mathematics, physics, material science and archaeology. Such a student will gain valuable practical and theoretical expertise, which should place him/her in a good starting position for a scientific career (either by continuing interdisciplinary or by specializing in one of the involved scientific areas). The project will follow Open Science guidelines and the source code will be made freely available at the end of the STONECULT project.

This PhD will be supervised by STONECULT’s PI Dr. Claudio Tennie – together with the two external STONECULT collaborators Prof. Harold Dibble (the University of Pennsylvania) and Dr. Shannon McPherron (MPI EVA, Leipzig). In addition, further local supervision at the professorial level will be provided in uncovered relevant fields (e.g. in material science, mathematics, computer science etc. – depending on the gaps of knowledge and expertise of the chosen PhD candidate).

Applicants should be interested in working in an interdisciplinary and dynamic team of international researchers from different academic backgrounds. The successful candidate should expect to work as part of a large consortium, consisting of several PhD and Postdoctoral researchers.



  • Highly motivated
  • Masters level background (we are principally open to any background field)
  • An ability to work independently and efficiently, as well as working as part of a team
  • An ability to think in the abstract
  • A willingness to implement, improve and test systems
  • An interest in the affected fields
  • The ability to program – or strong indications for fast learning curve in programming
  • Strong communication skills
  • Both oral and, especially important, good written language (English) skills to document the software and publish papers


  • Some background in at least some of the following (or related) fields: (Computational) Archaeology; Computer Science; Material Science; Mathematics; Solid Geometry
  • Willingness to present results in international, peer-reviewed journals and at conferences (posters/talks)
  • An interest or ability to analyse archaeological material culture
  • Experience working with 3D modelling
  • Experience in Python programming and perhaps physics engines

Once engaged within the project, the student will be encouraged to suggest additional complementary research questions that can be answered through simulation and modelling and/or with additional data.

Starting date will be beginning of 2018. The employment (German pay scale E13 TV-L, 50%, provided for a total duration of 3 years) will be arranged by the administration of the University of Tübingen. Funding includes material costs, a desk space, computer and accommodation and travel expenses to selected conference (note: no tuition fees are charged in Germany).

The University of Tübingen is one of Germany’s eleven universities in the top ‘Excellent’ class, one of Europe’s oldest universities,
and currently ranked 89th in the world. The city of Tubingen is an international town with over 28,300 German and international
students, sharing the colourful bustle and typical atmosphere of a young and cosmopolitan students' town. The Department of Early
Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology is housed in the Institute of Pre- and Protohistory of the University of Tübingen and houses diverse
collections of archaeological finds, fossil hominid material, ethnographic finds, as well as a wide range of photographic and
written documentation from field projects. See this page for more information on doing a PhD in Germany.

Disabled persons will be preferred in case of equal qualification. The University seeks to raise the number of women in research and teaching and therefore urges qualified women academics to apply for this position.


If you are interested in this position, please send your application in English (except external certificates) with the usual documentation:

  • Cover letter (1-2 pages), detailing why you are a suitable candidate for the project – for example, your qualifications, interests, and relevant experience. Please indicate your earliest possible starting date.
  • Curriculum Vitae (including publications, if any)
  • Copies of most relevant certificates
  • Names and addresses (including email) of three referees (please make sure that these referees are reachable in the weeks following the deadline for applications – apologies from our side for this partly falling in the Christmas period)

Please send all the above in electronic form (all in one single pdf-file, i.e. including all the documents listed above), to Claudio Tennie and, in CC, to Elisa

Dr. Claudio Tennie (the group leader and PI on the STONECULT project) will invite the top candidates for interview (in person or via skype) early in 2018 (likely in the first week of January), with a view to offering positions ASAP thereafter.

Deadline for applications is 12:00 (midday, German time) the 22nd of December, 2018. For further background information, see: (and especially the links contained therein to projects and subprojects). For any practical questions, please contact Elisa Bandini.

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