PhD courses

Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet) organises a series of four PhD courses designed to create an environment for discussions about the latest developments within well-known fields of archaeology such as cultural layers, dating methods and typology, as well as exploring new developments in isotope analysis on archaeological material and network theory. Each course stands alone, and can be signed up for individually.

With these courses UrbNet wishes to encourage a wider use and a more in depth understanding of these tools in order to further the process of refining the precision of dates, origin of materials and the interpretation of the archaeological record. They are all indispensable aspects of the “High Definition“ approach that UrbNet aspire to develop further in context. The approach aims to maximize the amount and quality of data extrapolated from even the smallest elements of an archaeological site, which in turn enables new and more precise arguments on big and decisive questions of “when, where and why?”. The courses are:

  • Contextual archaeology as a high definition tool – which aims at dissecting the complexity of contextual archaeology and suggest tools which enable us to make the most out of the stratigraphical records (23rd – 24th November 2016)
  • Constructing high definition chronologies – chronologies in context – an introduction to the newest research and methodology on dating archaeological material (23-24 November 2017)
  • Isotopes in archaeology - aims to introduce the range of applications that isotopes can have in archaeological studies, as well as practical matters. The focus of the course will be the two main research areas: dietary studies and provenance studies (17-18 May 2017)
  • Networks - The aim of the course is to teach the participants how to analyse networks and integrate theory and methodology in the analyses of networks. The course also aims to enable the student to handle the specific challenges related to network analyses (fall 2017)

The courses aim to promote interdisciplinary collaboration, enable archaeologists working with all periods and geographic areas, as well as archaeoscientists and anyone who works with material related to archaeology to speak a common language and communicate in an effective manner. Furthermore we wish to equip researchers with ability to critically evaluate scientific methods and interpretations, as well as encourage archaeoscientists to translate the data in a manner that is meaningful to other disciplines.

The courses are aimed at PhD students from a range of disciplines, such as archaeology, geoscience, history and other related fields.

Each course will run over two consecutive days and primarily take place at UrbNet locations at  Campus Moesgård – part of Aarhus University. The course will consist of lectures by leading researchers, student presentations, exercises, visits to relevant laboratories and workshops where it will be possible to work on issues related to the participants’ own research with input from lecturers and course participants.

High-Definition Chronologies, 23-24 November 2017

Graduate School, Arts at Aarhus University:

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Estimating age is crucial for understanding the past. If we want to ascertain the chronological sequence of events and activities, the flow of objects, the emergence of networks, or the life cycles of settlements, we have to attribute dates to objects and contexts.

Absolute dating methods developed over the last decades are continually being improved are becoming increasingly more refined in their precision and accuracy. The application of these dating methods allows archaeologists and historians to develop precise narratives of the past, as well as to review and re-evaluate chronologies narratives afresh.

More recently, it has become more common to combine different dating methods and information from multiple contexts or objects, to advance increasingly more refined dating sequences and narratives. At the forefront of this has been the adoption of Bayesian statistics, which has proved to be an extremely powerful tool combining archaeological information (i.e. stratigraphic) with calibrated radiocarbon dating. Specifically, it uses archaeological data to improve the probability estimates of carbon-14 dates, creating ‘modelled’ dates with narrower date ranges that can often be a significant improvement on regular ‘calibrated’ dates.

The use of Bayesian methods has emphasised the importance and complementary nature of field archaeology and contextual information, without which such modelling would not be possible. Hence it is mandatory not only to focus on scientific methods as key to high definition chronology, but also to reflect upon and to further improve the accuracy of traditional archaeological dating methods like seriation and relative dating, and in general, the ability to understand archaeological contexts and stratigraphy.


The course will offer research-based teaching on the concepts and methods of high definition chronology in archaeology. The aims are:

  • To understand important scientific dating methods. The course will equip students with basic conceptual and analytical tools to assess the nature, significance and application of absolute dating techniques;
  • To understand traditional archaeological dating methods like seriation, sequential ordering of artefacts, and stratigraphy, including the importance of relative dating;
  • To understand and to assess the use of Bayesian statistics in the establishing of high definition chronologies;
  • To identify developments in dating methods, research issues and problems and research questions inherent to the application of the various dating methods, including potential limitations and constraints;
  • To appreciate the interdependency between scientific and traditional archaeological dating methods, emphasising the importance of accurate context recording and sampling (preselection) to construct high definition chronologies.

The course has a focus on key questions of contemporary archaeological, historical, and material science studies: the establishment of precise chronologies.


Module 1: Absolute methods of dating

The first module will offer an expert introduction and overview on the principles, limitations, challenges and use of absolute dating methods, which will include radiocarbon dating, optical stimulated luminescence, dendrochronology and tephrochronology. How are these methods used to determine the age of contexts and objects? What are their strengths and limitations? Which method(s) are appropriate?

Module 2: Traditional archaeological dating

The second module will cover in detail the complexities of traditional archaeological approaches to establishing chronology. This will include the contextual analysis of finds, such as pottery and coins, and the use of objects in seriation and typological dating. At many sites, it is possible to determine precise chronologies based on the contextual interpretation of finds. We will explore the relations between these issues and the similar problems encountered in relation to the contextual interpretation of objects dated by means of scientific methods. This module will also reflect on the importance of relative dating and how traditional archaeological approaches are entangled with scientific dating methods.

Module 3: Bayesian methods

This module will provide a detailed introduction to the concept of Bayesian methods in archaeological dating. It will focus on the interaction between radiocarbon dating and other sources of dating information, specifically how this can be combined using Bayesian statistics to improve calibrated radiocarbon dates and deliver more precise modelled dates. This module will illustrate the power of Bayesian methods through case-studies where it has been successfully implemented to revitalise and sometimes redefine chronologies.

Module 4: High definition chronologies and history

Using a selection of case-studies, this module will demonstrate how high definition chronologies are constructed and how they are used to further archaeological interpretation and narratives of particular sites and events. It will provide an overview of dating methods in practice, focusing on the importance of creating, using and interpreting chronology.

Target group:

PhD level

Archaeologists, Historians, Geosciences




The format of the course will be a mixture of lectures, exercises and workshops. Attendees will be expected to participate actively and may be asked to deliver short presentations. Exercises will involve group discussion, Q and A sessions or quizzes, as well as short presentations. Students will be expected to deliver a short 2 page case study (written) prior the course commencing, which will then be presented to the group during the workshop sessions.




Course co-ordinators

Thomas Birch (

Michael Blömer (


Teaching staff:

Heide Wrobel Nørgaard (AU,

Mads Bakken Thastrup (MoMu/AU,

Jan-Pieter Buylaert (AU,

Aoife Daly (Copenhagen,

Jesper Olsen (AU,


Dates and time:

23rd and 24th November 2017


Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet)

Aarhus University, School of Culture and Society

Moesgård Allé 20, 4230-232

8270 Højbjerg


Application / registration:

Please apply for a spot on the course via no later than16th November 2017.

Kolloquium Phd/Post-Doc der Klassischen Archäologie im Wintersemester 2017/2018, 13-16 December 2017

PhD course, co-organized by Rubina Raja and Søren M. Sindbæk, in Kiel, 13-16 December 2017.

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Geoarchaeology Digest, 8-9 May 2018

Venue: UrbNet, Aarhus, Denmark.

Website: & &



Organisation and contacts on behalf of UrbNet:

Federica Sulas (

Genevieve Holdridge (



Over the last few decades, geoarchaeology has opened new, exciting avenues for understanding the past. From reconstructing changing climate and people’s ways of living to tracing societal development and resilience, geoarchaeological research is capturing dimensions of the past at an unprecedented level of detail. Such an advance is rooted in the wide range of materials and methods to extract and measure past records from soils and sediments at multiple spatial and temporal scales. Soils and sediments provide a resourceful archive on past landscapes, how people used the land, availability and processing of materials and resources (soil, water, vegetation). From these records, we can infer information on past environmental and climatic conditions, subsistence strategies, cultural practices and choices. This research-led course will provide an introduction to geoarchaeology and a forum to discuss and reflect on how studies of the soil archive are transforming approaches to the past.



The course will offer research-led teaching on the concepts and methods of geoarchaeology and will focus on two main objectives:


·         To develop knowledge on the principles, methods and applications of geoarchaeology;


·         To understand the natural and anthropogenic processes of site formation and post-depositional history across different archaeological and environmental contexts.


The course will focus on two themes: 1) landscape evolution; 2) urban past. The aim is to encourage students from archaeology and related disciplines from the humanities and geosciences to consider and discuss the potential of applying geoarchaeological methods and approaches to their research questions.



The course will offer three main modules specifically designed to provide conceptual and analytical background to geoarchaeology, and applications to key research areas of contemporary archaeology and related disciplines: landscapes and urban contexts.



The first module will offer an introduction to geoarchaeology and an overview on the principles and methods. What is a soil? What can soils tell us about the past? Module 1 will address these fundamental questions and set the background for discussing specific topics in modules 2 and 3.



The second module will illustrate different geoarchaeological approaches to reconstructing past environments and human landscapes. What can soils tell about past climate and environments? How was the landscape in the past? Where people lived and how did they use the land? Lectures will draw on tailored case studies to illustrate how soil records can inform on past climate and land use.



The third module deals with past cities and urban processes. A series of themed lectures will discuss geoarchaeological approaches to urban stratigraphies, and how these relate to investigating urban trajectories, decline and resilience.



By the end of the course, the participants should be able to:

·         describe key principles and methods of geoarchaeology;

·         discuss main themes and techniques of research on landscape evolution and urban trajectories;

·         consider and assess the application of geoarchaeological approaches in their own work;

·         reflect on, analyse, and critically discuss how geoarchaeological principles and methods affect interpretations of the past.



The course will offer lectures, exercises and a workshop where active participation will be expected. Each module consists of: 1) an overview on the main topic, followed by lectures discussing specific themes and applications; 2) the second part will engage students and lecturers in group exercises and Q&A sessions related to the lectures. The language of the course is English.


Requirements for admission

Each participant is required to submit beforehand via email to

·         a case study of 1-2 pages, which deals with one or more of the subthemes of the course: landscape and urban past. The cases can relate to an own project, previous experiences, or a case inspired by academic literature. These will be reviewed by the course organising team and discussed during the workshops;

·         a max 2-page CV;

·         a max 1-page covering letter.


Course in-class activities

Exercises: These will consist of group discussions related to the lecture and the case studies.


Workshop: On the second day, there will be a workshop where we go back to the cases illustrated by the lectures, the solutions applied, and new questions emerging from those.



Charles French, Division of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, UK

Genevieve Holdridge, UrbNet, AU

Søren M. Kristiansen, Geoscience, AU

Rubina Raja, UrbNet, AU

Federica Sulas, UrbNet, AU

Barbora Wouters, UrbNet, AU



Will be available here ultimo December 2017.



Registration opens primo January 2018 at