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PhD scholarships: Urban Societies in Past Worlds

Application deadline: 15 March 2021

Link to formal call at the Graduate School of Arts

Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet) invites applications for three PhD fellowships (starting date: 1 September 2021) on themes relating to urban societies in the past. We are seeking candidates from the fields of archaeology and related subjects, including geoarchaeology, cultural anthropology, environmental and material sciences and history.

UrbNet’s Mission Statement

Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet) explores the archaeology and history of urban societies and their networks from the Ancient Mediterranean to medieval Northern Europe and to the Indian Ocean World.

We are an interdisciplinary research initiative, which integrates contextual cultural studies rooted in the Humanities with the natural sciences.

Approaching urbanism as network dynamics, we aim to develop a high-definition archaeology to determine how urban networks catalysed societal and environmental expansions and crises in the past.

About the projects

The projects must align closely with UrbNet’s research themes and agendas. Projects may take their point of departure in existing projects at the centre, such as data from the major fieldwork projects conducted by the centre. We also welcome independent project ideas. Read more under “About UrbNet” below. We encourage applicants to get in touch with the centre director and vice director as early possible to discuss potential project ideas.


About UrbNet

Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet) was founded in 2015 as a groundbreaking archaeological research initiative exploring the evolution of urbanism and urban networks from the Hellenistic Period to the Middle Ages. The centre is based at Aarhus University, School of Culture and Society, and is funded as a Centre of Excellence by the Danish National Research Foundation.

UrbNet aims to compare the archaeology of urbanism from medieval Northern Europe to the Ancient Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean World, and determine how – and to what extent – urban networks catalysed societal and environmental expansions and crises in the past. The centre is firmly rooted in the humanities but enjoys close, collaborative ties with natural sciences.

UrbNet aims to advance the understanding of the historical process of urban evolution, and this will be achieved by developing the ability of archaeology to characterise the scale and pace of events and processes. Recently developed scientific techniques afford the potential for archaeology to refine the precision of dates, contexts and provenance ascribed to excavated materials. UrbNet’s key ambition has been to integrate these new forms of data as a new “high-definition” approach to the study of global and interregional dynamics.

UrbNet’s work comprises projects that intersect questions and problems concerning urban development and networks in the regions from Northern Europe over the Levant to the East Coast of Africa. It involves elaborate work on empirical material from a number of existing excavation projects, and the centre aims to make substantial contributions toward theoretical and methodological developments in the field. Individual projects may also arise from other bodies of data.



The centre is headed by Centre director Rubina Raja, professor of Classical Archaeology, and Deputy director Søren Sindbæk, professor MSO of Medieval Archaeology. Furthermore, the centre consists of a strong, interdisciplinary core group.

Centre director Rubina Raja and Vice Director Søren M. Sindbæk

UrbNet has a senior advisory group, and collaborates with many experts around the world.


UrbNet 2.0

UrbNet has recently received funding for a second round of research from 2021-2025. Within this period, the centre will build on the work established during the first five years of research, to further explore the particular dynamics between urban regions in the past. Major fieldwork projects in Zanzibar, Jordan, Italy, Asia Minor, the Caucasus and Denmark have created a wealth of archaeological data to be explored. New initiatives are outlined to explore other high-definition sites and archives. These and other efforts of the centre are to be brought together in theoretical, methodological and synthetic studies.

We welcome projects that relate to the sites or regions that UrbNet’s research groups focus on: East Africa, the Near East, the East and Central Mediterranean and Northern Europe. Projects may include archaeological studies issuing from artefacts, sites or landscapes, or building on environmental archaeology, geoarchaeology, or material science. We are also interested in theoretical and methodological studies, theoretically informed research history, or regional and supra-regional studies with a focus on networks and societal interactions.

***Please note: The formal application process is handled by the Graduate School of Arts***

It is mandatory for applications to address the following questions:

·       How can this project generate new knowledge about the evolution of urban societies in the past?

·       How does this project apply and develop novel methods and theory?

·       How does the project contribute to interdisciplinary research?

·       How may it lead to findings, which would be interesting beyond the specific case/setting?

·       How might the project make archaeological data and knowledge relevant in the comtemporary world?


We strongly encourage potential applicants to contact the centre director and vice director to discuss project ideas.

Link to formal call at the Graduate School of Arts