Research Fellow in Ancient Human Population Genetics
University of Tartu Institute of Genomics

Institute of Genomics


Duties and responsibilities
The research fellow will be carrying out research activity in the field of ancient DNA including the generation of ancient human DNA NGS libraries from tooth and bone samples, analysis of this data and writing publications.
Required qualifications
PhD in archaeogenetics, bioinformatics, bioarchaeology, biological anthropology, genetics, molecular biology, computer programming or related subjects or an equivalent qualification.
Required experience
You must already have experience working in an ancient DNA cleanroom, knowledge of current wet lab protocols and bioinformatic analysis for population genetics. 
Required language skills

Starting at
01.10.2021, temporary contract to 30.09.2024
25,944 euros per year gross (negotiable dependent on experience). The position is funded for up to three years. For a cost of living comparison see: Temporary part-time and remote working are possible.
Additional info
Estonian Biocentre/Institute of Genomics, Ancient DNA Research Group. Supervisor: Dr. Christiana Scheib 

Title: Making Ancestors: The Politics of Death in Prehistoric Europe

Project Description:

Traditionally, distinct political ranks in European prehistory have been identified through the differential treatment of individual burials. However, the connection between burial treatment and status is rarely so direct. Inequality may be evident through differential life chances, kinship, ritual or ancestorhood rather than through political command, wealth or identity. With this in mind, the EU-funded ANCESTORS project aims to test alternative models of prehistoric inequality and deathways. It will study social relations in life using osteobiography and explore deathways using funerary taphonomy. Combining the two methodologies will make it possible to connect ancient lives and deaths. The project’s results will provide insight into the ways that inequality affected lives in prehistoric Europe and the role that ancestors played in it.


How did politics and inequality work in prehistoric Europe? Traditionally, politics has been seen in terms of discrete political ranks identified through differential treatment of individual burials. But this results in classifying much of prehistory, where the dead were treated in ways which effaced individual identity, as egalitarian. The result is an artificially dichotomous history: Neolithic people had landscapes, rituals and ancestors, Bronze and Iron Age people had politics and inequality. In the last two decades this approach has been strongly critiqued. Burial treatment rarely relates to status so directly; the dead serve many different political roles. Inequality in pre-state groups rarely consists of clear strata; inequality and equality exist in tension within groups. Inequality may have been present throughout European prehistory, but manifest situationally through differential life chances, kinship, ritual or ancestorhood, rather than overtly through political command, wealth or identity. But this new perspective has never been tested empirically.

This project tests alternative models of prehistoric inequality and deathways. To investigate social relations in life, it uses osteobiography, reconstructing life stories from skeletons through scientific data on identity, health, diet, mobility and kinship. To understand deathways, it employs a second new methodology, funerary taphonomy. Combining osteobiography and taphonomy allows us to connect ancient lives and deaths. Peninsular Italy provides a substantial test sequence typical of much of Europe. For each of three key periods (Neolithic, 6000-4000 BC; Final Neolithic to Early Bronze Age, 4000-1800 BC; Middle Bronze Age to Iron Age, 1800-600 BC), 200+ individuals will be analysed. The results will allow us to evaluate for the first time how inequality affected lives in prehistoric Europe and what role ancestors played in it.

Your responsibilities will include the generation and analysis of ancient DNA shotgun libraries from bones and teeth for the burial sites covered by the project. You will work with another post-doc and one PhD student at the ancient DNA lab in Tartu to integrate metagenomics, proteomics and population genetics to further the aims of the project. You will also collaborate with our partners in Cambridge and Rome who will be providing the osteological and isotopic data. There will be opportunities for travel for conferences as well as project meetings.

About us

The ancient DNA research group at the Institute of Genomics, Estonian Biocentre is a friendly, growing group focused on producing exemplary research in the fields of ancient human population genetics, pathogen genomics and the emerging field of ancient meta-genome/proteomics. The lab is headed by Dr. Scheib (Associate Professor of Ancient DNA) and includes Dr. Tambets (Associate Professor of Population Genetics), post-docs, PhD students, Master’s students and two laboratory technicians. You can check out our lab on Research Gate and the official UT website. 

Additional information

Please contact Christiana Scheib, cls83 [ät], for information.

Why the University of Tartu?

Application documents

In order to be considered for the position, the candidate must submit to the UT Human Resources Office (email: personal [ät]; postal address: 18 Ülikooli St, Tartu 50090 ESTONIA; employees of the UT should submit their documents via intranet) following documents:

  1. a letter of application to the Rector - in the application, the candidate has to outline if they are willing to work part-time or full-time, which courses they are qualified to teach and what kind of teaching experience they have in the field;
  2. a curriculum vitae in the established format,
  3. a list of research publications (if necessary, enclosing copies or offprints of more important publications),
  4. a copy of a document (including its annexes) which shows the candidate to hold the required qualification (with authorized translation into Estonian, English or Russian if the credential is not in Estonian, English, Russian, Finnish, Swedish, French, Italian, Ukrainian and Belarussian languages). A candidate can be required to submit the original or a certified copy of the document (including its annexes) showing the candidate to hold the required qualification. If the candidate has acquired the higher education in question abroad, he or she may be required to submit an assessment issued by the Academic Recognition Information Centre (the Estonian ENIC/NARIC) of his or her qualification in respect of the qualification requirements for the position;
  5. other materials considered relevant by the candidate (a list of such materials must be included in the application or annexed to it).

Number of copies: 1


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