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Department of Archaeology


The University of Cambridge and the British Museum are pleased to announce the availability of a fully funded collaborative doctoral studentship from October 2020 under the AHRC’s Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Scheme.

The project “Brass vs bronze: continuity and change from Late Antiquity to the early Islamic period in the Persian Gulf and adjacent regions” will provide an excellent opportunity to combine research and training across two world-leading institutions.

The project will be jointly supervised by Professor Marcos Martinón-Torres and Dr Aude Mongiatti, with additional input from relevant curatorial staff such as Dr St John Simpson and others. The student will be expected to spend time at both the University of Cambridge and the British Museum, and be an active member of both academic and research communities, as well as becoming part of the wider cohort of CDP funded students across the UK.

Project Overview 

Brass vs bronze: continuity and change from Late Antiquity to the early Islamic period in the Persian Gulf and adjacent regions

The continuities, adaptations and innovations in the transition from late antiquity to the early medieval period continue to attract much research. In the case of metalwork, the widespread use of brass in the Islamic world has generally been regarded as a continuation from the Classical tradition with no influence from Sasanian metalworking practices. It is also generally thought that, once brass appears, all other copper-based alloys such as bronze are abandoned. However, the cultural and technical origins of Islamic metalwork are likely to be more complex than traditionally assumed, and many questions remain unanswered. For example, allusions in the Babylonian Talmud suggest that brass was used in the Sasanian period, and a pilot study of excavated metalwork from Merv indicates that a wide range of copper-based alloys was used in both periods. This project aims to test established assumptions by analysing large and well-dated archaeological assemblages, mostly held by the British Museum, to trace the emergence of brass in Iran and Iraq, document the changing frequency of other copper-alloy industries, characterise technological traditions, and assess the incidence of recycling. The results will offer detailed knowledge of the production and use of metals during a period of dramatic cultural and religious change, to be integrated with data for other technologies such as ceramics, glass and glazes. This research will fill a key temporal and geographic gap in our understanding of the history of copper-alloy use, as well as provide an archaeometallurgical contribution to Sasanian and Islamic archaeology more broadly.

The research will employ a range of complementary scientific and archaeological methods to answer the above questions. It will focus on the Persian Gulf as the core study area, capitalising on the excavated assemblages from Siraf and Kush, which will be compared to those from sites in Iraq (Kish, Nineveh), Iran and Central Asia (Merv), also dated to the second half of the first millennium AD. It is expected that analytical work will engage optical and digital microscopy, X-radiography, SEM-EDS and XRF, but other options may be possible.

The successful candidate will have access to the laboratory facilities at the British Museum’s Department of Scientific Research and the Archaeological Science Laboratories at the University of Cambridge.

Details of Award

CDP doctoral training grants fund full-time studentships for 45 months (3.75 years) or part-time equivalent. The studentship has the possibility of being extended for an additional 3 months to provide professional development opportunities, or up to 3 months of funding may be used to pay for the costs the student might incur in taking up professional development opportunities.      

The award pays tuition fees up to the value of the full-time home/EU UKRI rate for PhD degrees. Research Councils UK Indicative Fee Level for 2020/21 is £4,407.

The award pays full maintenance for UK citizens and residents only. The National Minimum Doctoral Stipend for 2020/21 is £15,285, plus a CDP maintenance payment of £600/year, and an allowance of £1000/year. Further details can be found on the UKRI website:

The student is eligible to receive an additional travel and related expenses grant during the course of the project courtesy of the British Museum, in addition to other sources of funding available at the University of Cambridge.

The project can be undertaken on a full-time or part-time basis.


  • We want to encourage the widest range of potential students to study for a CDP studentship and are committed to welcoming students from different backgrounds to apply.
  • Applicants should ideally have or expect to receive a relevant Masters-level qualification, or be able to demonstrate equivalent experience in a professional setting. Suitable disciplines are flexible, but might include Archaeology, History, Conservation Science or Materials Science.
  • Experience in the scientific analysis of archaeological or heritage materials, and/or familiarity with the region and periods covered by the project, will be advantageous.
  • Applicants must be able to demonstrate an interest in the museum sector and potential and enthusiasm for developing skills more widely in archaeological science.
  • As a collaborative award, students should be prepared to spend time at both the University and the British Museum.


Project details and how to apply

Interested candidates should apply for PhD admission at the University of Cambridge following the usual procedure, as outlined on the University of Cambridge Graduate Admissions website, and stating their interest in this AHRC CDP. Instead of a full research proposal, they should elaborate on why they think they are suited for this position.

**If you are applying before the final PhD Archaeology deadline of 30th April, please apply directly for the PhD in Archaeology via the Graduate Admissions website, stating the name and code of the studentship in the Research box.

 If you are applying after this deadline of 30th April, you must send a note of interest to the graduate administrator by 13th May 2020. Information on how to make your official application will then be sent to you by the graduate admissions department when this date has passed and all notes of interest are in.**

Within the broad outline of the project as presented above, the successful candidate will be expected to play an active role in defining the specifics of the topic and the research approach.

The successful candidate will be eligible to participate in CDP Cohort Development events.

All new CDP students will be expected to attend the CDP Student Launch Event on Monday 21st September 2020 at the British Museum.

For enquiries about the project please contact either Marcos Martinón-Torres ( or Aude Mongiatti ( For enquiries about the application process, please contact the Graduate Secretary, Katie Teague (

Start date: 1st October 2020

Application Deadline: 20 May 2020

Image information

Sasanian leaded bronze from Helmand (Afghanistan)
Image credit: 
Courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum