PhD Studentship: Exploring economy, society and culture through glass bangles: origins, circulation and cultural impact in the Western Indian Ocean with the British Museum and University of Kent

Fully funded AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership PhD studentship between the University of Kent and The British Museum

The Studentship:  ‘Exploring economy, society and culture through glass bangles: origins, circulation and cultural impact in the Western Indian Ocean’

This project aims to understand the spread of glass bangle production and circulation in the late and post medieval periods (c.1200-1700) for instance by mapping production areas and distribution, and investigate the cultural value and meanings of glass bangles, through a combination of archaeological science and investigation of size, colour and decoration (including a formal typology). The project will support the British Museum’s research on trade and connections around the Indian Ocean, and provide the opportunity to develop the career of a future Museum Curator, Archaeological Scientist or Material Culture specialist. This is a collaborative studentship, meaning that is will be jointly supervised by Ellen Swift at the University of Kent and Andrew Meek from the British Museum.

Glass bangles are a diagnostic element of personal adornment from India, the Indian Ocean, Middle East and northern Black Sea from the thirteenth century onwards and are common at almost all archaeological sites, yet have attracted surprisingly little serious study. The number of glass bangles in the archaeological record in the Western Indian Ocean increase massively in number and diversity in the late and post-medieval periods of the thirteenth century onwards when the focus of production widens and extends to Aden, India and southeast Asia. During this period, glass bangles become ubiquitous at sites around the western Indian Ocean.

The key research question is: Is it possible to see patterns in the typology, chronology and distribution of bangles in the archaeological record, and what can these patterns tell us about their wearers’ lives and trade and exchange networks in operation in the Western Indian Ocean? There is scope to develop the project according to the student’s particular interests for instance by focusing on particular methodological approaches or categories of material.

The student will be part of post of the postgraduate community at the University of Kent and the British Museum’s own collaborative doctoral students programme. The student will also benefit from the training and cohort development opportunities offered to all Collaborative Doctoral Partnership students from the more than 20 museums and other cultural organisations who support these students.

During studentship period the student will have the opportunity to undertake a placement at The British Museum. The student will be able to choose between a placement in the Department of the Middle East or Department of Scientific Research. During this time they will be able to gain hands-on experience in relevant work-based skills for a career in the field of cultural heritage.  There will also be an opportunity to undertake training courses in techniques of scientific analysis. The student will also participate in the planning for an upcoming exhibition during the course of the PhD.


Due to restrictions on the funding this studentship is open to UK/EU students who meet the residency requirements set out in the RCUK Conditions of Research Council Training Grants:

The successful candidate will have:

  1. a First Class or 2.1 degree at undergraduate level in an appropriate subject such as Archaeology, History, or Classical Studies
  2. a recognised postgraduate qualification (e.g. M.A. or M.Sc.) in Archaeology, normally at distinction level, or equivalent relevant experience
  3. proven research ability in archaeology
  4. experience in the application of scientific analysis to archaeological research, and/or in studying material culture in museum collections
  5. strong motivation, and potential for ongoing intellectual development
  6. an ability to work both independently, and as part of a team
  7. potential and enthusiasm for developing skills more widely in the areas of heritage and museums.

How to apply

Candidates will need to apply for a PhD at the University of Kent, clearly indicating that the application is for the AHRC/British Museum Collaborative Doctoral Award (Glass Bangles), First Supervisor Ellen Swift.

As part of your application, you will need to include

  1. An individualised research proposal, in which you amplify the proposal set out below. You should set out your contribution to the project research design and how the project topic will be tailored to your particular strengths and research interests.
  2. two references from external referees.
  3. a writing sample.

Please ensure that you submit your application in good time, in advance of the deadline, so that your referees can complete their references by the deadline date.

Application deadline:  7 June 2019

Interviews will take place on 20 June 2019 at the British Museum in London.

Details of award

This studentship is funded by the Collaborative Doctoral Partnership scheme, and is one of seven studentships the British Museum is supporting this year to supports its work.

The studentship can be studied either full or part time.

The award pays fees up to the value of the full time home/EU rate for PhD degrees as well as full maintenance (UK citizens and residents only). The value of the stipend for 2019/20 is £15,009 plus an additional £550 stipend payment for Collaborative Doctoral Students. For more information see:

The student is eligible to receive up to £4000 for additional travel and related expenses during the course of the project (£1000 per year) from the British Museum. Full maintenance will also be paid during the placement.

Research Proposal

Aims and Objectives:

The project will:

1)      transform our understanding of the production, trade and use of glass bangles in the Western Indian Ocean

2)      establish a new methodology for the systematic analysis of glass bangles

3)      contribute significantly to the documentation of The British Museum’s collection of glass in the Department of the Middle East and the interpretation of glass in other museum collections

The key research question is: Is it possible to see patterns in the typology, chronology and distribution of bangles in the archaeological record, and what can these patterns tell us about their wearers’ lives and trade and exchange networks in operation in the Western Indian Ocean?

Outline of research methodology

The student will:

1)      Undertake a thorough literature review of relevant material including the historical background and research history in this area, and relevant theoretical perspectives [Year 1].

2)      Survey the British Museum’s collections of glass bracelets and choose an initial 50 objects to carry out a pilot programme of examination and scientific analysis. Where necessary they will receive training in the analytical equipment and research methods needed for the project. They will identify collections outside the BM which can be accessed to expand the study [Year 1].

3)      Use the results of the pilot study to inform a more detailed study of a group of around 200 bracelets. This will involve visiting museums and archaeological collections in the UK and abroad [Year 2].

4)      Undertake analysis and interpretation of the material using appropriate and up-to-date research methodologies such as contextual analysis, spatial analysis, 3-D scanning, scientific analysis (including XRF, SEM-EDX and LA-ICP-MS), investigation of reuse and repair, consideration of wear marks, and analysis of functional features  [Year 2-3].

5)      Write up results and set the artefact assemblage within its wider context by making comparisons with other object types and geographical regions. Present the conclusions at relevant conferences such as European Association of Archaeologists and International Symposium on Archaeometry [Year 3].

Scope for contribution by student to project design

Following preliminary research the student will have significant input into the particular groups of objects studied, and will have scope to develop their own analytical framework incorporating relevant specific research methodologies as outlined above.

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