PhD Position

(PhD) Cultural Common Ground and Technological Innovation: the use of Roman concrete (opus caementicium) in the Northwestern Provinces of the Roman Empire

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Radboud University
Erasmusplein 1
6500 HD Nijmegen

Dr. Suzanne van de Liefvoort
+31(0)24 3611276

Cultural common ground and technological innovation: the use of Roman concrete (opus caementicium) in the Northwestern Provinces of the Roman Empire

Anchoring WP10: Cultural Common Ground in the Roman Empire (31 BCE-200 CE)

PhD Position (4 years, 1.0 fte), Radboud University

Main Supervisors: Prof. dr Stephan Mols and Prof. dr Astrid van Oyen

Salary Range: between € 2.541 and € 3.247 gross per month

Project Description

The research program in classical studies ‘Anchoring Innovation’ studies the way in which people regard and cope with ‘the new’ by looking at the role of ‘the old’ or ‘the ancient’ as an anchoring device in processes of innovation, transition and transformation. More information about this program can be found on the website ( Another good starting point to get acquainted with the research program is an article by Ineke Sluiter, entitled “Anchoring Innovation: a Classical Research Agenda”.

Within the ambit of Anchoring Innovation, this PhD project deals with the introduction and use of Roman concrete or opus caementicium in the Northwestern provinces of the Roman Empire. Introduced in the Italian Peninsula in the second century BCE, concrete gradually became more common in building in the second half of the second and first centuries BCE. Concrete walls consisted of stone-faced or brick-faced cores of mortar, filled with chunky pieces of stone or ceramic material, so-called caementa. The new technique made it possible to create novel shapes such as vaults and domes and stand-alone buildings like theaters and amphitheaters, elements which developed into the architectural language of imperial power. Freestanding theaters supported by concrete vaults, for instance, became dominant loci in many Roman cityscapes, all while creating a closed-in space that acted as canvas for imperial display. But did this architectural language become an empire-wide cultural common ground, and what was the role of local variations and local anchors in this process?

In the uptake of the new technique beyond the centre of the Empire the question of variations on a local scale deserves attention. What was the role of local conditions and pre-existing local building techniques in the introduction and acceptance of the new? To what extent is its application anchored in the availability of the binder in particular? How did knowledge transfer and who was involved as artisans and investors? Did the new technology persist after the Romans left the northern regions, and if so, in what form? And finally, to what extent did the introduction of the new technology contribute to local identity formation in the North-Western Roman world?

We invite structured PhD proposals (title, research question, scholarly background, aims, method, corpus) in which candidates focus on questions regarding the introduction and spread of buildings using opus caementicium in the Northwestern provinces of the Roman Empire, with a specific emphasis on aspects of anchoring in this process. We particularly welcome proposals that combine empirical or scientific analyses with a conceptual agenda.

Terms and Conditions

PhD project, 4 years (1.0 FTE, 38 hrs per week), starting date to be agreed upon, with a preference for September 1, 2023. Initially the employee will receive an 18 month contract, with extension for the following 30 months on condition of a positive evaluation. The appointment must lead to the completion of a PhD thesis. Salary range from € 2.541 to € 3.247 gross per month for a fulltime appointment (pay scale for PhDs, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities).

Radboud University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3%), training and career development. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break. Please note that if the successful candidate is not already registered as living in the Netherlands, it is required that the candidate will officially relocate to the Netherlands on the starting date of the contract at the latest.

Tasks of the PhD candidate will include

  • Completion of a PhD thesis within the contract period;
  • Participation in meetings of the project research group(s);
  • Presentations of intermediate research results at workshops and conferences;
  • Participation in the training program of the local Radboud Graduate School, the National Research School in Classics (OIKOS) and the wider Anchoring Innovation project;
  • Participation in staff meetings of the Radboud Classics program and the intellectual life of the department and the institute;
  • Some teaching in the second and third years of the appointment.


  • A RMA or MA degree in Classics or Roman Archaeology, held by time of appointment, with an MA thesis of high quality with a grade of at least 8.0 on a ten-point scale, or comparable assessment (if the degree is not yet obtained at the time of application, a statement by the applicant’s supervisor should confirm that it will be obtained by time of appointment);
  • Well-developed research skills, including the ability to formulate relevant and creative research questions and hypotheses, descriptive and analytical skills, and a clear and persuasive style of writing;
  • Experience with the use of GIS is desired;
  • Excellent competence in the methodology of humanities research;
  • Fluency in English, as well as reading competence in French, German and Dutch;
  • Independent thinker, team player.


The Anchoring Innovation program is strongly committed to diversity within its team and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups.


Enquiries about the position can be addressed to Prof. dr Stephan Mols ( We have deliberately scheduled a long period between this announcement and the deadline for submission so that candidates have ample time to prepare their own versions of the projects outlined above. We know that the design of a good project takes time and effort. Do not hesitate to contact your prospective supervisor about this. Questions about the procedure can be directed to Dr Suzanne van de Liefvoort (


In order to be admissible, applications must include the following information (in the same order), in one PDF file (not zipped):

  • Cover letter;
  • CV, including contact information of two referees;
  • Transcript of records (i.e. a certified copy of your MA and BA course lists and results);
  • Research proposal of 1500 words. This does not include the bibliography and (if appropriate) an appendix containing a list of sources (together max. two pages A4);
  • Copy of relevant diploma or statement by master thesis supervisor confirming that the applicant will hold the required degree at the time of appointment.

Please submit your complete application to Dr Suzanne van de Liefvoort, the coordinator of the Anchoring-program via before April 24, 2023. Interviews will take place in the week of 22-26 May 2023 (online).