Post-doc Researcher in Focus

Dr Miriam Cubas and the CerAM (First ceramics of Atlantic Europe: manufacture and function )project 

Miriam's interest for the study of past societies through their pottery technology started soon after she graduated in Archaeology. Since then, her research career has focused on investigating the earliest pottery evidence, using different mineralogical, chemical and isotopic techniques to explore its role in the transition to farming across the Atlantic Coast of Europe.


She initially explored the different raw materials used in pottery manufacture by mineralogical analysis seeking to identify the local or foreign origin of the vessels and also to establish the connection between pottery technology and subsistence practices, which at that moment were characterized by the introduction of the domesticated animals and plants.


Archaeological pottery recorded in Verson, France. (Photo: Annabelle Cocollos; in Germain-Vallee, 2015). Currently, there are being analyzed in BioArCh in the project First ceramics of Atlantic Europe: manufacture and function (

Within her current research project at the University of York, CerAM, Miriam aims to reconstruct the use of pottery during this key cultural transition. The study of molecular and isotopic composition of lipid residues enables to establish a direct link between subsistence practices and pottery, allowing to identify the kind of food processed in the vessels and its source (marine, freshwater, ruminant, non-ruminant and plant residues). Her project involves the analysis by gas-chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and isotopic determination using GC-combustion-isotope ratio-MS of individual lipids (GC-c-IRMS) extracted from archaeological vessels. It includes samples from well-established contexts located along the Atlantic coast of Southwest Europe from Portugal to Normandy with the goal to explore the regional differences in the use of early pottery. 

CerAM constitutes the first application of molecular and isotopic analysis to the archaeological pottery in this geographical regions and it provides a new interpretation of the study of the earliest evidence of pottery in the area, contributing to the debates about their use and relationship with the socioeconomic trends. Miriam's project offers a complete picture of the role played by pottery in these Early Neolithic societies.


Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis (Photo: EPRG. BioArch-Department Archaeology, University of York)

Miriam is an expert on the Neolithic of the Southwest of Europe and the analysis of the first pottery in the region. Her research is highly interdisciplinary combining traditional artefact analysis (typology and decoration) with mineralogical techniques. During her Marie Curie at  BioArch-Department of Archaeology at the University of York se has developed her skills in the latest molecular and isotopic techniques while applying in organic residue analysis of archaeological pottery.                                          

Dr Miriam Cubas is a Marie Curie Research Fellow working with Professor Oliver Craig on the CerAm project and is a member of the  Early Pottery Reseach Group. Miriam's other affiliations are with: Sociedad de Ciencias Aranzadi and UNIARQ - Centro de Arqueologia da Universidade de Lisboa, Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa, Universidade de Lisboa

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