Short CV/Education and training

  • I am an archaeochemist working with analytical chemistry methods for understanding ancient material. My main field of research is organic residue analysis (lipids and proteins) for studying past foodways, but I am also interested in ancient health reconstructions and have also worked on various isotopic analysis, including isotope based migration studies. My previous work experience includes independent fieldwork, laboratory and research projects’ management, various international collaborations, academic teaching and supervision at all academic levels.


  • 2014
    PhD, Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

  • 2009
    Master (MA), Department of Archaeology, University of Tartu, Estonia (cum laude)

  • 2006
    Bachelor (BA), Department of Archaeology, University of Tartu, Estonia (cum laude)


  • Since 2017
    Senior Researcher, Department of Analytical Chemistry, Department of Archaeology, University of Tartu


  • 2015 – 2017
    Postdoctoral researcher, Department of Analytical Chemistry, University of Tartu; Researcher, Liaison officer of the archaeology laboratory, Department of Archaeology, University of Tartu

  • 2014 – 2015
    Junior Researcher, Department of Archaeology, University of Tartu

  • 2010 – 2014
    PhD student, Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge

  • 2008 – 2010
    Project coordinator, Department of Archaeology, University of Tartu

Selected publications

  • Oras, Ester; Anderson, Jaanika; Tõrv, Mari; Vahur, Signe; Rammo, Riina; Remmer, Sünne; Mölder, Maarja; Malve, Martin; Saag, Lehti; Saage, Ragnar; Teearu-Ojakäär, Anu; Peets, Pilleriin; Tambets, Kristiina; Metspalu, Mait; Lees, David C.; Barclay, Maxwell V.L.; Hall, Martin J.R.; Ikram, Salima; Piombino-Mascali, Dario (2020). Multidisciplinary investigation of two Egyptian child mummies curated at the University of Tartu Art Museum, Estonia (Late/Graeco-Roman Periods). PLOS ONE, 1−27. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0227446

  • Papakosta, Vasiliki; Oras, Ester; Isaksson, Sven 2019. Early pottery use across the Baltic – A comparative lipid residue study on Ertebølle and Narva ceramics from coastal hunter-gatherer sites in southern Scandinavia, northern Germany and Estonia. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 24, 142−151. DOI: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2019.01.003

  • Jonuks, Tõnno; Oras, Ester; Best, Julia; Demarchi, Beatrice; Mänd, Raivo; Presslee, Samantha; Vahur, Signe 2018. Multi-method analysis of avian eggs as grave goods: revealing symbolism in Conversion period burials at Kukruse, NE Estonia. Environmental Archaeology: The Journal of Human Palaeoecology, 1−14. DOI: 10.1080/14614103.2016.1263374

  • Oras, Ester; Tõrv, Mari; Jonuks, Tõnno; Malve, Martin; Radini, Anita; Isaksson, Sven; Gledhill, Andy; Kekišev, Ott; Vahur, Signe; Leito, Ivo 2018. Social food here and hereafter: Multiproxy analysis of gender-specific food consumption in conversion period inhumation cemetery at Kukruse, NE-Estonia. Journal of Archaeological Science, 97, 90−101. DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2018.07.001

  • Oras, E., Leimus, I., Joosu, L. 2018. The Essu gold hoard: Betwixt and between. SEM-EDS analysis of a unique Viking Age hoard from Estonia. – Silver, Butter, Copper, Cloth: Currencies and Value in the Viking Age. Eds. J. Kershaw, S. Sindbaek & G. Williams. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Oras, Ester; Higham, Thomas F.G.; Cramp, Lucy J.E.; Bull, Ian D. 2017. Archaeological science and object biography: a Roman bronze lamp from Kavastu bog (Estonia). Antiquity, 91 (355), 124−138. DOI: aqy.2016.247.

  • Oras, Ester; Vahur, Signe; Isaksson, Sven; Kaljurand, Ivari; Leito, Ivo 2017. MALDI‐FT‐ICR‐MS for archaeological lipid residue analysis. Journal of Mass Spectrometry, 52, 689−700. DOI: 10.1002/jms.3974

  • Oras, E., Lucquin, A., Lõugas, L., Tõrv, M., Kriiska, A. & Craig, O.E. 2017. The adoption of pottery by North-East European hunter-gatherers: evidence from lipid residue analysis. Journal of Archaeological Science, 78, 112–119. DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2016.11.010

  • Oras, E., Lang, V., Rannamäe, E., Varul, L., Konsa, M., Limbo-Simovart, J. Vedru, G., Laneman, M., Malve, M., Price, T.D. 2016. Tracing prehistoric migration: isotope analysis of Bronze and Pre-Roman Iron Age coastal burials in Estonia. Estonian Journal of Archaeology, 20(1), 3–32.

  • Price, D.T., Allmäe, R., Peets, J. Oras, E. 2016. Isotopic proveniencing of the Salme ship burials in Viking Age Estonia. Antiquity, 90 (352), 1022–1037. DOI: 10.3176/arch.2016.1.01

Complete list of publications

Selected projects

  • Personal Research Starting grant "Pots and bones, lipids and proteins: biomolecular archaeology for ancient dietary studies", PI, Department of Analytical Chemistry/Archaeology, University of Tartu; Estonian Research Council (418 000 EUR), 2020 – 2023

  • Research grant "Revealing prehistoric cuisine with biomolecules (Grant for developing ERC StG proposal)", PI, Department of Analytical Chemistry, University of Tartu; Estonian Research Council (121 845 EUR), 2018 – 2019

  • Research grant "Multidisciplinary studies of ancient food culture: biomolecular archaeology and dating", PI, Department of Archaeology, University of Tartu; Faculty of Arts and Humanities basic research funding scheme (14 000 EUR), 2018 – 2019

  • Postdoctoral research grant "Feast in afterlife: Multidisciplinary study of ritual food in conversion period cemetery at Kukruse, NE-Estonia", PI, Department of Analytical Chemistry, University of Tartu; Estonian Research Council (76 125 EUR), 2015 – 2017

  • Research project on Estonian early pottery lipid residue analysis; Lili Kaelas Foundation research grant (5000 EUR), 2015

  • Project "Kohtla sacrificial site: excavations, scientific analysis and artefact conservation", University of Tartu; Faculty of Arts and Humanities basic research funding scheme; Estonian National Heritage Board financial support (21 500 EUR), 2013 – 2015

Membership in scientific bodies/juries

  • Substitute member of the Estonian Research Council Evaluation Committee (ETAg), 2020 – 2022

  • Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO), member of extended pool of experts panel, 2020 – 2021

  • European Science Foundation (ESF), member of the College of Expert Reviewers, since 2019

  • Member of the Estonian Education and Research Strategy 2020+ expert group, 2018 – 2019

  • Evaluator of mobility scholarship applications, Foundation Archimedes, Estonia, since 2015

  • Member of the Editorial Board, journal Archaeological Fieldwork in Estonia, since 2009


  • Founding Member, Estonian Young Academy of Sciences, since 2017

  • Member, Society for Archaeological Sciences, since 2014

  • Member, European Association of Archaeologist, since 2009

  • Member, Estonian Archaeological Society, since 2007

Soft Skills/Other activities and achievements

Soft Skills

  • As a young researcher and mother of two my additional professional endeavor is to stand for the rights and equal opportunities of young (female) scholars. These include advocating for e.g. inclusive leadership practices, gender equality, and work-life balance in academia.

Other activities and achievements/family

  • Mother of two kids


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