Ester Oras

Ester is the PI of the Archemy group. She works on organic residue analysis and her main field of research is dietary reconstructions via mass-spectrometry-based biomolecular analysis (lipids and proteins) from archaeological food vessels. She has further expertise in isotope based (Sr and O) human migrations, artefact provenance and use-wear analysis. Her most recent interests relate to past health reconstructions and microbiome analysis. She has analysed ancient foodways from a wide range of ceramic vessels from the earliest pottery assemblages to the historical periods in Estonia and wider Circum-Baltic region. Her main research goal is to advocate for multidisciplinary analysis for tackling the social aspects of ancient food and health conditions, their interconnections and deeper historical development.    

Ester obtained her PhD in archaeology from the University of Cambridge in 2014, after which she returned to University of Tartu to set up a first archaeochemistry lab in the Baltic countries. She did her postdoc at the Chair of Analytical Chemistry (2015-2017) and has divided herself as a (senior) researcher between archaeology and chemistry departments ever since. She is currently holding a starting grant.


  1. Gunnarssone, A.; Oras, E.; Talbot, H.M.; Ilves, K.; Legzdiņa, D. (2020). Cooking for the living and the dead: Lipid analyses of rauŠi settlement and cemetery pottery from the 11th–13th century. Estonian Journal of Archaeology, 24 (1), 45−69.
  2. Oras, E.;  Anderson, J.; Tõrv, M.; Vahur, S.; Rammo, R.; Remmer, S.; Mölder, M.; Malve, M.; Saag, L.; Saage, R.; Teearu-Ojakäär, A.; Peets, P.; Tambets, K.; Metspalu, M.; Lees, D. C.; Barclay, M. V. L.; Hall, M. J.R.; Ikram, S.; Piombino-Mascali, D. (2019-2020). Multidisciplinary investigation of two Egyptian child mummies curated at the University of Tartu Art Museum, Estonia (Late/Graeco-Roman Periods). PLOSONE10.1371/journal.pone.0227446 (in press) 
  3. Courel, B.; Robson, H.K.; Lucquin, A.; Dolbunova, E.; Oras, E.; Adamczak, K.; Andersen, S.H.; Astrup, P.M.; Charniauski, M.; Czekaj-Zastawny, A.; Ezepenko, I.; Hartz, S.; Kabacinski, J.; Kotula, A.; Kukawka, S.; Loze, I.; Mazurkevich, A.; Piezonka, H.; Piliciauskas, G.; Sørensen, S.A. … Craig, O.E. (2020). Organic residue analysis shows sub-regional patterns in the use of pottery by Northern European hunter-gatherers. Royal Society Open Science, 7 (4). 
  4. Bjørnevad,M.; Jonuks, T.; Bye-Jensen, P.; Manninen, M. A.; Oras, E.; Vahur, S.; Riede, F. (2019). The life and times of an Estonian Mesolithic slotted bone ‘dagger’. Extended object biographies for legacy objects. Estonian Journal of Archaeology, 23 (2), 103−125.
  5. Papakosta, V.; Oras, E.; Isaksson, S. (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. 
  6. Oras, E.; Leimus, I.; Joosu, L. (2018). A Viking-Age Gold Hoard from Essu, Estonia. Context, Function and Meaning. In: Jane Kershaw, Gareth Williams (Ed.). Silver, Butter, Cloth – Monetary and Social Economies in the Viking Age. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 145-168.  
  7. Jonuks, T.; Oras, E.; Best, J.; Demarchi, B.; Mänd, R.; Presslee, S.; Vahur, S. (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.  
  8. Kriiska, A.; Oras, E.; Nirgi, T.; Shanskiy, M.; Heinsalu, A.; Vanhanen, S.; Luoto, T. (2018). Environmental Studies at the Kohtla-Vanaküla Iron Age Sacrificial Site, North-East Estonia. Estonian Journal of Archaeology, 22 (1), 66−79.
  9. Oras, E.; Tõrv, M.; Jonuks, T.; Malve, M.; Radini, A.; Isaksson, S.; Gledhill, A.; Kekišev, O.; Vahur, S.; Leito, I. (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.  
  10. Oras, E.; Higham, T. F.G.; Cramp, L. J. E.; Bull, I. D. (2017). Archaeological science and object biography: a Roman bronze lamp from Kavastu bog (Estonia). Antiquity, 91 (355), 124−138.  
  11. 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.
  12. Kriiska, A.; Oras, E.; Lõugas, L.; Meadows, J.; Lucquin, A.; Craig, O. E. (2017). Late Mesolithic Narva stage in Estonia: pottery, settlement types and chronology. Estonian Journal of Archaeology, 21 (1, 1), 52−86.
  13. Oras, E.; Vahur, S.; Isaksson, S.; Kaljurand, I.; Leito, I. (2017). MALDIFTICRMS for archaeological lipid residue analysis. Journal of Mass Spectrometry, 52, 689−700.
  14. Price, T. D.; Peets, J.; Allmäe, R.; Maldre, L.; Oras, E. (2016). Isotopic proveniencing of the Salme ship burials in pre-Viking Age Estonia. Antiquity, 90 (352), 1022−1037.
  15. Oras, E.; Lang, V.; Rannamäe, E.; Varul, L.; Konsa, M.; Limbo-Simovart, J.; Vedru, G.; Laneman, M.; Malve, M.; Price, D. T. (2016). Tracing prehistoric migrations: Isotope analysis of Bronze and Pre-Roman Iron Age coastal burials in Estonia. Estonian Journal of Archaeology, 20 (1), 3−32.


  1. Oras, E.; Tõrv, M.; Jonuks, T.; Malve, M.; Radini, A.; Isaksson, S.; Gledhill, A.; Kekišev, O.; Vahur, S.; Leito, I. (2018). Gender-specific food consumption in conversion period inhumation cemetery at Kukruse, NE-Estonia. – 8th InternatIonal Symposium on Biomolecular Archaeology (ISBA), Jena, Germany 18.-21. September 2018. 
  2. Oras, E.; Vahur, S.; Leito, I. (2016). MALDI-FT-ICR-MS for archaeological lipid residue analysis. – 7th InternatIonal Symposium on Biomolecular Archaeology (ISBA), Oxford, United Kingdom, 14.-16. September 2018. 
  3. Oras, E.; Jonuks, T.; Presslee, S.; Demarchi, B.; Best, J.; Vahur, S.; Mänd, R. (2016). Christian and pagan: Eggs as grave goods in the Late Iron Age cemetery at Kukruse, NE Estonia. – 22nd Annual meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists, Vilnius, Lithuania, 31 August-4 September 2016.  
  4. Oras, E.; Higham, T.; Bull, I. D.; Cramp, L. (2016).  Revealing object biography with archaeological sciences: a study of Roman bronze lamp from Kavastu (Estonia). –  The XII Nordic Conference on the Application of Scientific Methods in Archaeology, SMIA XII, “Benchmarking Interdisciplinarity in Archaeological Science”, Aarhus, Denmark, 13.-14. December 2016. 
  5. Oras, E.; Craig, O. E.; Lucquin, A.; Kriiska, A. (2015). Lipid Analysis of Narva Pottery in Estonia. – The X Nordic Meeting on Stratigraphy & The XI Nordic Conference on The Application of Scientific Methods in Archaeology SMIA XI, Helsinki, Finalnd, 20.-23. October 2015.  
  6. Oras, E.; Higham, T.; Bull, I. D.; Cramp, L. (2014). Putting a Puzzle Together: A Roman Bronze Lamp from Kavastu (Estonia). 40th International Symposium on Archaeometry; ISA 2014: 40th International Symposium on Archaeometry, UCLA, Los Angeles, 19-20 May 2014.  
  7. Oras, E.; Kriiska, A.; Lucquin, A.; Lõugas, L.; Craig, O. E. (2014). Early Pottery Use in Estonia. 20th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists. Abstracts of the Oral and Poster Presentations: 20th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists, Istanbul, Turkey, 10-14 September 2014.  
  8. Oras, E.; Leimus, I.; Joosu, L. (2014). The Essu (Estonia) gold hoard: betwixt and between. Silver and Other Economies in the Viking Age; UCL, Institute of Archaeology, London, United Kingdom, 23-24 April 2014.  


2020, member of the AcademiaNet: Profiles of leading women scientists 

2019, One hundred faces of the University of Tartu – Estonian national University 100, nominent 

2018, Professor Peeter Tulviste memorial fund stipend 

2018, Laureate for the best museum collections development, University of Tartu Museums’ project “Interdisciplinary studies of mummies and presentation of results to various target groups” 

2015, Lili Kaelas Foundation research grant (Lipid residue analysis of early pottery in Estonia) 

2014, The Estonian national student research competition, II award for PhD thesis in social sciences and culture 

2010, Estonians Students Society foundation vil! Udo Mällo Fund Scholarship 

2010, Foundation Archimedes National Scholarship Program’s scholarship for PhD studies at the University of Cambridge