Book review of Sally Crawford, Dawn M. Hadley & Gillian Shepherd (ed.). The Oxford handbook of the archaeology of childhood. 2018 — The Bioarchaeology of Childhood | Sian Halcrow

Recently published in Antiquity

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Babies found with human skull helmets in ancient Ecuador — The Bioarchaeology of Childhood | Sian Halcrow

See Kristina Killgrove’s Forbes story on this new paper. Two infants have been interred with bone helmets (the skull cap) of other juveniles at the ritual complex of Salango in Ecuador dated to 100BC. This is the first evidence globally for the manipulation of infant and child skulls in this way. The bones used for […]

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Mother and baby die during complicated birth in Neolithic China — The Bioarchaeology of Childhood | Sian Halcrow

A new study has found the first evidence in ancient China of a mother and newborn baby who died as the result of birth complications. Writing in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology Zhao and colleagues describe a young woman buried with a newborn baby placed between her lower legs from Huigou, a Yangshao 仰韶文化(Neolithic) site […]

via Mother and baby die during complicated birth in Neolithic China — The Bioarchaeology of Childhood | Sian Halcrow

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Early Europeans bottle-fed babies with animal milk — The Bioarchaeology of Childhood | Sian Halcrow

Published in Nature News and Views The foods used to supplement or replace breast milk in infants’ diets in prehistoric times aren’t fully understood. The finding that ancient feeding vessels from Europe had residues of animal milk offers a clue. Small pottery vessels, sometimes with animal-like forms (Fig. 1), containing a spout through which liquid […]

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Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past conference programme out now

We are delighted to announce the SSCIP 2019 Conference Programme hosted by the University of Sheffield.

Also, for those of you who are yet to register, please note that registration is still open and will remain open until the 30th of September 2019. Please find the link for registration below.

If anyone has any queries regarding the conference, please do not hesitate to contact either the conference team (


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SSCIP sponsored session at the 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology

Post by Kirsty Squires and Esme Hookway

Another year, another Society for American Archaeology (SAA) conference. This year the conference took place between 10th-14th April 2019 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past (SSCIP) sponsored the “Health and Welfare of Children in the Past” session, organised by Esme Hookway and Kirsty Squires (both Staffordshire University, UK). The six papers in this session were unique in terms of their temporal and geographical scope but were tied together by the underlying themes of the session. Speakers from New Zealand, Mexico, and the UK came together to explore a range of topics, including childhood health and disease, the care of children, funerary treatment, and the welfare of children in the work place.


To kick things off, Alisha Adams (University of Otago, New Zealand) and colleagues presented some initial findings from her doctoral research. In her presentation, titled “From the Mouths of Babes: Weaning, Diet, and Stress in Neolithic Vietnam”, Adams’ employed a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding stress during childhood during a period of subsistence change in BC 1850-1650 Vietnam. Her innovative research employed the micropolynomial method, which allows the researcher to quantify linear enamel hypoplasia through an examination of changes in tooth enamel depth.  Adams’ demonstrated that linear enamel hypoplasia developed through the fetal enamel growth period and after birth, though deciduous teeth showed shorter periods of stress compared to permanent teeth. Here, she concludes that this could potentially indicate “causation, development, or by-product of the methodology”. In further work, Adams’ will be examining mixed dentition to gain a clearer insight into the reasons for the observations made in this presentation; stable isotope analysis will also be employed as a means of understanding weaning patterns.

56832516_372742086786036_3873542369022312448_nAlisha Adams presenting her research on stress in Neolithic Vietnam.

Melanie Miller (University of Otago, New Zealand) and colleagues (Yu Dong, Kate Pechenkina, Wenquan Fan, and Siân Halcrow) delivered the next presentation, titled “Early Childhood Diet During the Bronze Age Eastern Zhou Dynasty (China): Evidence from Stable Isotope Analysis”. This research focused on the Xiyasi cemetery (BC 770-221), situated on the Central Plains of China. Miller and colleagues examined 15 individuals and employed an incremental dentine sampling strategy to explore childhood nutrition from birth through to 14 years of age. Isotope analysis revealed some fascinating insights into this understudied population. Miller and colleagues demonstrated that children had mixed diets with unexpectantly high amounts of C3 foods, such as wheat and barley, though boys were more likely than girls to consume millet. This research highlighted the value of adopting an incremental isotope approach in understanding the diets of childhood in the past.

57538148_2458051997768642_6149861897597353984_nMelanie Miller delivering her research team’s work on the diet of children in Bronze Age China.

The session subsequently moved into the historical period, with Dawn Hadley (University of York, UK) and Elizabeth Craig-Atkins (University of Sheffield, UK) exploring “The ‘Bitter’ Death of Children: Health, Welfare and the Funerary Treatment of Infants and Young Children in Christian Anglo-Saxon Cemeteries”. This research largely focused upon multiple burials and the spatial distribution of infant and young child burials in Anglo-Saxon cemeteries. Hadley and Craig-Atkins made an interesting comparison between burial clusters of infants and children in final stage churchyards from Anglo-Saxon England with post-medieval cilliní in Ireland, which were burial grounds located on earlier sites solely for neonates and infants and were typically isolated from settlements. Infant life histories were also addressed through an exploration of weaning patterns which were compared with funerary rites. The authors observed that children inhumed in clusters close to churches during the period in question frequently received inadequate nutrition from breastmilk, which influenced their social identity. Hadley and Craig-Atkins highlighted that shared life experience may have influenced unique infant and child burials and that the manner of death was not the sole reason for the burial strategies employed in Anglo-Saxon churchyards.

57486599_811794352520448_8877290435500834816_nDawn Hadley on infants and children in Christian Anglo-Saxon cemeteries in England.

Next, Patricia Olga Hernández Espinoza (Centro INAH Sonora, Mexico) delivered her presentation titled “Children of Privilege. Infant Mortuary Practices at Late Postclassical Tamtoc Society”. In this presentation, Hernández Espinoza explored the reasons for burying children in La Noria (Mexico) from AD 1000-1400 as this city was typically where Tamtoc elites were buried. An examination of the funerary rites, artificial cranial modification, dental decoration, the provision of grave goods, and pathological lesions of children under 15 years of age revealed that these individuals belonged to important Tamtoc lineages and the stages at which they became part of the adult world. Interestingly, all children examined showed signs of infectious pathologies, such as yaws and tuberculosis. Hernández Espinoza’s multi-disciplinary approach to this subject highlighted the wealth of information that can be obtained from such funerary contexts in Mexico. The chair’s of the session applaud Hernández Espinoza for delivering her presentation in Spanish, making this one of the more inclusive sessions at the SAA conference.

57604414_2860555774170280_4387529583600074752_nPatricia Olga Hernández Espinoza delivering discussing the funerary treatment and health of children in Postclassical Tamtoc Society.

The penultimate speaker, Esme Hookway (Staffordshire University, UK), presented her research (in absentia) titled “An Exploration of the Demographics of Non-Adults in Medieval Cemeteries in England (AD 1050-1600)”. In this presentation, Hookway used documentary, archaeological, and osteological evidence to gain an insight into the admission of children in different types of medieval hospital and identified a possible link between the admittance of pregnant women and infants, and leper hospitals. This research also highlighted that hospitals may have been used as a refuge for women and orphaned and abandoned infants, which requires further investigation. Hookway noted that infants and children often suffered from episodes of stress and/or malnutrition, though there is little evidence of trauma in these demographic groupings. Hookway’s multi-disciplinary approach to understanding the health and care of children in medieval hospitals will pave the way for future holistic studies of such cemeteries, on a site, regional, and national level.

58831612_385313898863119_4766141615146270720_nEsme Hookway’s presentation on the demographics of non-adults in medieval hospital cemeteries in England.

The final paper of this session was by Kirsty Squires (Staffordshire University, UK), who delivered her presentation, titled “All in a Day’s Work: The Health and Welfare of Children Living in 19th Staffordshire, UK”. Census data, testimonies of workers (including those of children) and officials, and clinical data were used to investigate different jobs held by children in the pottery and coal mining industries, alongside the associated pathological and traumatic lesions we would expect to see in the skeletal remains of individuals working in these roles. Squires identified that there is currently a lack of archaeological and osteological evidence for children working in the pottery industry and their associated coal mines in North Staffordshire; this presentation therefore aimed to provide the theoretical framework needed for archaeologists and bioarchaeologists when skeletal remains and associated cultural material are recovered in this region.

57798860_554283548428710_1680864137376169984_nKirsty Squires’ presentation on the health and welfare of children working in the pottery industry and their associated coal mines in 19th century Staffordshire, UK.

This session highlighted the ever-increasing use of innovative methods as a means of understanding the health of children, as well as the importance of multi-disciplinary approaches to studying the youngest members of past societies. It is hoped that this session will lead to further discussions around the application of novel techniques and approaches to studying the health and wellbeing of children in both the prehistoric and historic past.

The session chairs would like to thank the SAA for accepting this session, SSCIP for sponsoring this session, and the researchers who contributed to this session.

Keep up to date with the research of the presenters in this session on Twitter and

Alishia Adams: @alisha_adams_

Dr Melanie Miller: @DrMJMiller1

Professor Dawn Hadley: @DanelawDawn

Patricia Olga Hernández Espinoza:

Esme Hookway: @EsmeHookway

Dr Kirsty Squires: @KirstySquires2




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Childhood in the Past, volume 12 OUT NOW

Here is the editorial by Eileen Murphy for the most recent volume of CiP. Enjoy!

Welcome to the spring issue of Volume twelve of Childhood in the Past, the journal of the Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past (SSCIP). The issue starts with a welcome address by newly elected SSCIP President, Dr Katie Hemer. While it was sad to see our former president, Dr Sally Crawford, end her term of office she will still be very much involved in SSCIP in her new role as a vice-president. I have no doubt Katie will be an excellent president and you can read about some of her ideas in her address.

SSCIP was as busy as ever in 2018. SSCIP Committee Member, Esme Hookaway of Staffordshire University, and Marion Shiner of the University of Sheffield, ran a SSCIP stall for the second year running at the Big Biology Day at Staffordshire University on 13th October. The stall focused on childhood development and was designed by Dr Kirsty Squires of Staffordshire University. The national annual event is organized by the Royal Society of Biology to celebrate the life sciences and engage the public with hands-on events and activities delivered by a variety of organizations. Esme tells us that around 500 people visited the event, an increase of nearly 50% on the previous year’s attendees, and high levels of interest in SSCIP and the activities on the stand kept them busy all day!

The eleventh international SSCIP conference, organized by Dr Katharina Rebay-Salisbury and Dr Doris Pany-Kucera, took place on the 22nd–24th September 2018 at the Museum of Natural History in Vienna, Austria. We were all mesmerized by the incredible beauty of the museum which is home to the Venus of Willendorf. The theme of the conference was ‘Pregnancy, Birth, Early Infancy and Childhood: Life’s Greatest Transitions in the Past’. Dr Kirsty Squires wrote a review of the conference for the SSCIP blog and reports that researchers presenting at the conference came from a variety of subject areas, including archaeology, anthropology, bioarchaeology and history, and the temporal periods discussed ranged from the Gravettian through to the nineteenth century. The truly international nature of SSCIP was evidenced in the topics explored which covered past children and childhood in Greece, Italy, Spain, Britain, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Finland, Mesopotamia, Brazil, the Philippines and the USA! You can read about the conference events in detail in Kirsty’s blog entry but I just wanted to highlight her concluding comments which summarize the fantastic innovations that are helping to further our understanding of children and childhood in the past but also highlight the underlying issues that are still causing difficulty in this area of study that we need to address as a discipline. All participants agreed that the conference organizers did a wonderful job of selecting papers that showcased the wide variety of research that is currently being carried out within childhood in the past as well as ensuring that delegates had a fantastic time in the beautiful city of Vienna. In addition to the annual conference, a SSCIP-sponsored session entitled ‘Children at Work’ organized by Dr Melie Le Roy, Université Aix Marseille, and Dr Caroline Polet, Universite libre de Bruxelles and Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, took place, as part of the twenty-fourth annual meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists, in Barcelona on the 5th–8th September 2018. Papers from the session will form the basis for the next issue of the journal.

2019 will undoubtedly be another exciting year for the Society and the twelfth SSCIP annual conference, organized by Dr Katie Hemer and Dr Sophie Newman, will take place on 30th October to 1st November and be hosted by the Sheffield Centre for the Archaeology of Childhood in the University of Sheffield. The theme of the conference will be ‘Adolescence’.

The Society’s monograph series, continues to flourish, and three volumes were published in 2018 – Nineteenth-Century Childhoods in Interdisciplinary and International Perspectives (edited by Jane Eva Baxter and Meredith Ellis; SSCIP Monograph 6); Motherhood and Infancies in the Mediterranean in Antiquity (edited by Margarita Sánchez Romero and Rosa Cid López; SSCIP Monograph 7) and Across the Generations: The Old and the Young in Past Societies (edited by Grete Lillehammer and Eileen Murphy; SSCIP Monograph 8). The fact that three volumes were produced in one year is a clear testament to the amount of exciting research now being undertaken on children and childhood in the past! Proposals for future monographs should be submitted to Dr Lynne McKerr, the newly elected General Editor of the monograph series, and details for submission may be found on the Society’s website.

The volume includes three research papers. In the first paper Povilas Blaževičius explores child labour based on dermatoglyphic evidence derived from a substantial corpus of ceramic objects recovered from thirteenth – eighteenth century context in Vilnius Castle. His paper draws upon ethnographic evidence from late nineteenth – early twentieth century potters in Lithuania which suggests that children from as young as six years of age were involved in the production of ceramics. He also discusses the difficulties associated with the method and emphasizes how the use of an approach that combines archaeological, historical and ethnographical evidence can provide the greatest insights concerning child labour.

In their paper, Andrea Cucina and Héctor Hernández Álvarez explore the nature of the living conditions experienced by the workers and their families who resided in the henequen haciendas of the Yucatán region of Mexico at the turn of the twentieth century. They investigate death records for the hacienda San Pedro Cholul dating to between 1871 and 1900, which indicate a very high infant mortality, as well as general death patterns due to a variety of diseases. Excavations at the site provided a further source of evidence in relation to the health status of the inhabitants. Glass bottles, that would have contained medical treatments against dysentery, intestinal parasites and malnutrition, were recovered. The combined historical and archaeological investigation provided insights concerning both the difficulties of life experienced by the hacienda inhabitants but also how they tried to counteract the many ailments which they experienced.

Jane Eva Baxter’s paper focuses on how children were taught about mortality in nineteenth-century America. Her paper explores how children, in an era of high child mortality, understood death and the possibility of their own untimely demise. She discusses how adults used a variety of mechanisms to introduce children to the concept of death, such as visits to cemeteries, photography with deceased siblings, literature and poetry, and funeral play with dolls. She then addresses the agency of the child to determine what children were learning through these adult-led activities. Drawing upon a twentieth-century ethnographic study of terminally ill children she suggests that the experiences and materials designed to teach children how to cope with death also taught them how to die a good death themselves or how to manage when their peers died.

The issue ends with four book reviews, compiled by Simon Mays, on a range of exciting recent publications that cover child bioarchaeology, anthropological approaches to breastfeeding as well as period-based Post-Medieval studies of Nordic childhoods and European day nurseries and childcare practices.

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