12th Annual Conference of the Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past

Rebels Without a Cause? Accessing and Exploring Adolescents/Adolescence in the Past

12th Annual Conference of the Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past

Location: University of Sheffield, Sheffield, England, U.K

Dates:  30th October – 1st November 2019
Organisers: Dr Katie Hemer, Dr Sophie Newman

Host Department: Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield

Adolescence – the period of change within the life course when an individual transitions from childhood to adulthood. Some define adolescence as a period of disruption, when the body and mind no longer fit, and the individual has to renegotiate who they are – both in terms of themselves, but also their place in society. The adjustment and adaptation that comes with adolescence can also coincide with new responsibilities and greater expectations upon the individual, as well as exposure to new work and social environments. Is what we know about adolescence today also relevant to understanding adolescents of the past?

The 2019 SSCIP Conference seeks to explore the many facets of adolescence, and how scholars from diverse fields of research offer nuanced insight into the lives of those occupying this unique stage in the life course in the past. Papers are sought from researchers working on adolescence across the Humanities and Social Sciences (e.g. Archaeology, Art History, Anthropology, History, English literature etc.). This interdisciplinary conference is supported by the Sheffield Centre for the Archaeology of Childhood


Confirmed keynote speakers: Prof. Jane Eva Baxter (DePaul University, USA) and Dr Mary Lewis (University of Reading, UK).

Please submit an abstract for a podium or poster presentation (max 200 words) to sophie.newman@sheffield.ac.uk by 31st July 2019.

Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:

  • What is an adolescent in the past perspective?
  • Methodological approaches to studying adolescents in the past
  • The role of adolescents in the community
  • The role of adolescents in the home
  • What did adolescents do? (e.g. occupations, apprenticeships, mobility, leisure time)
  • The liminality of adolescence
  • Health in adolescence
  • The material culture of adolescence (e.g. dress as markers of identity)
  • The education of adolescents
  • Adolescent resistance (e.g. did/how adolescents resist societal norms?)


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Call for papers at EAA 2019 for session on systemic approaches to juvenile funerary rituals.

Note that the deadline for this is fast approaching: 14th February


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Across the Generations: The old and the young in past societies

Childhood in the Past Monograph Series: Volume 8 is now available! Across the Generations: The old and the young in past societies, edited by G. Lillehammer and E. Murphy. Follow the link for full access through AmS-Skrifter.

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Conceptions of Childhood Lecture Series and Reading Group

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SSCIP at the Big Biology Day 2018

On 13th October, the Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past held a stall for the second year running at the Big Biology Day at Staffordshire University.  This year, PhD students Esme Hookway (Staffordshire University) and Marion Shiner (University of Sheffield) ran activities on the theme of childhood development, created by Dr Kirsty Squires (Staffordshire University). The national annual event is organised 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 organisations.  The day was held in Staffordshire University’s Science Centre, with events and activities about all aspects of biology, including the ‘Great Biology Bake-Off’.


At the SSCIP stand, visitors to the event were able to examine a replica cranium, mandible, pelvis and femur of a five-year-old, an adolescent and an adult.  These were used to illustrate human skeletal development, and the means by which osteologists are able to establish age-at-death for non-adults.  People were interested to learn about aspects of skeletal development, such as epiphyseal fusion, of which they were not previously aware.  Children enjoyed seeing how the pelvis and femur articulate, and holding the replica non-adult femur against their own thigh for comparison.  People could also look at cutaway models that demonstrate the stages of dental eruption, along with a set each of deciduous and permanent teeth.  Adults and children alike were fascinated to see the unerupted permanent teeth developing in the juvenile maxilla, and children enjoyed seeing a deciduous tooth and its permanent replacement side by side.  We also talked to people about how the analysis of human remains can inform us about the lives of children in the past, discussing skeletal and dental markers such as cribra orbitalia and enamel hypoplasia.  Approximately 500 people visited the event, an increase of nearly 50% on the previous year’s attendees, and high levels of interest in the SSCIP and the activities on the stand kept us busy all day!



The crowds visiting Big Biology Day

IMG_3Marion Shiner (University of Sheffield) explaining dental eruption for visitors to the SSCIP stand


Esme Hookway and Marion Shiner

All photographs by Esme Hookway (University of Stafford)

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A summary of the 11th annual conference of the Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past at the Museum of Natural History in Vienna

The 11th annual conference of the Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past was held from the 22nd – 24th September 2018 at the Museum of Natural History in Vienna, Austria. This awe-inspiring museum is world renowned for its collections and is home to the Venus of Willendorf. The theme of this year’s conference was Pregnancy, birth, early infancy and childhood: life’s greatest transitions in the past”. 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 19th century. Furthermore, the podium and poster presentations took delegates around the world with research exploring children and childhood in Greece, Italy, Spain, Britain, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Finland, Mesopotamia, Brazil, the Philippines, and the USA.

Natural History Museum Vienna The Museum of Natural History in Vienna hosted this year’s annual conference (photograph by Kirsty Squires)


On the first day of the conference, April Nowell started proceedings with an exploration of the personhood of Gravettian infants through the use of burial data. John Whittaker and Kathryn Kamp discussed how changing projectile technologies made it easier for children to use weapons in the past. Luis Pezo Lanfranco and Sabine Eggers examined weaning strategies, subadult diets, and parental investment of individuals inhabiting shellmound Jabuticabeira II (Brazil) through the use of isotope analysis. Next, personal status and the identity of children were established through an examination of grave goods by Ekaterina Stamboliyska (who focused on children from the Durankulak necropolis in Bulgaria) and Daniela Kern (who looked at children from Corded Ware and Bell Beaker burials). Eszter Melis and colleagues explored developmental stages of childhood in Early and Middle Bronze Age Hungary. It was refreshing to see that these authors looked at both the inhumed and cremated remains from the study sites in their paper. This approach ensures that there are no gaps in the demographic profile of a site (i.e. those afforded the cremation rite are also accounted for). The final paper of the day was by Klaudia Daňová and colleagues who presented their research on the differential character of children’s burials and their spatial distribution in the area of the Únětica Culture in Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia. The different approaches adopted by researchers highlights the dynamic nature of studies that focus on children and childhood in the prehistoric past. Following the session, delegates enjoyed a wine reception in the Dinosaur Room in the Museum. The dinosaurs and the animatronics model of an Allosaurus created quite the talking point throughout the course of the evening.

Sally introducing conference image

Sally Crawford, opening the 11th annual conference of the Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past (photograph by Kirsty Squires)


Drinks reception dinosaurs

Delegates enjoying wine and nibbles with the dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History (Photograph by Kirsty Squires)

The second day of the conference started in Bronze Age Iberia with Margarita Sánchez Romero, who explored the agency of childhood through an examination of grave provisions from argaric societies. The following paper adopted a biocultural approach to understanding childhood in Late Bronze and Early Iron Age in the southern Carpathian Basin was adopted by Daria Ložnjak Dizdar and Petra Rajić Sikanjić. Next, Beata Kaczmarek used linguistic data, archaeological material, and anthropological evidence to understand childhood in Mycenae. Developmental stages of childhood in Ancient Mesopotamia were examined by Nadia Pezzulla, personhood of children in late prehistoric Italy was discussed by Elisa Perego and colleagues, and Anna Serra examined the developmental stages of children as exhibited through grave goods during the 6th – 3rd centuries B.C. in the Etruscan city of Spina. Christina Papageorgopoulou and Tasos Zisis presented their results from isotope and osteological analyses, which were employed to test the hypothesis that “the youngest members of North Aegean society were affected by colonisation”. Hanna Ammar looked at the portrayal of children at play in Classical Greek art and raised questions pertaining to the depiction of wheel carts on choes (miniature wine jugs). Infant morbidity and mortality of infants in Ancient Greek society was examined by Alexandra Syrogianni, obstetric complications and hazards in Romano-Britain were investigated by Candace McGovern, and a bioarchaeological approach to understanding Roman childhood in Switzerland was adopted and presented by Chryssi Bourbou. Zsofia Rácz and Tamás Szeniczey similarly employed a biocultural methodology to gain an insight into childhood mortality and health status of children from the 6th–8th century cemeteries of Kölked in southwest Hungary. The role of hospitals as places of refuge for pregnant women and children in medieval England was investigated by Esme Hookway who highlighted that these institutions acted as places of public charity. The final presentation of the day was delivered by Sanna Lipkin and colleagues who explored the differential burial rites afforded to children in post-medieval Finland. Mummified remains of children alongside associated preserved textiles and coffins were found in several of the churches examined and it is encouraging to see the increasing use of innovative, non-invasive methods (e.g. CT scanning) in research projects.


Hanna Ammar image

Hanna Ammar delivering her presentation titled “Greek children and their wheel carts on classical Greek vases” (photograph taken from @SscipChildhood)

Esme Hookway image

Esme Hookway highlighting the importance of medieval hospitals as social institutions for the poor in England (photograph by Kirsty Squires)

Sanna Lipkin imageSanna Lipkin exploring the burial customs afforded to children in 15th–19th century Finland (photograph by Kirsty Squires)

The AGM took place on Saturday evening. In the meeting, we said goodbye (and thank you!) to our outgoing president, Sally Crawford, and welcomed our new president, Katie Hemer. We also welcomed two new committee members, Esme Hookway who has taken on the role of Social Media and Publicity Secretary, and Claire Hodson who has taken over the role of Membership Secretary from Katie Hemer.

Katie and Sally image

Katie Hemer, the Society’s new President, with Sally Crawford, the Society’s outgoing President (photograph by Claire Hodson, @Claire_Hd)

The final day of the conference focused primarily on historical contexts. Proceedings started with Historian Matthew Stanton exploring Benjamin Keach’s three catechisms which recognised the developmental stages of children and, consequently, improved the religious and cultural teachings of children in the 17th century. Kirsty Squires then investigated the value of education in 19th century Stoke-on-Trent (UK) through an examination of census data, testimonies, and written reports from the period. Jane Eva Baxter explored how young children were taught about mortality in 19th century America whilst R. J. Knight discussed how the enslavement of children, in late 18th century America, had a significant affect on their identity and relationships with their captors and parents. Jennifer Muller investigated the cemetery population, particularly the infants, at the Erie County Poorhouse in Buffalo, New York. She addressed why these infants were buried at this location and the lives they would have lived in the workhouse. The final presentation of the conference was delivered by Paula Luz Pamintuan-Riva. Unfortunately, Paula couldn’t join us, but she had recorded her presentation for the conference. Paula explored the practice of babywearing and its importance as a physical and visual mechanism for conveying childrearing values and the value assigned to children in Cordillera society. She also addressed how this practice continued despite colonial cultural domination.

Matthew Stanton image

Matthew Stanton discussing the developmental stages of childhood outlined by Benjamin Keach (photograph taken from @SscipChildhood)

Jane Eva Baxter image

Jane Eva Baxter providing a fascinating insight into the teachings of mortality in 19th century America (photograph taken from @SscipChildhood)

Alongside the podium presentations, the posters at this year’s SSCIP conference addressed a wide variety of topics, including weaning patterns, diet, palaeopathology, life courses, grave architecture, skeletal morphology, and the burial of pregnant women. Karina Grömer also presented a moodboard which visualised children’s clothing in Iron Age and Roman Austria.

Claire poster

Claire Hodson’s poster presentation addressed the implications and limitations for the identification and interpretation of pathological lesions (photograph by Kirsty Squires)


Nina poster

Nina Brundke’s research involved the use of isotope analysis to investigate weaning practices in the late 10th–11th centuries in Lower Austria (photograph by Kirsty Squires)

The conference ended with special tours of the prehistoric archaeology and anthropology collections. Delegates had the opportunity to visit the stores of the museum and gained further insight into the museum’s history and its collections. The conference organisers, Katharina Rebay-Salisbury and Doris Pany-Kucera, did a wonderful job of selecting papers that showcased the wide variety of research that is currently being carried out within our discipline

NHM Vienna tour

Delegates concluded the conference with tours of the prehistoric archaeology and anthropology collections, both on display and behind the scenes, at the Museum of Natural History (photograph by Kirsty Squires)

The 11th SSCIP conference highlighted that specialists from archaeology, bioarchaeology, anthropology, and history bring valuable skills and knowledge which allow us to further our understanding of children and childhood in the prehistoric and historic past. The use of innovative methods (such as CT scanning and isotope analysis) and collaborative approaches to research bodes well for the future of our discipline. However there are still areas that demand further discussion and attention in the future, such as:

  • The need to analyse and interpret cremated remains, especially from mixed-rite sites, by bioarchaeologists. There is huge potential here and if we do not acknowledge those afforded this funerary rite, we will be faced with cemeteries with incomplete demographic profiles and the partial understanding of sites.
  • Given the rise of destructive sampling within bioarchaeology, we need to be more mindful of ethical issues that may arise from this type of research.
  • Non-standard terms continue to be used to describe infants and children and the lack of consistent age categories used within bioarchaeology makes it difficult to compare demographic profiles between sites. These points have always been an issue for those of us working in this area, though we need to revisit the matter and consider how we can overcome this challenge.
  • The use of out-of-date osteological methods to estimate age. Over recent years, new methodologies have been developed which are more accurate than older forms of analysis.
  • The assumption that gender equates to sex reared its head at this conference. As demonstrated by recent work on Viking Age burials (e.g. Hedenstierna-Jonson et al. 2017) we cannot make assumptions about the gender of an individual based on the objects they were buried with. Nor can we assume the relationship of individuals buried in the same grave.
  • We also need to acknowledge the limitations of osteological analyses, i.e. we cannot determine the sex of children by morphological characteristics alone.


I feel greater acknowledgement of the above points will help move our disciplines forward. This is certainly something to think about for our next annual conference, which will be held in Lincoln (UK).


By Kirsty Squires (SSCIP Student and Outreach Officer, @KirstySquires2)

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Ancient Family: Bioarchaeology, Infant Health, and Disease — The Bioarchaeology of Childhood | Sian Halcrow

This week I’m tweeting for @RealScientists. Please come by and say hello. Here is my intro: http://realscientists.org/2018/09/29/ancient-family-bioarchaeology-infant-health-and-disease/ by Sarah Faber · September 29, 2018 Real Scientists is in Aotearoa/New Zealand this week with Dr Siân Halcrow (@ancientchildren), a bioarchaeologist and associate professor at the University of Otago. Her research focuses on historical infant and child […]

via Ancient Family: Bioarchaeology, Infant Health, and Disease — The Bioarchaeology of Childhood | Sian Halcrow

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