New Book – Unearthing Childhood: Young lives in prehistory

A new book Unearthing childhood: Young lives in prehistory by Robin Derricourt is a unique and fully comprehensive survey of children across all of prehistory, from Australopithecines to the eve of civilisation. Robin discusses a range of themes, including birth and motherhood, family and development, food, clothing and adornment, learning crafts and skills, play and conflict. Unearthing childhood is essential reading for students, professionals, academics and general readers in archaeology, as well as those interested in childhood studies from historical, social science and other subject areas

– Manchester University Press.

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Robin has written a blog post about his research for the MUP blog, and they have recently published a Q&A with him.

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Call for papers for 2019 SAA session “The Health and Welfare of Children in the Past”

A session on The Health and Welfare of Children in the Past will be held at the 2019 SAAs meeting at Albuquerque, New Mexico, on April 10-14th (session no: 4336). See here for more information on the conference. If interested in joining the session please contact the session chairs, Esme Hookway and Dr Kirsty Squires ( The final SAA deadline for submission is the 6th of September.

Session Abstract

The study of children and childhood in the past has been of increasing interest to archaeologists over the past 20 years. Previously deemed to be invisible, theoretical and methodological advances mean the experiences, actions and physical remains of children are being studied to enrich our comprehension of past peoples. Exploring issues of health and welfare is a pathway to understanding not only the lives of children, but also, the world they inhabited. Changing social practices, political priorities, economic developments, environmental factors, and new technologies have all impacted on children’s health and welfare throughout the past. In turn, the life experiences of children shape the world they create as adults. This session will explore the archaeology and bioarchaeology of children from all time periods. Papers are invited which consider a variety of themes, including but not limited to, childhood health and disease, the care of children in the home, the welfare of children in the work place, and community and institutional roles in how and by whom children were cared for.


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Nineteenth Century Childhoods in Interdisciplinary and International Perspectives

I am very excited to share Jane Eva Baxter and Meredith Ellis’ new edited volume. Opening the book the editors state:


The 19th Century was a time when the world was becoming increasingly connected through global forces and networks. Colonial and capitalist expansion was bringing the world into closer contact, while nationalism and forms of indigenous resistance were shaping and moulding the world on more local and regional scales. This dynamic environment was the backdrop for a time when childhood was becoming significantly elaborated as a cultural category of identity. Institutions, objects, and places specifically designed for children were multiplying at an unprecedented rate, writing about children in fiction and non-fiction became increasingly prolific, and the concern for children’s health and well-being in life and death was of paramount concern in many communities.

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This work is unique because it focuses on children and childhood in multiple places in the 19th century- most are either about the United States, the UK or Australia exclusively. The broad geographic approach to this volume allows for the reader to engage very specific case studies but also experience the emergence of widespread themes that develop as part of the changes taking place globally during the 19th century.
Part one of volume 11 of Childhood in the Past is an overflow volume of excellent papers on 19th century education that could not fit in the volume because they received far too many excellent proposals on that topic.
The new volume of Childhood on the Past also includes a review of this book.
Happy Reading!
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Part 2 of Volume 11 of Childhood in the Past is out now!

Eileen M. Murphy shares part of her editorial here.
The volume commences with a paper by Mélie Le Roy, Stéphane Rottier and Anne-Marie
Tillier that asks: ‘Who was a “Child” During the Neolithic in France?’. The study focuses on juvenile remains recovered from Neolithic (5700–2100 BC) tombs and investigates funerary practices, age distribution and burial location to determine the place of children within the different cultural groups of the Early, Middle and Later Neolithic in both northern and southern France. Young children seem to be under-represented across the entire Neolithic throughout France and ethnographic data is called upon to help explain this phenomenon. Four different forms of age selection are identified in relation to the juveniles contained within collective burials.
The paper of Emma Harper discusses the contribution that artefacts recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which encourages the voluntary recording of archaeological objects in England and Wales, can make to discussions of later mediaeval childhood. The study focuses on objects that have been identified as toys, and particularly those described as figures or dolls. Drawing upon evidence derived from theoretical discussions of past childhood, archaeological excavations and contemporary written and artistic accounts, she argues that the various characteristics of the dolls are suggestive of both the imposition of behaviours upon children by adults but also the direct agency of children. While contemporary documentary sources have a tendency to yield information about the play items of children from elite families, the material record has the advantage of providing a more balanced perspective since objects used for play among the lower classes of society have also been discovered.
Olga Boitsova and Ekaterina Orekh investigate the significance of colour in children’s clothing in relation to the Soviet ideology of childhood in Russia. Their analysis focuses on data contained within twentieth-century Soviet advice books, brochures and thematic articles in fashion magazines, as well as postcards and illustrations from school books. They discuss how the colours evident in children’s clothing can be linked to a history of ideas, particularly in relation to issues such as gender. Their evidence suggests that children were viewed in a gender-neutral, asexual manner in Soviet Russia, a perspective that did not change until the 1980s when genderisation of clothing images was first observed. Up until this point official discourse on children’s clothes was unanimous and light colours, including pink, were considered markers of childhood for both boys and girls.
In his paper, Ian Waites uses a selection of photographs taken in the early 1970s of children on a post-World War Two British council estate in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, as a means ofunderstanding the nature of life for these children. Having grown up on the Middle field Lane estate included in the paper, Waites provides a poignant first-hand review of how the planning and layout of the estate was intended to function as a crucial influence on the development of the children who lived there. He suggests that children were often included in the photographs to promote a sense of well-being and community within these estates that were considered one of the cornerstones of post-war social reconstruction in Britain.
The issue ends with a collection of book reviews edited by Simon Mays.
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Faulty science in DNA analysis of the Atacama ‘alien’ mummy — The Bioarchaeology of Childhood | Sian Halcrow

Our recently published international collaborative research calls into question the skeletal and genomic analysis, and ethics surrounding research into the much publicised alien-like “Atacama mummy”. Here is Forbes coverage written by co-author Kristina Killgrove. Our team published our findings yesterday in an open-access paper in the International Journal of Paleopathology. Here we evaluated work carried […]

via Faulty science in DNA analysis of the Atacama ‘alien’ mummy — The Bioarchaeology of Childhood | Sian Halcrow

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Uncovering childhood in museums

Personal Reflections By Amanda Hoogestraat, Twitter @AmehAnthro On my recent tour of museums in the UK, I saw small reminders of children in the exhibits featuring past societies. Children were obviously a part of every community, but are underrepresented in museum collections. There is a museum devoted to childhood in both London and Edinburgh, but […]

via Uncovering childhood in museums — The Bioarchaeology of Childhood | Sian Halcrow

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Egyptian ‘hawk’ mummy is a human foetus with a fatal birth defect

Recently researchers have made an unexpected discovery of a mummified foetus while CT scanning a 2300-year-old mummy known as Ta-Kush currently held at the Maidstone Museum in Kent. This coffin was labelled, “A mummified hawk with linen and cartonnage, Ptolemaic period (323 BC – 30 BC).” Micro-CT scan shows the mummified stillborn human baby. Image: […]

via Egyptian ‘hawk’ mummy is a human foetus with a fatal birth defect — The Bioarchaeology of Childhood | Sian Halcrow

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