We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Tracing Childhood

Bioarchaeological Investigations of Early Lives in Antiquity

Jennifer L. Thompson

Publication Year: 2014

Bioarchaeological studies of children have, until recently, centered on population data-driven topics like mortality rates and growth and morbidity patterns. This volume examines emerging issues in childhood studies, looking at historic and prehistoric contexts and framing questions about the nature and quality of children’s lives. How did they develop their social identity? Were they economic actors in early civilizations? Does their health reflect the larger community?

Comparing and contrasting field research from a variety of sites across Europe and the Americas, the contributors to this volume demonstrate that children not only have unique experiences but they also share, cross-culturally, in daily struggles. Their lives differ significantly from those of adults due to disparate social identities and variable growth needs. In some of the cases presented, this is the first time that child remains have been examined in any detail, making Tracing Childhood an essential resource for scholars and researchers in this growing field.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (82.8 KB)

List of Figures

pdf iconDownload PDF (49.6 KB)
pp. vii-viii

List of Tables

pdf iconDownload PDF (49.6 KB)
pp. ix-x

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (62.9 KB)
pp. xi-xii

Anthropology is the only social science to encompass the study of all people, in all places, and in all times. Yet even in its broadly holistic and comparative view of humanity, children and childhood have not been part of the discipline’s comprehensive perspective on our species. A central reason for the marginalization of the juvenile record, past and present, is that children...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (72.8 KB)
pp. xiii-xiv

This book idea came about as the result of a panel that was organized for the American Anthropological Association (AAA) meetings and was sponsored by the AAA Children and Youth Interest group. The editors would like to thank the AAA for that opportunity and all the participants of that session, many of whom are contributors to this volume. We thank the Department...

read more

Introduction. Children in Prehistory: Now Seen, Now Heard

Jennifer L. Thompson, John J. Crandall, Marta P. Alfonso-Durruty

pdf iconDownload PDF (114.3 KB)
pp. 1-14

While other mammals progress, in an almost seamless fashion, from infancy toward adulthood, our species is unique in that we are the only creature exhibiting a period following infancy where a youngster is freed from breastfeeding but still dependent on others for provisioning and protection (Bogin 1997, 1999, 2006, 2009). Childhood is at the core of our common...

Part I. The Chosen Child

read more

1. Death and the Special Child: Three Examples from the Ancient Midwest

Della C. Cook, Andrew R. Thompson, Amanda A. Rollins

pdf iconDownload PDF (196.4 KB)
pp. 17-35

Older children present some of the most fascinating and frustrating problems in paleopathology. Children at age 5 years and older experience relatively low mortality in all human populations. Human mortality curves are at their lowest in the age range 5 to 14 years, and the heterogeneity of causes of death in this interval is high. Cause of death is often related to...

read more

2. Beyond Victims: Exploring the Identity of Sacrificed Infants and Children at La Cueva de Los Muertos Chiquitos, Durango, Mexico (AD 571–1168)

John J. Crandall, Jennifer L. Thompson

pdf iconDownload PDF (161.7 KB)
pp. 36-57

Mortuary analyses of collections found throughout Mesoamerica have highlighted many ways in which the living, including infants and children, are killed, buried, and subsequently treated by past societies (e.g., Fitzsimmons and Shimada 2011). The treatment of subadults (including infants, children, juveniles, and adolescents) around and after the time of their...

read more

3. Chinchorro Mortuary Practices on Infants: Northern Chile Archaic Period (BP 7000–3600)

Vivien G. Standen, Bernardo T. Arriaza, Calogero M. Santoro

pdf iconDownload PDF (234.9 KB)
pp. 58-74

In this chapter we discuss the complex mortuary patterns, social implications, and values surrounding infants and children (this includes fetuses and newborns) in early Andean Chinchorro communities. The Chinchorro were hunters, fishers, and gatherers who inhabited the coast of northern Chile from BP 7000 to BP 3600 and developed early and complex mummification...

read more

4. The “Other” Burials at Torre de Palma: Childhood as Special Death in a Medieval Portuguese Site

Sarah Holt, Stacey Hallman, Mary Lucas Powell, Maia M. Langley

pdf iconDownload PDF (355.9 KB)
pp. 75-96

The anthropological study of children and childhood is enjoying a welldeserved resurgence with those who study infant and child mortuary patterns, a fascinating intersection between childhood and the adult society that defines it. Infants and young children have held a special role in many societies, bridging the gap between the physical world and whatever comes...

Part II. The Desecrated Child

read more

5. The Bioarchaeology of the Homicide of Infants and Children

Simon Mays

pdf iconDownload PDF (163.3 KB)
pp. 99-122

Until recently, there was a tendency among archaeologists to downplay the prevalence of violence and homicide in the past. This was true even of archaeologists studying the more complex societies of the historic era, despite ample evidence testifying to the importance of warfare, both as cause and effect, in the rise of complex societies, and as a means of interaction...

read more

6. Sense or Sensationalism? Approaches to Explaining High Perinatal Mortality in the Past

Helen F. Gilmore, Siân E. Halcrow

pdf iconDownload PDF (123.3 KB)
pp. 123-138

The modern disciplines of anthropology and archaeology emerged from nineteenth-century interest generated by “dark” practices of exotic “primitive” cultures, and social and scientific theories of “race” and evolutionism in a period of sweeping imperialism and a belief in the supposed superiority of European civilization. Although these views have long since been...

read more

7. A Disciplined Childhood in Nineteenth-Century New York City: A Social Bioarchaeology of the Subadults of the Spring Street Presbyterian Church

Meredith A. B. Ellis

pdf iconDownload PDF (351.3 KB)
pp. 139-156

Historical bioarchaeology is in a unique position to comment on both the structuring institutions of childhood and the agency of children. Here I explore such an embodied dialectic using the subadults excavated from the burial vaults of the nineteenth-century Spring Street Presbyterian Church in New York City. The subadult remains from this congregation include...

Part III. The Working Child

read more

8. Childhood, Colonialism, and Nation-Building: Child Labor in Virginia and New York

Autumn Barrett

pdf iconDownload PDF (188.4 KB)
pp. 159-182

This study investigates the role of childhood labor in Virginia and New York during the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. Free and enslaved children comprised part of the labor forces that built the economies and stability of these former European colonies and, later, the nation-state. Childhood and adulthood, as conceptual products of the European...

read more

9. Little Helping Hands: Insights from Punta Teatinos, Chile

Marta P. Alfonso-Durruty, Jennifer L. Thompson

pdf iconDownload PDF (189.7 KB)
pp. 183-197

Bioarchaeological studies of prehistoric foraging societies have not explicitly examined the social and economic role of subadults and how their roles change from infancy to adulthood. In this chapter we explore these changes using prehistoric subadults from the archaeological site of Punta Teatinos, Chile. To achieve this goal we contrast biological age with changing...

read more

10. Children of the Working Class: Environmental Marginality and Child Health at Black Mesa, Arizona (AD 900–1150)

Debra L. Martin, Jennifer L. Thompson, John J. Crandall

pdf iconDownload PDF (159.1 KB)
pp. 198-216

Climate change and global political-economic processes have put a strain on subsistence farmers living in remote and/or marginal areas (Hertel and Rosch 2010; Morton 2007). Archaeological data provides a way to see how humans in the past dealt with marginality and environmental uncertainty over long periods of time. It also provides one way to better understand...

Part IV. The Cultured Child

read more

11. Surviving Childhood: Health, Identity, and Personhood in the Prehistoric American Southwest

Ann M. Palkovich

pdf iconDownload PDF (90.9 KB)
pp. 219-227

For children born into ancestral Puebloan societies in the pre-Hispanic American Southwest, life was first and foremost a matter of survival. Daily existence meant dealing with diseases of malnutrition—including megaloblastic anemia, scurvy, and rickets. Widely documented for many pre-Hispanic settlements throughout the Southwest, these health issues have...

read more

12. Tracing Tiwanaku Childhoods: A Bioarchaeological Study of Age and Social Identities in Tiwanaku Society

Deborah E. Blom, Kelly J. Knudson

pdf iconDownload PDF (159.8 KB)
pp. 228-245

A wealth of publications focused on childhood in the past within the last five years attests both to a scholarly interest on ancient childhoods and a realization that our understanding of the past is incomplete if we ignore approximately half of society (e.g., Ardren and Hutson 2006; Baxter 2006; Dommasnes and Wrigglesworth 2008; Halcrow and Tayles 2008). In the...

read more

Conclusion. Little Bodies, Big Voices: The Lives of Children in the Past

Marta P. Alfonso-Durruty, Jennifer L. Thompson, John J. Crandall

pdf iconDownload PDF (135.5 KB)
pp. 246-258

Infancy, childhood, and adolescence, like other life stages (such as adulthood), are a biological universal of our species. However, the somatic, psychological, and social stances of “children” (all subadults) vary dramatically depending on cultural conditions (Lancy 2008; Roveland 2001; Sander et al. 1996). While the body transforms in response to biological...

List of Contributors

pdf iconDownload PDF (63.2 KB)
pp. 259-262


pdf iconDownload PDF (402.6 KB)
pp. 263-270

About the Series, Other Works in the Series

pdf iconDownload PDF (42.2 KB)
p. 271-271

E-ISBN-13: 9780813048864
E-ISBN-10: 0813048869
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813049830

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 23 b/w figures, 22 tables
Publication Year: 2014