- The Social Experiences of Childhood in Ancient Mesoamerica
The University Press of Colorado has developed a very strong list of titles dealing with Ancient Mesoamerica, under the general editorship of David Carrasco and Eduardo Matos Moctezuma. The most recent addition to that list is The Social Experiences of Childhood in Ancient Mesoamerica (2006), edited by Traci Arden and Scott R. Hutson. This book fills a clear gap in our knowledge concerning children and childhood in the pre-contact period. The work grew out of a session at the American Anthropological Association meeting in 2002. It consists of eleven chapters, divided into five parts. The essays cover many regions of Mesoamerica, although they focus on the Maya and Nahua. Chronologically the essays range from the Olmec up to the period of European contact. Clearly the essays on the earlier periods are heavily grounded in archeology, while those from the immediate pre-contact and conquest periods draw on written sources as well. For historians, the eighth chapter is of particular interest since it deals with "Child Martyrs and Murderous Children: Age and Agency in Sixteenth-Century Transatlantic Religious Conflicts," by Byron Ellsworth Mamann. It focuses on children as agents of change in both Europe and Mexico at the time of contact. Taken as a whole, these are fascinating glimpses of children and childhood and serve well to both summarize much of the current research and to provide a point of departure for future research.
Potsdam, New York