Unearthing childhood

Young lives in prehistory

By Robin Derricourt

Unearthing childhood


  • eBook
  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-2808-9
  • Pages: 304
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £20.00
  • Published Date: May 2018
  • BIC Category: Archaeology, Social & cultural anthropology, Prehistory, Archaeology by period / region, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Archaeology, Society & social sciences / Social & cultural anthropology, ethnography, Prehistoric Archaeology


This is the first book to survey the 'hidden half' of prehistoric societies as revealed by archaeology - from Australopithecines to advanced Stone Age foragers, from farming villages to the beginnings of civilisation. Prehistoric children can be seen in footprints and finger daubs, in images painted on rocks and pots, in the signs of play and the evidence of first attempts to learn practical crafts. The burials of those who did not reach adulthood reveal clothing, personal adornment, possession and status in society, while the bodies themselves provide information on diet, health and sometimes violent death. This book demonstrates the extraordinary potential for the study of childhood within the prehistoric record, and will suggest to those interested in childhood what can be learnt from the study of the deep past.


'Children in prehistory are often neither seen nor heard. In this ground-breaking study Robin Derricourt shows what the accounts of our deep history have missed. Broad in scope, the book encompasses many examples from across the world of human prehistory. Derricourt has put children back at the heart of the history of humanity and Unearthing childhood will be essential reading for everyone who takes the past seriously.'
Professor Clive Gamble, Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins, University of Southampton

'The writing style is engaging and clear. Archaeological examples are explained in plain English and scientific research is nicely delineated. The level and quality of writing should appeal to a wide readership from undergraduate or educated non-specialist to research academic.'
Catherine J. Frieman, Senior Lecturer in European Archaeology, Australian National University

'The work by Derricourt is a welcome contribution to the literature on childhood, as it focuses on prehistory, an all too often neglected area of childhood research because of the perceived lack of evidence, of both human remains and material culture. In contrast to other archaeological publications on childhood, Derricourt incorporates palaeoanthropological, primatology and ethnographic data, which all bestow fresh perspectives on the balance between the biological necessity for care and specific cultural attitudes to raising children.'
Rebecca Redfern, Antiquity, 2018


Robin Derricourt is an Honorary Associate Professor in the School of Humanities at the University of New South Wales and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities


1 Understanding: the deep past of childhood
2 Being: birth, motherhood and infancy
3 Growing: the child in its family
4 Feeding: weaning, eating and health
5 Wearing: clothing, adornment and body shaping
6 Learning: knowledge and skills
7 Playing: fun, games, toys and culture
8 Fighting: conflict and violence
9 Dying I: death and burial in forager societies
10 Dying II: death and burial in Old World farming societies
11 Progressing: the future of childhood's deep past
Index of places
General index

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