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Unearthing childhood

Young lives in prehistory

By Robin Derricourt

Unearthing childhood

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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: SOCIAL SCIENCE / Archaeology, Society & social sciences / Social & cultural anthropology, ethnography, Prehistoric Archaeology, Archaeology, Social & cultural anthropology, Prehistory, Archaeology by period / region, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural

Description

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.

Reviews

'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

'Derricourt has succeeded at the Herculean task of reviewing the entire corpus of childhood-relevant material from the archeological record. He has amplified and enriched this account with appropriate material from the ethnographic and historic records. The result is a comprehensive survey of childhood in the distant past.'
David Lancy, author of The Anthropology of Childhood: Cherubs, Chattel, Changelings

'Though in prehistoric societies children made up about half the population, children continue to be underrepresented in the archaeological record. Derricourt (archaeology, Univ. of New South Wales, Australia) addresses this underrepresentation by introducing research from multiple disciplines to assess what is known (and what is not known) about children and childhood in prehistory. In chapter 1, he provides a scrupulous examination of cave paintings, children's footprints, toys, and skeletal remains to explore the meaning of childhood over time and space. In chapter 2, he focuses on birth, motherhood, and infancy. The most notable chapters are 4 through 6, which look at children's diets, children's clothing, and processes of socialization. Chapters 9 and 10 discuss prehistoric burial sites with attention to the social status of children. Although Derricourt focuses on European and Middle Eastern burials, he also compares European burial sites to burial sites in Africa and the Americas. In the final chapter, Derricourt outlines what he believes researchers must do to advance the study of childhood in prehistory. His research is thorough, and his presentation is clear and well organized. He avoids technical jargon, making this book useful for nonspecialists and specialists alike.'
S. D. Glazier, Yale University

'Unearthing Childhood presents a broad survey of childhood through time, an insightful and informative read for both specialist and non-specialist audiences. The book does not try to paint a picture of the day to day lives of children in prehistoric societies, instead it offers an appraisal of the opportunities we currently have. Derricourt very comprehensively highlights the potential of an emerging and important research area, while addressing limitations and areas for future research. '
Anna Rohnbogner, independent researcher, The Prehistoric Society: Book Reviews (February 2019)

'Robin Derricourt's book is an overview of current and past research on the nature of the evidence for children in prehistory. As he points out, children are likely to have comprised about 50% of the population of most prehistoric societies, and so it is high time they were studied to the same degree as adults. The book is arranged thematically with chapters on topics such as birth, breastfeeding and weaning, disease, clothing, learning and play, and the treatment of children at death. Within each of these chapters, Derricourt sets out evidence from primatology, archaeology, and anthropology, with the evidence broadly divided into earlier hunter-gatherer and later agriculturalist periods.'
Kim Biddulph, Current Archaeology, Vol. 348 (2019)

'Though in prehistoric societies children made up about half the population, children continue to be underrepresented in the archaeological record, Derricourt (archaeology, Univ. of New South Wales, Australia) addresses this underrepresentation by introducing research from multiple disciplines to assess what is known (and what is not known) about children and childhood in prehistory [.] His research is thorough, and his presentation is clear and well organized. He avoids technical jargon, making this book useful for nonspecialists and specialists alike.'
S. D. Glazier, Yale University, CHOICE Reviews (June 2019)

Author

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

Awards

2019

Winner of the 2019 Archaeology & Ancient History PROSE award from the Association of American Publishers (AAP)

Contents

Preface
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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