Misplaced Childhood?

Interpersonal violence and children in Neolithic Europe

Authored by: Linda Fibiger

The Routledge Handbook of the Bioarchaeology of Human Conflict

Print publication date:  November  2013
Online publication date:  December  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415842198
eBook ISBN: 9781315883366
Adobe ISBN: 9781134677979


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Children tend to be under-represented in the skeletal record and in osteological analyses, partly as a result of taphonomic processes (Andrews and Bello 2006; Bello et al. 2006; Djuric et al. 2011; Guy et al. 1997), but also due to past research interests that tended to focus on adult (skeletally mature) individuals. Archaeological and anthropological research within the last couple of decades has begun to redress the “invisibility” of children in past populations (e.g. Baxter 2005; Crawford and Shepherd 2007a; Högberg 2008; Lewis 2007; Moore and Scott 1997; Müller 2005a; Scott 1999; Sofaer Derevenski 1994a, 2000a; Zalai-Gaal 2003), and a number of authors have emphasized the active role children would have played in their families and communities (Baxter 2005: 112f.; Crawford and Shepherd 2007b; Sofaer Derevenski 1994a, 2000b). Another issue that has increasingly received attention is the concept of childhood itself, as well as the differences between biological, chronological and social functional age when investigating age-related population trends (Halcrow and Tayles 2008, 2011; Lucy 2005; Sofaer Derevenski 1994b, 1997; Sofaer 2011). Biological age assessment is based on the observation of age markers that have been established from known-age individuals, but may differ from actual (chronological) age as a result of environmental and socioeconomic factors, with the result that individuals may actually be slightly younger or older than their skeletal remains suggest (Halcrow and Tayles 2011; Hoppa 2002; Lewis 2007: 66ff.). How chronological age relates to social age, for example the way younger individuals were viewed within their society and which roles they may have assumed, is largely culturally defined and much harder to assess (Baxter 2005: 20; Gowland 2006; Lewis 2007: 5ff.; Lucy 2005; Sofaer 2011). Social age may also relate to the functional age of an individual as a reflection of their physical and mental capabilities (Sofaer 2011), posing questions as to how these capabilities relate to social competence witin their community (Dornheim et al. 2005; Müller 2005b). It is important to consider that past societies probably placed greater weight on the ability to function or perform in a given social role or context than on chronological age, in stark contrast to modern Western societies where chronological age has become an essential social and legal parameter (Lucy 2005).

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