Session: #121

Theme & Session Format

The archaeology of material culture, bodies and landscapes
Session format:
Session, made up of a combination of papers, max. 15 minutes each

Title & Content

Children at work
A large part of the production activities of past populations have been documented, such as farming, hunting, fishing and mining. The participation of children in these activities is sometimes visible through traces left on associated objects by the young ones when they were learning such crafts, presumably under the guidance of adults (flint knapping or pottery modelling). It will be then interesting to reconsider the "division of labor" evoked by Leroi-Gourhan and Brézillon for the Magdalenian site of Pincevent (France) or by Binford for the Nunamiut people, by integrating the notion of age in addition to the gender aspect.
Furthermore, it is possible to observe physical evidence, such as markers on the bones. Such analysis is known and widespread in the anthropological study of adult individuals. However, this topic has never been envisaged for the immature cohort, but recent work proves it worthy. Indeed, it seems that children were also taking part in basketery among late Neolithic populations in Southern France, forming peculiar abrasion on their deciduous teeth. Also, the reconstitution of life conditions from the remains of young individuals discovered at the site of Caillons (France) attests to the exploitation of a servile young workforce. Studies in ethnography allow some pertinent comparisons concerning child labour, for example, the work of children in the mines of Congo.
Thus on the basis of archaeological and anthropological (social or biological) evidence, this session will aim to investigate the working contribution of immature individuals in past societies, from prehistoric to modern times.
Children, activity markers, Society, craft
Session associated with MERC:
Session associated with CIfA:
Session associated with SAfA:


Main organiser:
Dr Melie Le Roy (United Kingdom) 1
Dr Caroline Polet (Belgium) 2,3
1. Archaeology & Palaeoecology School of Natural and Built Environment Queen's University Belfast
2. Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences Department of Palaeontology
3. Faculté de Philosophie et Sciences sociales, Département d'Histoire, Arts et Archéologie, Universite libre de Bruxelles