In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Archaeology of Childhood

  • Introduction
  • Professional Organizations
  • Journals
  • General Overviews
  • Edited Volumes and Special Journal Issues
  • Early Publications
  • Anthropology of Childhood
  • The Ethnoarchaeology of Children
  • Children as Students, Apprentices, and Producers
  • Children and Work
  • Children, Toys, and Play
  • Children, Spaces, and Landscape
  • Children and Households
  • Children, Ritual, and Sacrifice
  • Children, Gender, and Identity
  • The Archaeology of Infancy and Infanticide
  • Parenting and Child Care
  • Death, Burial, and Commemoration of Children
  • Bioarchaeology and the Study of Children’s Skeletal Remains
  • Children and Childhood in Evolution and Deep Prehistory
  • Children and Childhood in the Classical World
  • Medieval and Anglo-Saxon Children
  • Historical Archaeology of Children and Childhood
  • Children and Childhood in Contemporary Archaeology
  • Representations of Children in Art, Literature, and Museums

Anthropology Archaeology of Childhood
Jane Eva Baxter
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 February 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0172


The archaeology of childhood is an area of scholarly inquiry that makes explicit archaeological interests in children, childhood, childrearing, and related topics. This area of interest emerged since the 1990s as part of a more general trend in heightened attention toward childhood studies across the humanities and social sciences, including anthropology. For many areas of archaeology, the study of childhood has been an extension of earlier work on the archaeology of gender that was informed by feminist approaches. Like women, children were and are a significant population in any human social group, and to ignore their presence in past societies and potential contributions to the archaeological record offers an incomplete picture of the past. The archaeology of childhood has gone on to highlight how evidence for children can be found in nearly every category of archaeological data, including skeletal remains, landscapes, architecture, and artifacts. Archaeologists studying childhood have demonstrated that it is necessary for archaeologists to shed their own cultural biases that limit their understanding of childhood. Evidence from historical and ethnographic sources has been used to illustrate the rich diversity of childhood experiences, the unique cultural definitions of childhood that exist in varying cultures, and the many significant contributions children make to their families, communities, and societies as a whole. Bioarchaeological approaches to childhood have been at the forefront of breaking down inevitable and universal definitions of childhood based on biology by illustrating how biological and social ages often exist in complex tensions with one another. Behavioral studies of work, play, apprenticeship, and learning have emphasized how children were defined differently in past societies, and how those varying definitions created different opportunities for children to interact with one another, with adult members of society, and with the material world. Other works have looked at the symbolic value of children, and how the cultural category of child not only defined roles but also held particular cultural resonance. In all of these cases, children are the primary analytical focus of archaeological study and are treated as a unique and valuable population that has much to tell us about the past. Other disciplines, such as classical, historical, and medieval archaeology, have developed their own scholarly interests in childhood that follow many of the same themes but come from unique disciplinary trajectories. This bibliography emphasizes the archaeology of childhood from the disciplinary perspectives of anthropological and social archaeology, but also offers a sampling of materials from these other areas of archaeology.

Professional Organizations

There are no organizations strictly devoted to the archaeological study of children and childhood, but there are several organizations where archaeologists are part of an interdisciplinary community studying children in the past, or in anthropology more generally. Some of these organizations sponsor newsletters or journals (see Journals) and host conferences. The American Anthropological Association has an interest group (ACYIG) that includes members from all four fields of anthropology: archaeology, cultural anthropology, linguistics, and physical anthropology. The Children’s Society and the Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past are both based in the United Kingdom, and while both have interdisciplinary memberships, the former is focused more on historians working with the documentary record and the latter emphasizes archaeological studies of children in the past. The Society for the History of Childhood and Youth is an international organization that includes archaeologists among its members.

  • Anthropology of Children and Youth Interest Group (ACYIG) of the American Anthropological Association.

    ACYIG formed in 2007 and today has more than 1,000 members from over ten countries and all four traditional subfields of anthropology, including archaeology. The group sponsors an annual conference, has an active website and blog, and a newsletter called Neos.

  • The Children’s Society UK.

    This organization began in 2015 as an organization devoted to childhood in the more recent past. Established by historians and emphasizing historical research, this group welcomes archaeologists and researchers studying children’s material culture. The group’s first conference was held in 2016 and they have a very active social media presence.

  • Society for the History of Childhood and Youth (SHCY).

    SHCY was founded in 2001 to promote the history of childhood and youth, and provides venues for interdisciplinary scholarship and communication. The organization holds a biannual meeting, sponsors a peer-reviewed journal, and operates H-Childhood.

  • The Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past (SSCIP).

    The SSCIP is the most archaeology-focused organization of all the interdisciplinary groups devoted to the study of children and childhood. The group sponsors an annual international conference each autumn, a spring conference in the United Kingdom, and a peer-reviewed journal.

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