Prehistoric Childhood

Our Review of the Week highlights a fascinating study of childhood in prehistoric societies

Unearthing childhood : young lives in prehistory

Derricourt, Robin M. Manchester University Press, 2018
276p indexes, 9781526128935 $115.00, 9781526128089 $30.00, 9781526128096

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.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates; researchers; general readers.
Reviewer: S. D. Glazier, Yale University
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – Anthropology
Choice Issue: Apr 2019