The Archaeology of Childhood

Children, Gender, and Material Culture

By (author) Jane Eva Baxter

Publication date:

18 January 2005

Length of book:

160 pages


AltaMira Press

ISBN-13: 9780759103313

The study of children and childhood in historical and prehistoric life is an overlooked area of study that Jane Baxter addresses in this brief book. Her timely contribution stresses the importance of studying children as active participants in past cultures, instead of regarding them mainly for their effect on adult life. Using the critical concepts of gender and socialization, she develops new theoretical and methodological approaches for the archaeological study of this large but invisible population. Baxter presents examples from the analysis of toys, miniatures, and other objects traditionally associated with children, from the gendered distribution of activity space, from the remains of children-as-apprentices, and from mortuary evidence. Baxter's work will aid archaeologists bring a more nuanced understanding of children's role in the historical and archaeological record.
In this elegant book, Jane Baxter provides a manifesto for why archaeologists should care about children, and develops archaeological methodologies for studying childhood and children on their own terms. Drawing on developmental psychology, cultural anthropology, biology, and gender theory, Baxter constructs a general framework for understanding the socialization process, focusing on the various mechanisms through which cultural knowledge is transmitted and transformed. To these disciplinary perspectives, Baxter adds an interest in material culture and the patterned use and construction of space and place by children, to provide tools by which archaeologists can identify and examine this important and long-neglected segment of all human societies. This result is a work that should be read by all archaeologists and former children interested in understanding cultural transmission and social structures and processes.