Comparing Archaeologies of Childhood Session at the World Archaeological Congress

Below is a message from Robin Derricourt about a session to be held at WAC this year, that may be of interest to some members:

Dear Colleague,

The next World Archaeological Congress will be held this year (28 August to 2 September) in the wonderful Japanese heritage city of Kyoto, conference details at, and I am co-organising a session there on the Archaeology of Childhood. This email is to invite proposals for presentations at this session, which is on the program as T05-B “Comparing Archaeologies of Childhood”.

Details of the session are given below, and I would note that there are also two other sessions at WAC on related themes: one being T05-M “Experiences of Children in Conflict”, and the other being T10-C “Births, mothers and babies: a bioarchaeological perspective”, details of which can also be found on the WAC web site. We hope the conference organisers will be able to timetable these so they can complement each other.

At this stage the scope for our “Comparing Archaeologies of Childhood” session has been left deliberately broad, but in its final structure we will aim to link together papers on related topics, and one theme would be tracing the learning / apprenticeship of the young in the archaeological record. If time allows it should be possible to include a panel discussion. There have been a number of edited collections in recent years (one of the most recent being the 2015 special issue of Childhood in the Past) and it would be good to take some of these themes and debates a firm step forward.

We look forward to hearing from you. Informal queries, comments, suggestions, criticisms are welcome to myself, or to Jody Joy in Cambridge (where an exhibition on the topic has recently opened). Formal submissions for papers need to go through the WAC web site at

Robin Derricourt

School of Humanities & Languages
University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Session details:

T05-B Comparing Archaeologies of Childhood
Organiser(s): Robin Derricourt (University of New South Wales / Australia) and Jody Joy (University of Cambridge / UK)
Type: Symposium
In most of the past, children represented almost half of the human population, yet despite periodic symposia and case studies children are still under-represented in archaeological work. This session will consider interpretations, methodology and theoretical approaches in our current archaeological understanding of children and childhood, and how the social, cultural, economic, medical and biological life of children changed over time. What is common ground, and what differs by time and place, from Australopithecines to recent historical societies? What new questions can be asked of existing data, in both prehistoric and historical societies? How much can we draw on studies and analogies from historic, ethnographic and primate biological studies to help in understanding childhood in an archaeological context? What kinds of material culture inform us of the lives of children, and of mothers with infants? What evidence does archaeology uncover for experimental learning and apprenticeship in skills (stone tools, food provision, advanced crafts)? And what does the presence or absence of child burials (and associated rituals and grave goods) tell us of the roles of children while alive?

Keywords: Children, childhood, learning