Short interviews with SSCIP members: Dr Kirsty Squires

Our interviewee is Dr Kirsty Squires, who is a Lecturer in Osteoarchaeology in the Department of Forensic and Crime Science at Staffordshire University (UK). She has been a member of the Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past since 2011 and is the society’s outreach officer.


Tell me a little bit about your research?

My PhD research explored the early Anglo-Saxon cremation rite at Cleatham and Elsham (both in North Lincolnshire, England). I conducted in-depth osteological analyses on the cremated skeletal material (1544 burials) from these sites. An integrated analysis of these data with contextual information (from the grave goods, cinerary urns, and the spatial location of these burials) was adopted to further our knowledge of the cremation rite in Anglo-Saxon England. Methods such as histomorphometry and Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy were also applied to gain a greater understanding of pyre technology and rituals of this funerary practice. Consequently, my research interests are incredibly broad and range from early Anglo-Saxon funerary archaeology and the archaeology of childhood through to the effects of burning on bone and the identification of human remains from forensic contexts.

How did you get into your field of research and why?

During the course of my doctoral research I became increasingly interested in the treatment of infants and children in the past. One of my PhD supervisors (Professor Dawn Hadley) invited me to contribute to an edited volume (a SSCIP monograph) that she was compiling with Dr Katie Hemer (both University of Sheffield, UK). The chapter I produced was based on one element of my doctoral research. I explored the under representation of infants and children in early Anglo-Saxon inhumation and cremation cemeteries in England. In the past cremation cemeteries were overlooked and it had been suggested that the so-called “missing children” from the inhumation cemeteries were being cremated. The results from this study illustrated that this was not the case. Since writing this chapter I have continued to carry out research into the archaeology of childhood as I find the differential treatment afforded to infants and children in life and death fascinating. Research into this area is incredibly valuable as it can provide a glimpse into the everyday lives and values of past populations.

Why did you join SSCIP?

I joined the society to learn more about the archaeology of childhood, new research in the field, and to meet other students and professionals that carried out work in a similar area. I am now a committee member and I am the society’s outreach officer. I am hoping to raise the profile of the society by organising events with universities, colleges, schools, and museums (to name but a few) to highlight the importance of studying childhood in the past.

What is on the future horizon for your research?

I am currently exploring the changing attitudes and treatment of infants and children from the Roman period in Britain through to the end of Anglo-Saxon period in England. Many studies are geographically or temporally specific but I would like to explore how the aforementioned traits changed over time as a means of understanding how societal values and attitudes towards the youngest members of society changed over time. I am also becoming increasingly interested in the experiences of children in conflict as this group is often overlooked in historical and archaeological contexts.

Kirsty Squires

Kirsty presenting at the Society for American Archaeologists Meeting in Orlando this month in the SSCIP sponsored session “On the Move: Archaeological Approaches to Children and Childhood” co-chaired by Dawn Hadley and Traci Ardren (Photo Sian Halcrow).