The Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past team up with the Young Archaeologists’ Club and English Heritage to deliver juvenile osteology training sessions

Saturday 29th February 2020 was a very busy day for the Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past. The society teamed up with the Young Archaeologists’ Club (YAC, Council for British Archaeology) and English Heritage to deliver an outreach session for 14-25 year olds as part of the ‘Shout Out Loud’ project in the morning, and a training session for YAC leaders in the afternoon. Both sessions took place at the breath-taking St. Peter’s Church, Barton-upon-Humber (North Lincolnshire, UK).

Image 1 St Peter's Church imageImage above: St. Peter’s Church, Barton-upon-Humber (image courtesy of the Council for British Archaeology©).

The morning session, titled ““Babes of Barton”: Bioarchaeology of Children from Medieval Barton, Lincolnshire”, focused upon the children that lived in medieval Barton-upon-Humber. The aims of the session were to introduce participants to juvenile osteology and what the skeletons of children from medieval Barton can tell us about their lives. In this session, we welcomed twelve 14-25 year olds. Following an introduction to the St. Peter’s Church (by Kevin Booth, English Heritage) and an introduction to the session (by Kirsty Squires, SSCIP Outreach Officer), it was time to make a start on the session. Skeletal remains from the Barton-upon-Humber assemblage were used throughout the day. Participants got to grips with the juvenile skeleton by laying out a skeleton and identifying different bones. Following a quick break, we moved on to age estimation methods. Here, participants learned how to use dental eruption and development and epiphyseal fusion of bones to estimate age. Once the age of each skeleton was estimated, we focused on the appearance of disease on juvenile skeletons. Next, there was a quiz about diseases, and their causes, typically seen on the skeletal remains of children from archaeological contexts. Based on this knowledge, participants were tasked with identifying signs of disease on the skeleton they had laid out. Continuing to think about health and disease, we thought about how our diets in the present day differ from those in the medieval period and which (if any) diseases from medieval Barton-upon-Humber persist in the 21st century. The session was wrapped up with a bone quiz to test the participant’s identification skills. As a takeaway activity, a quiz about age estimation methods was provided. All attendees were enthusiastic and asked excellent questions throughout the course of the session. It was a great start to the day!

Image 2a morning session St Peter'sImage above: Participants unpacking juvenile skeleton’s ready for identification (image courtesy of the Council for British Archaeology©).

Following a quick interlude, YAC leaders from around the UK convened for a juvenile osteology training session. The aims of this session were to introduce YAC leaders to juvenile osteology and to have a go at the related activities devised for YAC groups. The afternoon was action-packed with plenty of activities throughout. Akin to the morning session, the leaders had the opportunity to layout a juvenile skeleton, so they became more familiar with juvenile osteology. This was followed by a craft activity whereby YAC leaders produced their own movable card skeleton which they had to label based on their skeletal knowledge. Next, we moved on to dental eruption and development. Each leader was assigned a deciduous tooth and were then asked to form a semi-circle (to represent the mouth) and hold a red ribbon above their heads (representing the gum line). When their tooth was called out, they had to “erupt” and break through the gum line. When it was time for their tooth to fall out, the leaders had to fall to the ground. This made for a very entertaining exercise. We then considered health and disease alongside an examination of children living and working during the Victorian period in Britain. Here, we thought about the roles they held and how these affected their health and development. Each YAC leader was assigned the role a child living during the Victorian period, and were provided details about their job and associated health and development. We then had a game of charades whereby the rest of the group had to guess the job and any associated ailments. We were working against the clock, so this required some quick thinking. Throughout the course of the session, there were also quizzes which acted as knowledge checks. YAC leaders gave it their all, despite the chilly working conditions.

Image 3 YAC LeadersImage above: YAC leaders getting to grips with juvenile osteology (image courtesy of the Council for British Archaeology©)).

Feedback from both cohorts was extremely positive. YAC leaders were asked what the most successful part of the day was. Their highlights included:

  • The tooth eruption activity
  • Hands on work with skeletal remains and opportunities to identify real bones / view bones in different stages of ageing / ideas for activities
  • Practical sessions – for example YAC sessions and resource choices
  • Learning about the skeletons / injuries / how illness affects growth

Commenting on the SSCIP’s partnership with the Council for British Archaeology, Dr Jo Kirton (Youth Engagement Manager, Council for British Archaeology) reflected that “The partnership between the CBA and the SSCIP has provided a fantastic opportunity for our YAC volunteers and young people to learn new skills and insights into the world of archaeology, and specifically osteoarchaeology. It’s rare that such an opportunity is made available and access to the expertise of the SSCIP has really paid dividends, as our participants had a brilliant day at Barton. The knowledge our YAC volunteers acquired will be shared with other leaders and members at their branches and the resources utilised for years to come”.

It was a pleasure meeting and working with the young adults in the morning and the YAC leaders in the afternoon. Watch this space for future collaborations between the SSCIP and YAC.

Further details about the Shout Out Loud project can be found at their website (

Other relevant resources:

Council for British Archaeology (

St. Barton’s Church, Barton-upon-Humber (

English Heritage (

Young Archaeologists’ Club (

By Kirsty Squires