Sheffield Centre for the Archaeology of Childhood








The Centre for the Archaeology of Childhood at the University of Sheffield draws together researchers with interests in exploring the nature and experience of childhood in the past.

The study of childhood in the past has been invigorated by significant recent works by both archaeologists and historians, and now spans diverse aspects of youth, including education, play, work, upbringing, and religion, in addition to key rites of passage in the child’s life from conception to maturity and death. For the archaeologist, the diverse evidence for childhood in the past includes the spaces children occupied, objects they interacted with, and the physical remains of children themselves.

The Centre for the Archaeology of Childhood brings together archaeological researchers with diverse chronological, theoretical and methodological expertise. Our research includes the examination of material culture, human skeletal remains, and stable isotope data, and ranges in scale from sites within their wider landscape to single objects or individuals. Our approach is often interdisciplinary, drawing on allied subjects such as History and Anthropology to enrich our investigations.

The Lecture given by Sian Halcrow

The Centre is the only dedicated research cluster focused on the archaeology of childhood in the UK, and reflects the significant concentration of archaeologists of infancy and childhood at Sheffield. Through our respective approaches, and collaboratively as a centre, we seek to illuminate the world inhabited and created by infants and children across time and space.

The Centre is funded by the Pamela Staunton Bequest, Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield.



Members

Prof. Maureen Carroll

Maureen Carroll

Dr Elizabeth Craig-Atkins

Lizzy Craig-Atkins

Prof. Dawn Hadley

Dawn Hadley

Dr Katie Hemer

Katie Hemer

Dr Pia Nystrom

Pia Nystrom

Dr Petra Verlinden

Mr Mark Hall

Aims & Strategy

Over the next three years the centre will:


  • attract excellent doctoral and post-doctoral researchers in relevant fields to enhance and grow our research base
  • obtain significant external income to support our world-leading research
  • disseminate and promote its activities both through attendance of our members at national and international conferences and events, and through the organisation of events held both at Sheffield and across the world
  • host a visiting speaker and run a masterclass in a relevant subject area each semester
Activities

Sheffield curates one of the largest collections of archaeological skeletal remains of juveniles of any UK institution. The material ranges in date from the Anglo-Saxon to Early Modern periods. Our members have participated in many events, conferences, and projects with a focus on the archaeological study of children and childhood. We are committed to the international representation, promotion, and dissemination of our research. This is manifest through our regular attendance at national and international conferences, diverse publications, and committee roles in international organisations such as the Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past (SSCIP) – a multi-disciplinary society promoting the study of childhood and children in the past, from earliest human society to the twentieth century. Maureen Carroll giving her lecture in Dublin

Forthcoming events



Sandra WheelerMARS Lecture - Dr Sandra Wheeler from The University of Central Florida

Wednesday 11 October 2017 at 5pm

Room G03, Jessop West

To celebrate the first anniversary of the Sheffield Centre for the Archaeology of Childhood, the Department of Archaeology and MARS are pleased to welcome as guest speaker Dr. Sandra Wheeler, University of Central Florida.

Dr. Wheeler specialises in the bioarchaeological analysis of infants and children to shed light on mortuary practices involving the youngest members of society. She will be giving a public lecture entitled 'Birth, Life and Death in the Desert: Bioarchaeological Perspectives on Infants and Children from a Romano-Christian Cemetery, Egypt' on Wednesday, 11th October, at 5 pm in G03 Jessop West.

Click here for further details and the full MARS lecture schedule


Recent activities



April 2017 Lizzy Craig-Atkins and Pia Nystrom's collaborative work on the refinement of methods for assigning biological sex to immatures was presented at the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology conference, Canterbury in September 2016 and the Skeletons, Stories and Social Bodies Conference, Southampton in April 2017 by co-author Chris Aris, University of Sheffield MSc Human Osteology and Funerary Archaeology graduate and currently PhD student at the University of Kent.
April 2017  Maureen Carroll gave a lecture on "Looking Backwards, Looking Ahead. Infant Burials in Context in Roman Italy" at the Conference 'From Invisible to Visible. New data New data and methods for the archaeology of infant and child burials in pre-Roman Italy' at Trinity College, Dublin.
Feb 2017 Maureen Carroll gave a lecture in the Department of Archaeology entitled 'Fertility Cults and the Votive Phenomenon in Early Roman Italy.'
Nov 2016 The launch of the Centre for the Archaeology of Childhood is held in the Department of Archaeology, marked by a lecture by Sian Halcrow, from the University of Otago in New Zealand.
Sept 2016 Maureen Carroll gave a lecture at Durham University at the Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past's Conference The Family in Past Perspective entitled 'Seeking Divine Assistance in Matters of Family Continuity in Early Roman Italy'.
May 2016 Katie Hemer co-organised (with Prof. Jonathan Conant) a conference in May 2016 at Brown University, USA which aims to investigate the lives of rural women and children during the Late Antique/Early Medieval period.
April 2016 Dawn Hadley organised a session entitled ‘On the Move: archaeological approaches to children and childhood’ at the 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Orlando, Florida.
Apr 2016 Maureen Carroll gave a lecture at the British School at Rome entitled 'Mater Matuta and the Votive Phenomenon: Guaranteeing Fertility in Early Roman Italy'.
Sept 2015 Maureen Carroll was keynote speaker at the British Association of Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology in Sheffield in September 2015, lecturing on The First Year of Life: Fresh Perspectives on Infancy and Earliest Childhood in the Roman Empire.
Sept 2015 Katie Hemer and Dawn Hadley presented at ‘The Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past Annual Conference’, hosted by Prof. Jane Eva Baxter at DePaul University, Chicago, USA.
2014 Katie Hemer became the Membership Secretary for the internationally-recognised, Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past.
March 2012 Maureen Carroll was organiser (with Emma-Jayne Graham, Open University) of a session on Infant Health and Death in Roman Italy and Beyond at the international Roman Archaeology Conference in Frankfurt, Germany.
2012 Maureen Carroll was organiser of a session on Families and Dependents of Soldiers at the XXIInd International Roman Frontier Studies Conference in Ruse, Bulgaria.

Projects

Our research projects address childhood both directly through explicit consideration of this period of life (or sub-categories within this such as infancy or adolescence) and through the integration of children and their experiences into wider narratives concerning experience of life and death in the past.


Terracotta figurines of women and infants

Fertility, Motherhood, and Religious Dedications in Early Roman Italy


Prof. Maureen Carroll


This project, supported by the British School at Rome, explores the divinities associated with fertility, motherhood, and childbirth in early Roman Italy. It studies the dedication and deposition of votives related to maternal and infant health in sanctuaries of the fourth to first centuries B.C. and relates this phenomenon to religious beliefs in divine protection. The social aspect of family continuity in this period and the integration of women in cult activities represent a further important avenue of enquiry.


Infancy and Earliest Childhood in the Roman World


Prof. Maureen Carroll


This interdisciplinary project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the Society of Antiquaries, draws on archaeological, artefactual, osteological, epigraphic, artistic, legal and literary evidence to investigate the role and significance of newborn children and infants in Roman families and society. It aims to explore distinctions of class and socio-cultural situations over time and to understand the relations between the daily realities of and rhetoric about earliest childhood throughout the Empire. The resulting publication with Oxford University Press will be the first study of infancy and earliest childhood in a cultural overview encompassing the Roman world.

Sarcophagus relief showing baby's first bath


Deciduous tooth from Black Gate skeleton 103 sampled for isotope analysis

The Role of Weaning History in Medieval Infant Identities


Dr Lizzy Craig-Atkins and Dr Julia Beaumont, University of Bradford


This project, funded as part of the University of Sheffield Early Career Researcher Scheme, applies incremental dental enamel isotope analysis to investigate weaning status of infants from four Anglo-Saxon cemeteries, and explore the role weaning status may have held in creating differential infant identities. Between c. A.D. 700-1100, many babies who died before their second year were buried in special places, including around the walls of churches in what has become known as ‘eaves-drip’ burial, and it has been suggested that only infants who had not been weaned were provided with this form of burial. This project will test this assertion and enable investigation of weaning practices, the identity and autonomy of the infant, and the role of dietary status in the earliest medieval Christian communities in England.


East meets West: Mobility and cultural contact between the Mediterranean and western Britain in the early medieval period, c.400 – 800 A.D


Dr Katie Hemer


This interdisciplinary project, funded by the British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellowship scheme, investigates long-distance contact and migration between early medieval western Britain and Byzantium. Through the integration of archaeological, historical, and funerary evidence with stable isotope data for past population mobility, this project aims to provide a new perspective on the migration of people to western Britain during the 5th to 9th centuries AD. The project places a particular focus on the role of women and children in the process of migration, and the ways in which these often overlooked groups played a central role in the process of assimilation and acculturation at that time.

A well-preserved neonate skeleton from St. Patricks Chapel excavations 2015 (photo Stephen Kingston)


Medieval Child’s Play


Mark Hall


My research into play (especially board games) has led me to explore how play helps to define adulthood and childhood. That in turn has broadened out to consider how medieval childhood in particular is represented in museums (through both osteological remains and material culture) and in the movies. These remain active strands of my research around play and performance. This has recently included an assessment of the use of gaming equipment in the funerary rites of Viking boat burials, of board games in monastic contexts and the sensory and performative values of some gaming pieces. I am currently engaged in reviewing some of the evidence for early medieval play across Northern Europe, including the comparison of some Anglo-Saxon playing pieces with Italian and Mediterranean examples.

Mark Hall


Examining sexual dimorphism of permanent teeth as a means of determining biological sex from the skeletons of immature individuals.


Lizzy Craig-Atkins, Pia Nystrom and Chris Aris


This collaborative project involving MSc Human Osteology and Funerary Archaeology graduate Chris Aris, Lizzy Craig-Atkins and Pia Nystrom examines sexual dimorphism of permanent teeth as a means of addressing the widespread problems encountered when attempting to determine biological sex from the skeletons of immature individuals. In total, 11 measurements were taken from 127 adults of known sex. Those features identified statistically as significantly dimorphic were then used to produce a sex determination equation through discriminant function analysis. The same features were measured in 42 immature skeletons and the equation used to assign sex. Initial results indicated that the method was successfully assigning sex to immatures, and the next stage of the study is to test the method on a population of known age and sex to quantify its accuracy.

Chris Aris at BABAO Conference 2016

Curation of immature remains at Sheffield


Dr. Pia Nystrom and Dr. Petra Verlinden


The Department of Archaeology has a long-standing tradition of providing teaching in the subject of human osteology, with an emphasis on practical application of methods through hands-on observation and study. Currently the department houses three medieval-period cemetery collections, as well as two smaller post-medieval collections. In past populations, mortality during childhood was high, and therefore a reasonable proportion of these individuals can be classified as ‘immatures’ (0-17 years). The value of these individuals for teaching and research is inestimable. They allow us to demonstrate how the human body grows and develops skeletally, as well as to explore the unique health problems which would have plagued past child populations. Moreover, the study of children as individuals in their own right can only be advanced if their remains can be properly interpreted and understood.

Due to their often fragile nature, special care is required for the excavation and long-term curation of these remains. For this reason, the Department had a special storeroom fitted to house our immature individuals. Conditions of access are carefully managed, limiting the exposure of the remains to careless handling and damage.

This arrangement has benefited our students and visiting researchers. Dissertation-level research involving children includes topics such as physiological stress and child health, nutritional health in the post-medieval period, the incidence of trauma in the medieval period, and several studies on the refining of sex determination methods in immatures. Currently, our collections are being studied as part of an important research project that considers the growth in bone and teeth, and how this may be related to biorhythms.

Publications

The following publications by our members have been selected to reflect our dual interest in the study of childhood as a period of life with its own distinct characteristics, and our commitment to the integration of issues related to childhood into wider debates in Archaeology and beyond.

Books


Carroll, M. and Graham, E.-J. (eds.), Infant Health and Death in Roman Italy and Beyond (Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Volume 96), Portsmouth, R.I., 2014

Hadley, D.M. and Hemer, K.A. (eds.). 2014. Medieval Childhood: archaeological approaches. SSCIP Monograph 3. Oxford, Oxbow.

Crawford, S., Hadley, D.M. and Shepherd, G. (forthcoming). Handbook of the Archaeology of Childhood. Oxford University Press

Papers and chapters


Carroll, M. 2015. Commemorating Military and Civilian Families on the Danube Limes, in L. Vagalinski and N. Sharankov (eds.), Limes XXII. Proceedings of the XXIInd International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies held in Ruse, Bulgaria (September 2012). Sofia, National Archaeological Institute.

Carroll, M. 2014. Mother and Infant in Roman Funerary Commemoration, in M. Carroll and E-J. Graham (eds.), Infant Health and Death in Roman Italy and Beyond (Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Volume 96). Portsmouth, R.I., 159-178.

Carroll, M. 2012. The Roman child clothed in death, in M. Carroll and J.P. Wild (eds.), Dressing the Dead in Classical Antiquity, Stroud: Amberley Publishing, 134-147.

Carroll, M. 2012. ‘No part in earthly things’. The death, burial and commemoration of newborn children and infants in Roman Italy, in L. Larsson Lovén and M. Harlow (eds.), The Familia and its Transformation from ancient Rome to Barbarian Europe (50-600 CE). London: Continuum Press, 41-63.

Carroll, M. 2011. Infant Death and Burial in Roman Italy. Journal of Roman Archaeology 24: 99-120.

Craig-Atkins E. 2014. Eavesdropping on short lives: Eaves-drip burial and the differential treatment of children one year of age and under in early Christian cemeteries. In Hadley, D.M. and Hemer, K.A. (eds). Medieval childhood: archaeological approaches. SSCIP Monograph 3. Oxbow.

Craig-Atkins, E. with Haydock, H., Clarke, L., Howcroft, H. and Buckberry, J. 2013. Weaning in later Anglo-Saxon England – a comparison of stable isotopes and documentary evidence. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 151(4): 604-612.

Craig, E. and Craig, G. 2012. The diagnosis and context of a facial deformity from an Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Spofforth, North Yorkshire. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology.

Crewe, V. A., & Hadley, D. M. 2013. 'Uncle Tom was there, in crockery': Material Culture and a Victorian Working-class Childhood. Childhood in the Past, 6(2): 89-105.Hadley, D. and Hemer, K.A. 2011. Microcosms of migration: children and early medieval population movement. Childhood in the Past 4: 63-78.

Hadley, D.M. 2010. Burying the Socially and Physically Distinctive in later Anglo-Saxon England, in Burial in later Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford: Oxbow), eds J. Buckberry and A. Cherryson.

Hall, M. A. 2015. ‘‘Merely Players…’ Playtime, material culture and medieval childhood’, in Hadley, D M and Hemer, K A (eds) Medieval Childhood: archaeological approaches, Oxford: Oxbow (Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past Monograph 3), 39-56.

Hall, M. A. 2016a. Board Games in Boat Burials: Play in the Performance of Migration and Viking Age Mortuary Practice, European Journal of Archaeology 19.3: 439-455.

Hall, M. A. 2016b. Ecclesia Ludens: board and dice games in a Scottish monastic context, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 145: 283-297.

Hall, M. A. 2016c. Playing the dark side: a look at some chess and other playing pieces of jet and jet-like materials from Britain, in Hunter, F. and Sheridan, A. (eds.), Ancient Lives Object, People and Place in Early Scotland. Essays for David V Clarke on his 70th Birthday. Leiden: Sidestone Press, 359-381.

Hemer, K.A. and Evans, J.A. (forthcoming). ‘The contribution of stable isotope analysis to the study of childhood movement and migration’, in Crawford, S., Hadley, D. and Shepherd, G. Handbook of the Archaeology of Childhood. Oxford University Press.

Hemer, K.A. 2014. ‘Are we nearly there yet? Children and migration in early medieval western Britain’, in Hadley, D.M. and Hemer, K. A. (eds.). Medieval Childhood: archaeological approaches. SSCIP Monograph 3. Oxford, Oxbow.