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 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.
|Aims & Strategy||
Over the next three years the centre will:
MARS Lecture - Dr Sandra Wheeler from The University of Central Florida
To celebrate the first anniversary of the Sheffield Centre for the Archaeology of Childhood, the Department of Archaeology and MARS were very pleased to welcome as guest speaker Dr. Sandra Wheeler, University of Central Florida to Sheffield this October.
Dr. Wheeler gave a public lecture entitled 'Birth, Life and Death in the Desert: Bioarchaeological Perspectives on Infants and Children from a Romano-Christian Cemetery, Egypt'
Dr Wheeler specialises in the bioarchaeological analysis of infants and children to shed light on mortuary practices involving the youngest members of society.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.