Children of the Ice Age
February 21, 2023 6:04 PM   Subscribe

For more than 200 years, children have been neglected by archaeologists. It was part of a disciplinary bias towards adult men in archaeological interpretations. This began to change in the 1970s and ’80s with the rise of feminist archaeology and the archaeology of gender [...] The approaches advocated by these female scholars critically examined the roles of women in the past and, by extension, children started to become ‘visible’ too. But it is only in recent years that youngsters have truly emerged from the shadows. April Nowell writes 4400 words for Aeon Magazine.
posted by cgc373 (12 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Great find Thank you...
posted by speug at 8:21 PM on February 21

Thanks for sharing this! It’s interesting.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:47 PM on February 21

Oh, I love this stuff! I came to think of the Neanderthal wax figures I think was mentioned on the Blue long ago, that were crafted with more "living" poses and expressions. There are a few child figures in there as well.

While searching for those, I found this article on BBC: The secret lives of Neanderthal children
posted by Harald74 at 9:40 PM on February 21 [4 favorites]

If there is not an album titled "Children of the Ice Age" by a Scandinavian metal band, I am going to be so disappointed.
posted by Relay at 9:53 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]

This is great stuff! Thank you.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 2:08 AM on February 22

That was fascinating. Archaeologists and other keen observers of the imprints left by the past astound me. There's so much skill and discretion involved. I'm reminded of the footprints that tell the story of a trip in which someone carrying a toddler across a plain is also found to make a return trip without the toddler. It hits me with frisson of what's unspoken in the same way that I get from "for sale: baby shoes, never worn."
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 5:27 AM on February 22 [6 favorites]

Thank you for this. I have listened to a lecture by the author, "Growing Up in the Ice Age: Were children drivers of human cultural evolution?" It's got a lovely piece of art as the thumbnail.

I often wonder why we treat childhood as a manufacturing process, as a chunk of up to 18 years where you don't count as a whole person (unless you belong to the wrong ethnicity, in which case you're never a child). What if we thought of a child as a full human? Of childhood as part of the point of human life? Is a caterpillar less a member of its species than a butterfly? We could do this without demanding adulthood or parentification from a child.

I mean, we won't, though. At least not in our current model of society. Today, the kind of people who talk about protecting childhood or giving kids autonomy generally want the worst fucking things on the planet; child labor is the nicest of it. But it's possible to imagine a way of life in which a child is a whole person and gets the care and guidance that they need.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:30 AM on February 22 [3 favorites]

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is a really good starting point for thinking about children as people with different needs to adults.
posted by plonkee at 6:41 AM on February 22

The archaeological facts here are interesting, but I'm not sure they are enough to support any generalisations about so many societies over such a vast period of time. Has the topic been neglected? I don’t know, but I never heard an academic say too much work and attention had been devoted to their specialism.
posted by Phanx at 7:54 AM on February 22

plonkee: thank you for that. It embarrasses me that the US is an outlier on the convention, although I don't see that changing for at least another generation.

It just occurred to me that my comment might sound as if I thought "giving kids autonomy" was a bad thing in the context of, say, young people making their own decisions about reproductive or gender care. I hope not -- that's the opposite of what I meant. It's American society I was thinking about, in which the dominant view seems to be that young people should either be extensions of their parents or exploitable work/sex units, perhaps even an old-fashioned combo of the two.

This is not to idealize a "tribal" past. I am thinking of an incident in Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes, an linguist's account of life among the Pirahã people. Daniel Everett, the author, was a missionary when he started working with them, and he was often shocked at what children got away with, like playing with knives or getting as drunk as adults when there was alcohol to share. Eventually, he learned that it wasn't carelessness, but a kind of respect: "[T]o see six-year-olds staggering with slurred speech was a novel experience for me. To the Pirahãs, though, everyone must share in the hardships of life, and everyone is likewise entitled to share in the enjoyable things of life." Not to assume that a modern forager's way of life is equivalent to an ancient one, but it seems like an intuitive philosophy outside of a WEIRD context.

Anyway, sorry to go on about it. As someone who's written historical fiction about prehistoric children, I have a vested interest.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:02 PM on February 23

There's also this CBC radio programme featuring the author of the article - Growing up in the Ice Age: April Nowell
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:42 AM on February 27 [1 favorite]

Lengthy interview with April on this topic here.
posted by Rumple at 6:52 PM on February 27 [1 favorite]

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