Show Less
Restricted access

A Global History of Child Death

Mortality, Burial, and Parental Attitudes

Amy J. Catalano

Drawing from primary research studies in archaeology, historical analysis, literature, and art this interdisciplinary look at the history of child funerary practices and other vehicles of parental mourning is the only book of its kind. The purpose of this work is to investigate the ways in which funerary behaviors and grieving differ between cultures and across time; from prehistory to modern history. Philippe Aries, the French childhood historian, argued that children were rarely mourned upon their deaths as child death was a frequent and expected event, especially in the Middle Ages. This book draws upon archaeological reports, secondary data analysis, and analysis of literature, photography and artwork to refute, and in some cases support, Aries’s claim. Organized in two parts, Part One begins with a chapter on the causes of childhood mortality and the steps taken to prevent it, followed by chapters on prehistory, ancient civilizations, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and the early modern and late modern eras. The chapters in Part Two discuss indicators of parental concern at a child’s death: naming practices, replacement strategy, baptism, consolation literature, and artwork. Students who focus on the psychological aspects of death, funeral practices, and childhood histories will find this book a useful and comprehensive tool for examining how children have been mourned since prehistory.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access

2 Burial Pits and Ivory Beads: Prehistoric Children

The First Children



Burial Pits and Ivory Beads

Prehistoric Children

In 2010 the earliest human remains ever discovered in the North American Artic were found in Upward Sun River. The cremated bones of a child, estimated to be about three years old, from 11,500 years ago (Late Pleistocene-Early Holocene Eras), were found in a burial pit within a semi-subterranean house. The child was discovered with his or her knees drawn up with arms to the side, indicating that the child was likely buried after death and not a victim of infanticide or cannibalism. Within the grave there was no evidence of burial ornaments; however, there were remnants of ochre which is often associated with prehistoric funeral rites. Remains of food items within the burial pit indicate that the pits’ primary function was as a cooking hearth. After the cremation, the burial the pit was backfilled and apparently left undisturbed. The finding represents the “first evidence for behavior associated with the death of an individual” in northern North America.1

The historical literature on prehistoric children is limited, and records of deaths are dependent upon scientific reports produced by archaeologists and other scientists. Since we do not have the words of the prehistoric peoples to tell us how they felt about their children, we can deduce the meaning of burial practices not only based upon the accumulation of artifacts left behind, but on the features, spatial patterning and arrangement of the artifacts, as...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.