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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.
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7 Indigenous Peoples of the World: Symbolism in Grief

Native North Americans



Indigenous Peoples of the World

Symbolism in Grief

From a modern Western perspective the mortuary practices of many indigenous groups around the world are among the most diverse. Indigenous peoples, as defined by the World Bank, are closely attached to ancestral territories and their natural resources, and are generally subsistence oriented. Indigenous peoples often are also the non-dominant groups in a society. Despite cultural evolution of surrounding groups, indigenous groups might eschew modern mortuary practices for their own traditional, mourning customs. The practices of indigenous peoples provide a window into the historic continuity of certain behaviors that precede colonialism or settlement by more dominant groups.1

Religious beliefs play an essential role in mortuary behavior and mourning rituals for the great majority of the cultures discussed in this book. For peoples who have been the target of missionary expeditions, these behaviors and rituals can be confounded by traditional, indigenous beliefs and those of the adopted religions. In one example, Quincy Newell discusses how baptized Indians in California, between 1776 and 1821, approached major rituals accorded with birth, marriage, ← 93 | 94 → and death at Mission San Francisco. While over 600 Indians were baptized at the Mission, only some completely embraced the Catholic religion.

Few children lived past the age of two at the Mission. Disease in the crowded and unsanitary conditions, lack of dietary variety, and stress of acclimating to an unfamiliar culture were all cited as causes of...

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