May, 2016

Finding Children Without Toys

The Archaeology of Children at Shabbona Grove, Illinois
  • Crystal Dozier

    Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Wichita State University
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The idea that children's activities may be seen through traditionally adult material culture is rarely explored in archaeological analyses. This paper advocates a more nuanced interpretation of assemblages in archaeological datasets that highlights children and their activities. Discussions of children in the archaeological record are often restricted to material culture attributed specifically to them, such as toys and clothing. Archaeological research conducted in Shabbona Grove, rural Illinois, USA, revealed a concentration of non-child-specific artefacts, the context of which suggests the deliberate collection or curation by children in the latter part of the twentieth century. The concentration was diverse and included artefacts of ceramics, glassware, machinery metal and clothing. The Shabbona Grove study illustrates the potential of identifying children's actions without child-specific material culture. At this site, child-specific material culture recovered in excavation may be less informative about the actions and lives of children compared to other child-utilised items. The oppressive poverty at Shabbona Grove suggests an interpretation of the suspected children's collection as a form of coping mechanism or expression.