Where are the children? Identifying children in the Palaeolithic archaeological record.
Children, no doubt, were a significant component of Upper Palaeolithic societies. Despite this fact, however, serious identification and consideration of material culture which may have belonged to children — at least at one time during their use life — remains undone. This situation extends to the best represented and most intensively studied of the European Palaeolithic techno-complexes, the Magdalenian (c. 21,000 -- 14,000 cal. BP), and consequently, we know very little about the children of this enigmatic people. As play, including object play, is a ‘true cultural universal’ we can be certain that Magdalenian children integrated objects into their games, with these playthings later incorporated into the archaeological record. Through examining ethnographic accounts of recent hunter-gatherer children and reconsidering archaeological assemblages in light of these data, this paper suggests that Magdalenian playthings likely included full-sized adult weapon tips and — more significantly — pieces of what archaeologists term ‘art mobilier’.
About the Presenter
Dr Michelle Langley is a DECRA Research Fellow in the Australia Research Centre for Human Evolution, Griffith University. After returning from completing her PhD at the University of Oxford in 2013, she has worked closely with Prof. Sue O’Connor of the Australian National University on analysing the shell bead and utilised ochre assemblages excavated from Timor-Leste. Her current research focus is on investigating Australia’s bone and tooth technology — the topic of her DECRA project — along with the technological analysis of bone, ivory, shell, and ochre from Australia, Island Southeast Asia, Africa, and Western Europe. More broadly, her research revolves around the use of organic technologies in early human communities and has resulted in the identification of some of the earliest pieces of personal ornamentation in our region.