Is it ritual? Or is it children?: Distinguishing consequences of play from ritual actions in the prehistoric archaeological record

Michelle Langley, Mirani Litster

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    This paper identifies a significant interpretive issue for prehistoric archaeology: distinguishing adult ritual actions from the activities of children in the archaeological record. Through examining ethnographic accounts of recent hunter-gatherer children and reconsidering archaeological patterns and assemblages in light of these data, we explore how the results of children's play can be—and likely have been—misinterpreted by archaeologists as evidence for adult ritual behavior in prehistoric contexts. Given that children were a significant component of past hunter-gatherer (and other) societies, the fact that the material components of their activities overlap tremendously with items used in adult rituals must be routinely considered by archaeologists if we are to reconstruct robust understandings of past peoples all over the globe.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)616-643
    JournalCurrent Anthropology
    Volume59
    Issue number5
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2018

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