Conference to Look at the Puzzle of Children in the Ancient World

Scholars gather in Buffalo to consider an archaeological enigma

Release Date: April 23, 2010

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Historians know that children were active cultural participants in ancient times and so they are present in archaeological contexts, although evidence of their lives and roles have often been under-analyzed and perhaps misunderstood.

On April 24-25, scholars from across the U.S. and Europe will gather at the University at Buffalo to initiate an interdisciplinary dialogue on the notion of childhood and children in the archeological record from ancient times to the recent era, approaches that, along with DNA and other biochemical methods of analysis, can be used to explore the roles children played in the formation of ancient cultures.

The conference is the third visiting scholar conference sponsored by the Institute for European and Mediterranean Archeology (IEMA) at UB, which draws largely from the fields of anthropology, archaeology, classics and visual studies.

Titled "Children as Archaeological Enigma: Are Children Visible or Invisible in the Archeological Record?," the conference was coordinated by Güner Coskunsu, 2009 IEMA postdoctoral scholar, whose program quotes American psychohistorian Lloyd De Mause: "The history of childhood is a nightmare from which we have only recently begun to awaken."

The subject of psychohistory is childhood and family and the psychological study of anthropology and technology, both of which he held necessary to the understanding of the emotional origins of the social and political behavior of groups and nations, past and present.

In addition to Coskunsu, a specialist in Middle Eastern archaeology, social identity, provenance studies, social identity and gender, the conference's two dozen participants will include scholars in many fields from the United States and Europe, including, from UB, Peter F. Biehl, assistant professor of anthropology; Jack Meacham, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus of Psychology; and Stephen L. Dyson, Park Professor of Classics and adjunct professor of anthropology.

The names, credentials and abstracts of speakers' talks can be found at

Discussion will center around such issues as growing up on a Bronze Age tell (earthen mound); physical markers of living conditions for children in prehistory; children in household ritual performance; methods for an archaeology of children; the visibility and invisibility of children in the archeological record; a possible archaeology of children's play; toys in cultural context; children and sexuality in ancient Greece and Rome; and the infants of Lugnano, whose fifth-century AD remains populate the largest infant cemetery in the nation of Italy.

The conference will be held at UB's Jacobs Executive Development Center, 672 Delaware Ave., in Buffalo.

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