Tales of Bronze Age Children: Investigating social status and ritual significance from sub-adult burial contexts in the Early Nordic Bronze Age of southern Scandinavia

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This paper examines similarities and differences between various aspects and children and adult burial contexts as a means of examining the social status and socialization of children in the Early Nordic Bronze Age (ENBA). Archaeological evidence is reviewed for a sample of children’s graves from the ENBA in southern Scandinavia. From this, we examine similarities and differences between various aspects of children’s and adults’ burial contexts to better understand aspects of the social status of children in the ENBA. We discuss the identification of children in ENBA burial contexts and how variation in those contexts may provide insights into the roles and identities associated with children during this period. We investigate children’s social status as approximated by grave goods, and children’s roles or significance in relation to cosmology in light of ritual-related paraphernalia and aspects of grave orientation. Our analyses take into account material culture in addition to aspects of grave contexts such as orientation and directionality, features often presented as proxies for funerary ritual or indicators of cosmological significance. We develop a neighbor-joining network analysis to investigate the dynamic interrelationships observable between burial assemblages and traditions in a sample of children’s and adults’ graves, and then employ a wind rose diagram to demonstrate variability in grave orientations for a sample of children’s and adult’s graves. One implication of our findings is that gender- and wealth-identities appear to have been attributed early on in childhood with the implication that, as Ariès (1962) suggested for the Medieval Period, children in the ENBA may not have been perceived as being or given roles all that different from their adult contemporaries.
TidsskriftChildhood in the Past
StatusAfsendt - 2020