Hunter-gatherer children in the past: An archaeological review

Annemieke Milks, Sheina Lew-Levy, Noa Lavi, David E. Friesem, Rachel Reckin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Theoretical engagement and methodological innovations geared towards identifying the presence and activities of children in archaeological contexts has increased in pace over the last decade. This paper presents a systematic review of the literature pertaining to the archaeology of hunter-gatherer children (H. sapiens). The review summarises methods and results from 86 archaeological publications, and finds a number of research areas that show material culture relating to hunter-gatherer childhood, including children's playthings and tools, learning to flintknap, and their involvement in the making of marks, art and footprints. The results demonstrate a diversity of evidence from all inhabited continents covering an extensive time frame. Following a thematic synthesis, we further explore the implications of these data for our understanding of the cultural variability and patterning of hunter-gatherer children in the deep past. We discuss possible interpretative pathways that can shed light on children's learning processes, agency, minds and bodies, use of space, and how they were embedded in social worlds. The paper closes by proposing potential improvements to archaeological and anthropological research that will further progress our understanding of children as active and engaged members of their societies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101369
JournalJournal of Anthropological Archaeology
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Inc.


  • Apprenticeship
  • Forager children
  • Hunter-gatherer archaeology
  • Palaeolithic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Archaeology
  • History
  • Archaeology


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