Call for Papers for ‘The Material Culture of Roman Childhood’, RAC Session 21, at the joint Roman Archaeology Conference / Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference, to be held in London at the UCL Institute of Education, on
Thursday 11 April – Sunday 14 April 2024.

Objects of childhood are culturally significant (Aries, 1962). They are part of how cultural norms are created and reinforced and are a valuable source for illuminating the lived experiences and social identities of children. It is possible to trace the courses of Roman childhood through material culture: for example, there is evidence for terracotta bottles being used to feed infants; dolls and a variety of toys would have been used in play and socialisation; and the protective bulla or lunula would be worn throughout childhood and removed to mark adolescence, as a rite of passage into adulthood. It is only in recent years that the lacunae in scholarship on children and childhood in the Roman world has been addressed with a view to understanding how childhood was both perceived socially and experienced individually. Age, per se, was not important; indeed, the Latin vocabulary did not contain words for ‘baby’, ‘infant’, or ‘toddler’ (Laes, 2011). Rather, childhood was viewed as a social category rather than a biological or developmental one, with the social roles that children could fulfil being defined by status and not by chronological age. Archaeology has enabled a fuller understanding of childhood in antiquity, demonstrating for example that jointed bone dolls are not simply passive artefacts that prepared their owner for the roles of being a wife and a mother but had a broader cultural significance, and are complex facets of identity formation and gender construction (Dolansky, 2012).

This session will bring together contributions from recent and on-going research into the material culture of childhood in the Roman world and will address how we can archaeologically understand childhood in the past. Papers are particularly welcome on specific object identifications, comparative analysis, or studies of individual sites which cover settlement and/or burial data in relation to childhood.

To propose a paper please email Juliet Samson-Conlon by Friday 15th September 2023: [email protected]

–       Name(s)
–       Affiliation
–       Email
–       Abstract of 200 words maximum. (As an attachment)