Abstract: When Death Comes, He Steals the Infant: Children and Mortuary Practice on the Giza Plateau

Lecturer: 

Children have often been described as being ‘invisible’ in the archaeological record. However, mortuary contexts offer a distinct category in archaeology where the actual physical remains of non-adults can be identified. While still problematic, as child burials offer a glimpse of how children were perceived in death rather than of how they functioned within society when alive, the remains of the youngest members of society nevertheless have the potential to add to our understanding of the place of children in ancient societies. The Wall of the Crow Cemetery in Giza offers an opportunity to investigate how the mortuary treatment of children changed over time in the non-elite local population. The cemetery has been under excavation since 2000 by Ancient Egypt Research Associates (AERA), and to date, 348 primary burials have been recovered from the site. Of these, 112 (32%) belonged to individuals under the age of 12. A recent analysis of the pottery associated with the burials has allowed several temporal phases to be recognized in the cemetery, with the majority of the burials dating to the 25th dynasty to Saite period, and a smaller number of burials to the early Roman period, i.e. first to second century CE, and the Old Kingdom, respectively. In all three phases, children were interred in a manner dissimilar to adults. This lecture will give an overview of the changes in mortuary treatment across time afforded to the Giza children, and how these changes may reflect attitudes toward premature death in Ancient Egyptian society.

 

Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Andrews, Carol, 1994 Amulets of Ancient Egypt. London: British Museum Press

Baxter, Jane Eva, 2005 The Archaeology of Childhood. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press

Cooney, Kathlyn M., 2008 “The Problem of Female Rebirth in New Kingdom Egypt” in Sex and Gender in Ancient Egypt. C. Graves-Brown, ed. Pp. 1-26. Swansea: The Classical Press of Wales

Feucht, Erika, 1995 Das Kind im Alten Ägypten. Frankfurt and New York: Campus

Harrington, Nicola, 2007 “Children and the Dead in New Kingdom Egypt” in Current Research in Egyptology 2005. R. Mairs and A. Stevenson, eds. Pp. 52-65. Oxford: Oxbow Books

Lewis, Mary E., 2007 The Bioarchaeology of Children. New York: Cambridge University Press

McCarthy, Heather Lee, 2008 “Rules of Decorum and Expressions of Gender Fluidity in Tawosret's Tomb” in Sex and Gender in Ancient Egypt. C. Graves-Brown, ed. Pp. 83-114. Swansea: The Classical Press of Wales

Perry, Megan, 2006 “Redefining Childhood Through Bioarchaeology: Toward an Archaeological and Biological Understanding of Children in Antiquity” Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association 15:89-111

Riggs, Christina, 2005 The Beautiful Burial in Roman Egypt: Art, Identity, and Funerary Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Robins, Gay, 1993 Women in Ancient Egypt. London: British Museum Press

Robins, Gay, 1994-5 “Women and children in peril: Pregnancy, birth and infant mortality in Ancient Egypt”  KMT 5(4):24-35

Roth, Ann Macy, 2000 “Father Earth, Mother Sky: Ancient Egyptian Beliefs about Conception and Fertility” in Reading the Body: Representations and Remains in the Archaeological Record. A.E. Rautman, ed. Pp. 187-201. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press

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