Archaeology of growth and development in children
Bioarchaeological research into ancient child development
Development in children is strongly related to the
environment within which they grow up – disease, nutrition and social factors
all have an impact. The rate of
development and the pattern of changes in different systems of the body with
increasing age are an important way in which the conditions of life in a
population can be assessed. They are
used today, for example to assess needs for nutritional supplementation in
developing countries. The challenge for
this archaeological project is to find ways in which the sequence of
development can be assessed for ancient children.
Different parts of the body grow to different
schedules so, for example, the brain develops rapidly in young children and
reaches almost adult size early, whereas general body size develops more
gradually throughout the growth period. In archaeological skeletons, the state of development of skull bones
surrounding the brain can be compared with the state of development of limb
bones. The greatest challenge lies in
studying rate and schedule of development, because these require an independent
way in which age can be estimated.
age-at-death estimation methods for children’s skeletons themselves depend on standards
which assume a rate of change similar to those of normal living children, which
makes them useless for determining rate in the past.
In this project, the team takes advantage of the
fact that the tissues of the teeth, enamel and dentine, grow as a series of
daily layers which provide an independent clock against which changes to
dentition and skeleton can be compared. Work includes a study of the development of children through 1000 years of London history, using
these methods to calibrate the rate and pattern of development.
The project also includes the recovery and study of infant remains from the world’s largest ancient child cemetery, on the island of Astypalaia in Greece. In addition, the project team are working on the development of children from the large Neolithic settlement of Çatalhöyük in Turkey.
- Clement, A., Hillson, S. & Michalaki-Kollia, M. (2010). The ancient cemeteries of Astypalaia, Greece. Archaelogy International, 12, pp. 17-21.
- Hillson, S. (2009). The World's Largest Infant Cemetery and its Potential for Studying Growth and Development: the Notia Kylindra Site on the Island of Astypalaia in the Dodecanese. In: Schepartz, L., Bourbou, C. & Fox, S. (Eds), New Directions in the Skeletal Biology of Greece. Occasional Wiener Laboratory Series. American School of Classical Studies at Athens, pp. 137-154.
- Antoine, D.M., Hillson, S. & Dean, M.C. (2009). The developmental clock of dental enamel: a test for the periodicity of prism cross-striations in modern humans and an evaluation of the most like sources or error in histological studies of this kind. Journal of Anatomy, 214, pp. 45-55.
- Antoine, D.M., Dean, M.C. & Hillson, S. (1999). The Periodicity of Incremental Structures in Dental Enamel Based on the Developing Dentition of Post-Medieval Known-age Children. In: Mayhall, J.T. & Heikinnen, T. (Eds), Dental Morphology '98. Oulu: Oulu University Press, pp. 48-55.
- Hillson, S., Antoine, D.M. & Dean, M.C. (1999). A Detailed Developmental Study of the Defects of Dental Enamel in a Group of Post-Medieval Children from London. In: Mayhall, J.T. & Heikinnen, T. (Eds), Dental Morphology '98. Oulu: Oulu University Press, pp. 102-111.
- Fitzgerald, C. & Hillson, S. (2009). Deciduous tooth growth in an ancient Greek infant cemetery. In: Koppe, T., Meyer, G. & Alt, K. W. (Eds), Comparative dental morphology. Basel: Karger, pp. 178-183.
- Leverhulme Trust
- Astypalaia bioanthropology field school
- Çatalhöyük research project
- Daniel Antoine, British Museum
- Charles FitzGerald, McMaster University
- Melina Filimonos – Director, 22nd Ephorate of Prehistoric & Classical Antiquities, Hellenic Ministry of Culture
- Anna Clement, UCL Institute of Archaeology
- Louise Humphrey, Natural History Museum