Agriculture
Keeping Bugs Away from Food
Where Have All the Bees Gone?
Protecting Cows—and People—from a Deadly Disease
Amphibians
Bullfrogs
Salamanders
Poison Dart Frogs
Animals
Chicken Talk
G-Tunes with a Message
Polar Bears in Trouble
Behavior
When Darwin got sick of feathers
Meet your mysterious relative
Mind-reading Machine
Birds
Dodos
Owls
Tropical Birds
Chemistry and Materials
Supersonic Splash
Sugary Survival Skill
Sweeeet! The Skinny on Sugar Substitutes
Computers
New twists for phantom limbs
Troubles with Hubble
The science of disappearing
Dinosaurs and Fossils
A Living Fossil
A Rainforest Trapped in Amber
Ancient Critter Caught Shedding Its Skin
E Learning Jamaica
Results of GSAT are in schools this week
E Learning in Jamaica WIN PRIZES and try our Fun Animated Games
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
Earth
Groundwater and the Water Cycle
Plastic-munching microbes
Detecting an Eerie Sea Glow
Environment
Shrimpy Invaders
Indoor ozone stopper
Blooming Jellies
Finding the Past
Decoding a Beverage Jar
A Volcano's Deadly Ash
The Puzzle of Ancient Mariners
Fish
Catfish
Sturgeons
Cleaning Up Fish Farms
Food and Nutrition
Strong Bones for Life
Building a Food Pyramid
Eat Out, Eat Smart
GSAT English Rules
Problems with Prepositions
Subject and Verb Agreement
Order of Adjectives
GSAT Exam Preparation Jamaica
Tarrant High overcoming the odds
GSAT Exam Preparation
How are students placed after passing the GSAT exam
GSAT Exams Jamaica Scholarships
Results of GSAT are in schools this week
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
GSAT Practice Papers | GSAT Mathematics | Maths
GSAT Mathematics
Math and our number sense: PassGSAT.com
Prime Time for Cicadas
It's a Math World for Animals
Human Body
Speedy Gene Gives Runners a Boost
Taste Messenger
From Stem Cell to Any Cell
Invertebrates
Praying Mantis
Tarantula
Lice
Mammals
Mule
Caribou
Bats
Parents
Raise a Lifelong Reader by Reading Aloud
Choosing a Preschool: What to Consider
The Surprising Meaning and Benefits of Nursery Rhymes
Physics
Strange Universe: The Stuff of Darkness
The Mirror Universe of Antimatter
Dreams of Floating in Space
Plants
White fuzzy mold not as friendly as it looks
Hungry bug seeks hot meal
Nature's Alphabet
Reptiles
Gila Monsters
Sea Turtles
Caimans
Space and Astronomy
Ringing Saturn
Baby Star
Cool as a Jupiter
Technology and Engineering
Morphing a Wing to Save Fuel
Supersuits for Superheroes
Are Propellers Fin-ished?
The Parts of Speech
What is a Preposition?
Pronouns
Adjectives and Adverbs
Transportation
Morphing a Wing to Save Fuel
Robots on the Road, Again
Are Propellers Fin-ished?
Weather
Earth's Poles in Peril
Where rivers run uphill
Either Martians or Mars has gas
Add your Article

An Ancient Childhood

History books are full of facts about adults. In school, you learn about the wars that grown-ups have fought, the kingdoms they’ve built and destroyed, and the cultures they’ve created.

What about all the kids?

“Based on the research I’ve done, kids have been ignored,” says Jamie Anderson Waters. She’s an anthropologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Jamie Waters examines a carved bird that might have been used as a toy by children in 18th-century Spanish colonial households in St. Augustine, Florida.

Jamie Waters examines a carved bird that might have been used as a toy by children in 18th-century Spanish colonial households in St. Augustine, Florida.

AP Photo/University of Florida/Ray Carson

The little people of the past deserve more attention, Waters says. As part of her graduate studies, she used archaeological evidence to look at what childhood was like hundreds of years ago in a city in Florida called St. Augustine.

Our current view of children has an adult bias, Waters says. “We think they’re not really part of the culture,” she adds. “They’re just little entities there to be taught. They’re not shaping the culture themselves.”

Her findings show that adults aren’t the only ones who contribute to society. Kids grow up to lead the next generation. Knowing what their lives were like long ago is essential if you want to understand how times and cultures have changed.

Old city

St. Augustine turned out to be an ideal place to study ancient childhoods. People have lived there for a longer continuous stretch of time than in any other city in what is now the United States.

St. Augustine is a city on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean in the northeastern part of the state of Florida in the United States.

St. Augustine is a city on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean in the northeastern part of the state of Florida in the United States.

 

Just south of Jacksonville, St. Augustine was first settled in 1565. The residents of the city left behind good records of their lives over the last 500 years, and many of their belongings have been collected and preserved.

Researchers have already dug up the remains of more than 15 houses that stood between 1565 and 1820, Waters says. She used church records to determine where people lived, how many children they had, and how much money they made.

For her project, Waters focused on people living between 1700 and 1760. She looked at eight homes—four with children and four without. In each group, two of the houses belonged to rich families, while the other two belonged to lower-class families.

Toys and beads

Waters looked at all the objects recovered from each household, and she picked out the ones that most likely belonged to kids.

St. Augustine, Florida, in 1760, while under Spanish control.

St. Augustine, Florida, in 1760, while under Spanish control.

 

She identified a large number of toylike objects, including marbles, little clay figurines, tiny ceramic bowls, a bug made out of metal wire, figures carved out of bird bones, and thimbles too small to fit on an adult’s finger.

Parents might have used some of these objects to help prepare their children for adulthood. Others must have been purely for fun. Games that adults play (such as checkers) showed up, too, but houses with kids had more of them than houses without kids.

Marbles, game disks, doll parts, and toothbrush from St. Augustine.

Marbles, game disks, doll parts, and toothbrush from St. Augustine.

Image courtesy of the Historical Archaeology Collections of the Florida Museum of Natural History

Waters also found lots of beaded amulets in the St. Augustine archives. Based on historical data about Florida’s Spanish settlers, she concluded that people used these amulets to protect themselves from evil.

Certain types of beads were thought to keep children from getting sick. Amber, for instance, was supposed to help infants when their teeth started to grow in. And mothers wore white stones while they were breastfeeding. In St. Augustine, these types of beads were more common in homes with kids.

Public square, St. Augustine, Fla., around 1858.

Public square, St. Augustine, Fla., around 1858.

 

One item that caught Waters’ eye was a 2-inch-long, smooth, rounded piece of glass. She identified it as a type of pacifier. No one else had realized what the object was. “I don’t think anyone was looking at these items with kids in mind,” she says.

Richer families had more toys, Waters found. Even so, the widespread occurrence of kid-friendly items showed that children were important to all families, no matter how much money they made.

“Even in the poor households,” she says, “children were still valued enough that their parents found things to buy or make for their amusement.”

Studying childhood

Some experts argue that there was no such thing as “childhood” until the 1800s. Waters disagrees.

In a 1560 painting called “Children’s Games,” Belgian painter Pieter Bruegel showed kids playing 75 different games, such as rolling barrel hoops, playing leap-frog, wrestling, doing handstands, and making mud pies. Sounds a lot like recess today, doesn’t it?

A small number of researchers are now looking into various aspects of the history of childhood. Waters wishes that even more would join in. “Whenever people talk about the past, they tend to ignore a good chunk of the population,” she says.

After all, there’s a lot left to learn about the roles that kids played in helping shape a society or culture. Think of how much influence you already have in today’s world—with your video games, pop stars, movies, cell phones, and other amusements.

There have always been kids around to make things interesting for adults.

An Ancient Childhood
An Ancient Childhood








Designed and Powered by HBJamaica.com™