Play, learning, games, and chaos: ethnoarchaeology of children’s contributions to archaeological site formation

Author(s): Karen Kramer; Russell Greaves

Year: 2015


Children’s activities represent an under-appreciated aspect of the formation of the archaeological record. Unlike many adult behaviors of interest such as hunting, gathering, agricultural work, pastoral activities, trading, or raw material extraction that have significant components performed away from archaeologically visible habitation locations, most of children’s effects on the record occur within the confines or camps or villages. Children use and discard a wide variety of toys that shift in popularity on a much more rapid scale than most adult technologies. They employ unique work implements and miniature adult tools used very differently than older people’s technology. Children also play with, modify, and break implements from adult tool suites. Children engage in play that involves digging, burning, building, destruction, as well as helpful work and self-provisioning that also structures the archaeological record of habitation sites. Systematic approaches to how children’s activities may be distinguished from other formation processes require more than the recognition of children as potential contributing agents. Data from Pumé foragers of Venezuela and other comparative ethnographic data are used to explore behavioral regularities in how children’s behaviors influence material and spatial patterns in the archaeological record.

SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity Collaborative Program to improve digital data in archaeology. If you are the author of this presentation you may upload your paper, poster, presentation, or associated data (up to 3 files/30MB) for free. Please visit for instructions and more information.

Cite this Record

Play, learning, games, and chaos: ethnoarchaeology of children’s contributions to archaeological site formation. Russell Greaves, Karen Kramer. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 398292)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections


Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.691; min lat: -56.945 ; max long: -31.113; max lat: 18.48 ;