Interpreting the Archaeology of Pregnancy Loss

Author(s): Melissa Clark

Year: 2017


The status of pregnancy loss as taboo in Western culture, as well as the poor preservation of fetal remains, contributes to the absence of pregnancy loss from the anthropological study of funerary practices. Furthermore, pregnancy loss is rarely viewed by society as a legitimate cause for bereavement and perhaps consequently, has been overlooked in the archaeological record. Additionally, grief associated with a miscarriage or stillbirth is often described as a novel phenomenon, while parental attitudes toward children in post-Medieval to modern Ireland historically have been characterized as detached and apathetic with little regard for the value of individual life. Moreover, it has been argued that pregnancy loss was regarded as insignificant. Archaeological, ethnographic, and biological evidence, however, suggest that Irish mothers likely mourned the loss of a fetus, and that grief for a lost pregnancy is not a modern phenomenon.

Cite this Record

Interpreting the Archaeology of Pregnancy Loss. Melissa Clark. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 428800)

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Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14392