Growing up in the Ice Age

Growing Up in the Ice Age represents both the first book-length work on the lives of children throughout the Plio-Pleistocene, and a superlative example of how the study of children can be fully integrated into more traditional areas of Palaeolithic research. After making a strong case for why we should study children in the Palaeolithic and refuting persistent claims of the perceived invisibility of children in early prehistory, Nowell leads the reader through a careful and critical weaving of evidence from multiple fields (archaeology, palaeoanthropology, primatology, psychology, ethnography) in her reconstruction of Palaeolithic childhood, a reconstruction both scholarly and full of compassion for these Palaeolithic ‘little ones’. The breadth of evidence consulted allows her to eschew the traditional focus on burial data – and the deaths of Palaeolithic children – to consider the lives of Palaeolithic children and their wider roles within their families and communities. Moving beyond typical monolithic presentations of childhood in early prehistory, Nowell’s thoughtful study emphasises the different experience(s) of children of different ages, sexes, and hominin species. Most strikingly, her analysis of the role of children within wider society presents a compelling case for Palaeolithic children as the drivers of hominin cultural and biological evolution. This is a must-read for those interested in childhood in the past, and for those seeking a rare humanistic volume on human evolution and Palaeolithic archaeology.

Growing up in the Ice Age, April Nowell Oxbow Books, £38 ISBN 978-1789252941.
Review by Jennifer C French.