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Childbirth in Archaeology

Ilhong KO 1

1서울대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper aims to consider the issue of childbirth from an archaeologicalperspective. Firstly, it places the archaeological study of childbirthwithin a wider intellectual context and examines how childbirth came tobe established as a valid research topic in association with the developmentof gender archaeology. Secondly, anthropological studies of childbirthare reviewed in order to illustrate how a consideration of the topiccan offer further insights on a given social system. Thirdly, in order toillustrate that the archaeological study of childbirth is indeed empiricallypossible, three categories of archaeological material relevant to childbirthin the past are examined. They are 1) childbirth images, 2) material cultureassociated with childbirth practices, and 3) mother and full-term fetusskeletons. An examination of childbirth images (in particular their productionand consumption contexts) was able to shed light on past socialmeanings associated with childbirth. An examination of the material remainsof childbirth practices that can be identified in the archaeologicalrecord resulted in a check-list of sorts that the archaeologist could use to identify childbirth practices when excavating in the field. Finally, the surprisinglack of mother and full-term fetus skeletons found in the archaeologicalrecord was used as evidence to suggest that, contrary to patriarchicalideas regarding the biological role of women, pregnancy and inparticular childbirth in the past may not have necessarily have been awidely experienced phenomenon as previously presumed.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.