An Examination of Children's Wellbeing in the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age of eastern Spain

Open Access
Lynch, Paige Ashleigh
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Sarah Barbara Mcclure, Thesis Supervisor
  • Timothy Michael Ryan, Honors Advisor
  • Late Neolithic
  • Bronze Age
  • Spain
  • children
  • pathologies
  • diet
  • stable isotopes
  • AMS radiocarbon dating
This study examines the wellbeing of children in changing social contexts by analyzing human remains from archaeological sites in eastern Spain (Valencia and Alicante) dating to the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age (3,800 - 1,500 BC). During this period, farming societies were undergoing tremendous economic and social changes with the emergence of social complexity in the region. Through a combination of literature review, basic osteological analysis, and dietary reconstruction using stable isotope analyses, I assessed the wellbeing of children in the past. Cova de la Pastora is one of the best researched and documented burial caves in the Alicante region, but there were no AMS radiocarbon dates or isotopic data on the children interred at this location. For this reason, I used Cova de la Pastora as the case study to focus my analyses to then compare to other caves in the Alicante region. Based on the new AMS radiocarbon dates generated in this study, adults (males and females) and children were interred at this location throughout the Late Neolithic and into the Bronze Age. In addition, the 13C and 15N results of children and domestic animals indicate that children and adults had very similar diets throughout this period. This is also supported by the available information on bone pathologies due to illnesses or dietary deficiencies that indicate no difference between age or sex. This data suggests there was not a preference towards one sex or age group when burying individuals Cova de la Pastora. Furthermore, the relative wellbeing of children remained constant within the context of increasing social complexity and economic change at Cova de la Pastora. Comparison with other sites in the region indicate that the majority of the children did not have evidence of skeletal pathologies and all 12 children dated within the Late Neolithic to the Bronze Age.