What was the social status of children in Latium during the Iron Age?

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Being a child during the Iron Age

A research into the social position of children during the Iron Age

Master thesis Mediterranean Archaeology Issues of objects and peoples

University of Amsterdam Ootje Bruinsma


Amsterdam, May 2015

Thesis supervisor: mw. Prof. dr. Marijke Gnade



Introduction page 2

Chapter 1: Latium page 7

Chapter 2: Theoretical framework page 18

Chapter 3: Research and research methods page 41

Chapter 4: Burial culture Latium; adult graves page 49

Chapter 5: Analysis page 59

Chapter 6: Comparative research and conclusions page 97

Conclusion page 120

Acknowledgements page 121

Bibliography page 122

Appendix 1: Description children's graves Ficana and Osteria dell'Osa page 125

Appendix 2: Details children's graves Ficana zone 3b-c page 136

Appendix 3: Details children's graves Osteria dell'Osa page 140

Appendix 4: Special child graves page 168

Appendix 5: Maps children's graves Ficana and Osteria dell'Osa page 185

Appendix 6: Tables grave volumes and grave goods Ficana and Osteria dell'Osa page 191



Children have always been an intriguing subject of study, although not many scholars have conducted research into children of ancient cultures.

Within archaeology children have been neglected for a long time, because archaeologists were not fully aware of the significance of children when trying to understand a society. This is unfortunate because material is available and can be studied in order to get information about the lives of children in different periods and regions. It is also interesting to look into the similarities and differences between them in different societies of the same cultural group. It gives archaeologists a better insight in each society, in the region these societies belong to and so in a specific period of the past. In this thesis I will take a closer look at children in Latium during the Iron Age and will try to answer the following question: 'What was the social status of children in Latium during the Iron Age?'

A lot of research has been carried out on different sites in Latium from the Iron Age. Most of these sites have yielded much of data, including from the burial grounds. The developments that have taken place in Latium during this period, like the change from an egalitarian society into one with a high level of social stratification, can be traced back in the graves. This makes graves an excellent group of material to study subjects like the social status. Some of the excavated cemeteries contain besides adults graves also child graves. These child graves have, however, never been studied in detail, let alone have been compared with each other. This will be the main goal of this research.

Sociologists agree that a society can be better understood by knowing how adults treat their children, one more reason to pay attention to children. In general it is said that the culture and state of development of a society can be deduced from its relations with their vulnerable members. Children, especially young children are extremely vulnerable and completely dependent on other people.

Social status can be defined as the several types of relation that can exist between people. A person can be related to his relatives, colleagues, friends, fellow citizens etc. Also the hierarchy within this relation is of importance. A father, for example, holds a higher position than his son. All these kinds of relations are different and in every society children are usually approached differently from adults. In order to answer the main question, what the social position of children was in Latium during the Iron Age, it is necessary to get a clear picture of the relationships between the members within the society during this period. It is interesting to find out if certain groups of children were treated in a different manner within the Latial societies. It seems that, for 2


example, especially very young children had a special status during the Iron Age.

There are unfortunately no written contemporary sources available from the Iron Age, nor are there any images or other iconographic material. Therefore one can only rely on the excavation data, the burial finds, and the data derived from these finds to acquire insight in cultures from this more distant past.

When having a better knowledge about the burial customs and grave goods, the question about someone's social position in general can be answered more accurately. To answer the central question of this thesis it is therefore necessary, from a scientific point of view, to compare the available data from the child graves from this period with each other. To determine the social position of children it is also essential to compare the child graves with those of the adults. By comparing the data of both groups it might be possible to conclude if children had a particular social position and what this position was during the period that will be studied.

Many burial grounds in Latium from this period seem to be undisturbed, and even after they were not used anymore, the burial evidence can be traced and analysed rather good.1 Unfortunatelythe excavation reports have not been published very well.

The purpose of this research is to make a start with this comparative research by arranging and mapping the available data from different sites in Latium and then try to draw conclusion from the data of these selected sites. There are several sites from the Iron Age that are interesting to look at, but because only the data of Osteria dell'Osa are completely available and the data of

Ficana nearly complete, these two sites will be the focus of my research. Other sites in the region

will be mentioned as well, but because of the lack of excavation reports these sites will not be discussed in detail.

It can be stated that every culture has its own rituals for dealing with the dead and that these rituals can change over time. It depends on where and when a person lived, how he or she got buried. In Latium every settlement had its own burial rituals which slightly differed from their neighbouring societies. This is important to keep in mind when comparing different sites with each other.

By looking at the excavation data it is possible to observe if burial customs have changed much during the different phases of the Iron Age in Latium and that they are connected to the social and political situation at the moment of a person's death. A necropolis cannot only provide information on grave goods and the chronology of the cemetery. They can also tell us more about age, gender and sex, and kinship; all of this in relation to social status.2

Different cultural groups from the Iron Age can be recognised by looking at aspects like

1 C.J. Smith, Early Rome and Latium: economy and society, c.1000 to 500BC, Clarendum Press: Oxford, 1996: 9-10. 2 M. Parker Pearson, The archaeology of death and burial, The History Press: Gloucestershire, 1999: 12.



grave goods, such as pottery and metal objects. Because most of these objects were produced locally, each settlement had a slightly different assemblage by which social groups can be identified. This will however not be an aspect that will be part of this research, since the main focus will only be on two sites.

There are several aspects that need to be examined when investigating a burial ground. First of all the location of the graves is of importance. Is the distribution of the graves in the burial ground random, or is there a pattern visible? It might be that the graves of a certain group are all located in the centre or periphery for example. The second aspect that is important, is the burial ritual. Is the deceased cremated or buried inside a pit in the ground? And are there traces of other ritualistic acts? Thirdly the appearance of the grave is meaningful. What is the volume of the grave and what kind of materials were used to create it? When these aspects have been examined, one can proceed with the remains and objects inside the grave.

When systematically studying grave goods different methods can be used. It is first of all important to look at the similarities of the objects under investigation and then at the differences as well. To assess the wealth of the grave goods one can look at the amount of objects found in a grave, at the number of different types of objects that are represented and at the frequency of the objects in assemblages of grave goods. Also the materials of which the objects are made of, are important. Are the vessels made of precious metals or of clay? During the Iron Age the wealth of a grave can be deduced from the use of metal objects and also from the metal which is used for a particular object. For instance individual objects such as weapons represent a higher wealth (status) than common objects such as vessels.3 Metals were precious materials, especially since Latium did not possess any important metal ores.4 The materials of the grave goods will be mentioned in the analysis, but will not be a key aspect within the conclusion.

This thesis is divided into several chapters to give a structured overview of the material. In the first chapter an overview of the region and the period under investigation will be outlined. Also a description of the sites that will be studied will be given.

In the second chapter the theoretical framework of this thesis will be defined. The two main aspects, social status and burial culture and their relationship with each other will be discussed. Several topics that are of importance in relation to these aspects, like the relationships people have with each other, the position of very young children within society and the concept of social persona will be discussed as well.

3 A. Alekshin, et al, 1983: 142.

4 A.M. Bietti Sestieri, The Iron Age community of Osteria dell’Osa, Cambridge: Cambridge university press, 1992:




In chapter 3 the research areas and methods that will be used are discussed. Topics that are central in this chapter are the different age categories that have been created, the research methods and the classification of the grave goods. Also the choices for each delineation will be clarified and justified. The research will be carried out by conducting a comparative data study based on literary sources of the different sites. Not all the sites are however documented in the same manner. Even the documentation of the two main sites, Osteria dell'Osa and Ficana differ greatly. The main sources are the catalogues that have been written by the excavators, which include a detailed description of the graves and their content. The children have been divided into different age categories. This in order to explore possible differences between children of different ages. This analytical chapter is subdivided according to these age categories. Also the differences between the sexes will be discussed within these sub chapters.

The periods that will be included in this research are the Latial periods II, III and IV. During these periods the sites were extensively used. One of the main aspects of this research are the changes that took place in connection with the burials during the different periods of the Iron Age, such as the shift from cremation to inhumation burials. One of the most striking developments with regards to the child graves is the change in burial location; while during period II the children were buried in the burial grounds, from period III onwards child graves are commonly found in or near the settlements.

To get a better understanding of the social position of children, it is necessary to get a clear picture of the social position of the members of the society in general. In chapter 4 a general overview of the adult's graves will be given to present a picture of the general trends and developments within these societies.

In chapter 5 the location of the graves, the burial rituals, the grave and the grave goods will be discussed in relation to the child graves. The grave goods will be divided into two categories; personal objects and ceramics. Within the personal objects also the cultic related objects will be discussed. Most graves, at least the ones belonging to the same age class, are equiped with more or less the same ceramic objects. For that matter these objects cannot tell a lot about the differences in social status; apparently all members received the same kit of ceramics which were probably given to the deceased accompanied by rituals. The personal objects can provide more information on the social status of the individual because they are different in every grave. Some graves contain only one fibulae while others are equipped with hundreds of ornamental pieces. Some personal objects could even have had a cultic connotation. For this reason the personal objects hold a central position within this research.

In chapter 6 the results of the previous chapter will be compared, analysed and interpreted. As a result of the systematic research it might be possible to draw conclusions about


each aspect and detail of the thesis. In the overall conclusion within this chapter an analysis is made of the findings of the previous chapters in order to find an answer to the main question about the social status of the children. It might even be possible to define certain aspects as a general trend for this region and period. Finally, recommendations will be made for further research on this subject.


Chapter 1 Latium

In this chapter an overview is given of the region and shows the social and economical developments that took place during the Iron Age. In the second part of this chapter a detailed description of the sites of Osteria dell'Osa and Ficana will be given; other sites that were important during the Iron Age will be mentioned shortly.

Latium and the Latins

The ancient region of Latium was bound by the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Tiber, the Monti Lepini and the Pontine Marshes, covering a surface area of about 2500 km². It was a region in which large settlements were built by people who were called Latins. Because of the lack of fixed boundaries, there were no obstacles for contact with other groups of people in the nearby regions, such as the Etruscans.5

The region of Latium was not densely populated until the late Bronze Age, since the area was not really fertile and did not possess important metal ores. But from that time onwards groups of people started to establish themselves in the region and stayed there permanently for centuries. Originally these groups lived in the Alban Hills, but then spread out through the whole region, because of the need for more agricultural land.6 They moved to the flatlands in their direct neighbourhood and adopted these lands as their homeland.7Though the soil was not very fertile, the products of agriculture activities were the most important means of life.8Gradually these early Latin communities formed a cultural entity, which is 'thought to be roughly egalitarian'.9 The Latins buried their deceased on necropoleis nearby the settlements, which were usually in use for long periods. Since most settlements have been in use continuously during the Iron Age, this period is really suited for research on funerary practices and social status.

The Latins are identified as a tribe of Indo-European descent and probably got their name from the Latin word 'latus' which can be best translated as ‘wide’ and is connected to the flat land where they went to live.


C.J. Smith, 1996: 225.

6 A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 26, 47. 7 C.J. Smith, 1996: 34, 53, 122-123. 8 C.J. Smith, 1996: 115.

9 C.J. Smith, 1996: 225.



The Latin culture originates in the 10th century BC when the established communities developed their own customs for both the living and deceased. This is known because from the excavations of several settlements during the 19th and 20th century, like those at the Alban Hills, Rome and Praeneste. In Rome for instance, archaeologists have found several burial grounds and different kinds of settlement patterns dating to the protohistory.10

Material evidence from the regions of Etruria and Latium is similar from the late Bronze Age onwards. During the final part of the late Bronze Age, however, both cultures become more diverse and differences in the material culture becomes visible. This process of diversification continues with the beginning of the early Iron Age. All over Italy similar processes of diversification between culture groups become more visible, but in Latium these differences withother groups are the clearest.11

From the 8th century BC onwards the Etruscans have left their mark in the region, but they were not able to take over Latium, not politically, military nor culturally. Rome became one of the most powerful towns and in the 7th century BC it destroyed Alba Longa and took over some other important settlements in the region.12From that time onwards Rome became the most important centre in Latium, also in a cultural respect.

In the next section an overview of the developments in Latium during the Iron Age is given.

Latium during the Iron Age

The Iron Age is a period in which people began to use iron as a metal to produce their objects. In different parts of the world this period initiated on different moments, depending on cultural development and geographical circumstances. In Greece and the Levant the Iron Age started around the 12th century BC. In Latium, however, this period began in the 10th century BC.

Usually a gradual transition from the Bronze Age into the Iron Age can be seen in which bothmaterials, bronze and iron, were used for the production of important goods.

The Iron Age in Latium is divided in four large periods which are again divided in subcategories. The first phase, period I, can be seen as the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age. Periods II, III and IV are all divided into phases A and B, and sometimes even into A1, A2, B1 etc. These phases are linked to the changes that took place during these periods, such as

10 A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 46. 11 A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 46-47. 12 C.J. Smith, 1996: 232.



new types of pottery. Scholars do not agree on the beginning and end dates of the different periods, but most scholars make use of these different phases when dating objects instead of using an absolute date. In this way they all make use of the same dating system which facilitates the comparisonbetween different sites and literary sources

For this paper the chronological division made by Anna Maria Bietti Sestrieri is used, since her work on the necropolis of Osteria dell'Osa is one of the main sources I have used. The division is as follows:

Period I: 10th century BC

Period II which is divided into IIA: 900-830 BC and IIB: 830-770 BC Period III which is divided into IIIA: 770-740 BC and IIIB: 740-720 BC Period IV which is divided into IVA: 720-620 and IVB: 620-580 BC13

In the next section a short historical overview will be given about the Iron Age in Latium. Important changes within the several periods will be mentioned, which have influenced the social status of people.

During period I (10th century) the settlements are independent clusters of families that lived in clans of 100 to most 300 people. It was an egalitarian community in which there existed a low level of organisation within these societies. Their deceased were buried in burial grounds in the neighbourhood.

In the Southern and Northern parts of Italy societies were economically developing because of the trading with the Mycenaeans who reached the west coasts and brought new goods. The region of Latium was more difficult to reach compared to their neighbouring areas, so these communities were not able to have the same profits at the same time as their neighbours.14 In Etruria the 10th century is known as the Villanova Period, which is known in Latium as Iron Age period I. Historians call the end of this period the official beginning of the Iron Age in Italy.15

In general the graves in the burial grounds in Latium are similar during this period. The grave goods are similar as well and show no gender related differences. The only objects that could be distinguished as typical female are spindle whorls, which are found occasionally. Probably not all members of society were buried on the cemeteries.16

Most graves from this period are found in clusters, like for instance in the Alban Hills. Almost all people are cremated and buried in a dolium or a huturn, which is placed inside a pit see

13 A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 11. 14 C.J. Smith, 1996: 30.

15 C.J. Smith, 1996: 24-43. 16 C.J. Smith, 1996: 106-107.



figures 1 and 2). The grave goods were also placed inside the pozzo and are, according to the excavators, of high quality.17 The grave goods often contained miniature vessels, weapons and personal ornaments. Sometimes a statuette was present among the grave goods. This statuette might have had a religious connotation.18 During this period children of all ages, when they are found, were buried on the necropoleis.19

Figure 1: plan of a cremation grave 135 Osteria dell’Osa Figure 2: photopraph cremation grave 375 Picture from A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 84. Picture from A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1996: 85

In Period IIA (900-830BC) the smaller and medium sized settlements were built on plateaus that were selected because of their isolation and natural defence. These sites were the result of a nucleation of the smaller sites from the Bronze Age. During this first part of the Iron Age the burial grounds were usually intermingled with these settlement units and can be found next to each other.20

When looking at the burial grounds it becomes visible that during this phase inhumations became more popular and even became the most common ritual at the end of Period II. Only a selected group of people was cremated. These cremations are seen as more culturally relevant, because they refer to past traditions like those that existed during the Late Bronze Age, when cremation was the only burial ritual in use.21 This difference in treatment might have been the consequence of the emergence of more complex system of social stratification, whereby the more expensive cremations were only used for the rich members of the society. The remains of the


A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 55-56.

18 C.J. Smith, 1996: 39.

19 A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 58-59. 20 A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 54. 21 A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 55-57.



inhumation burials were buried in a fossa grave together with the grave goods.22 In general children were buried on the necropoleis, among the other members of society.23

During period IIB (830-770 BC) a big change took place, whereby the settlements and burial grounds got separated. This is clearly visible in Rome and points to an early form of urbanization.24There was also a general increase of the population.25

During this period the burial rituals did not change much. Most people were buried inside a fossa grave, with a few exceptions that were cremated. The cremation remains still were stored in a dolium or a huturn. There is a slight change visible in the graves goods which become more standardised and less varied. Also the miniature weapons that were present in earlier times are replaced by real armour.26

In Period IIIA (770-740 BC) there are increasing economic possibilities with an equal growth in wealth. This wealth had an influence on the social structure in communities. Some families got extremely rich. Social differentiation and stratification was the consequence and a sophisticated aristocracy developed. This aristocracy had a great political and military power. This ran parallel with the development of stable settlements. The communities got a more urban nature.27 It seems that people not only lived in family based unites, but also in more socially differentiated units. Servants and their families lived in the same house as their employer; they were a kind of extended family.28

As opposed to the previous period the number of forms and styles of pottery increases in the 8th century. Most ceramics were still handmade, although also wheel turned ceramics have been found. This pottery was made of purified clay and painted. It seems that each settlement had one or more potters.29

Graves of this period usually contained large amounts of luxury goods. The grave goods, such as fibulae and other jewellery, were usually made of bronze and iron, but also objects made of wood, amber, bone and silver are known. The increase in presence of these items shows that there was a great demand for new types of objects and the new skills and techniques of artisans.30

Another major change that took place during this period was emergence of the custom of burying infants within the settlements. One explanation that is given for this custom is that these children must be seen as space markers to define and isolate different family groups. These

22 A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 57-60. 23

A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 59-60.

24 A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 54. 25 C.J. Smith, 1996: 56. 26 C.J. Smith, 1996: 56-57. 27 C.J. Smith, 1996: 231. 28 C.J. Smith, 1996: 82. 29 C.J. Smith, 1996: 78. 30 C.J. Smith, 1996: 79. 11


children are often buried with rich funerary goods and were probably the descendants of the wealthy people within society.31

During period IIIB (740-720 BC), a bigger group of people could afford luxury goods and wanted a symbol to define their position in society. More objects start to appear inside the graves during this period. Besides a high number of personal ornaments inside female graves there was a regular appearance of military objects inside male graves. Chariots and other prestige items have been found in the graves of both sexes.32

In this period the Latial societies changed and people of different settlements got in contact with each other. This can be seen in the grave goods, which show signs of cultural influences. In the graves of Osteria dell'Osa for instance, ceramics of Greek shapes have been found.

In Period IVA (720-620 BC), which is also known as the orientalising period This was the result of their trading contacts not only with neighbours but also with foreigners, the Latial settlements developed and the small settlements became villages with the character of an urban structure. These communities had a more complex political and social structure and the inhabitants also became more wealthy. As a result of this development, settlements needed fortifications and military power. So the society became less egalitarian. Houses became larger and more luxury objects were in circulation.33 The aristocracy started to exploit members of society and created a luxurious life for themselves. Because of this exploitation, the society became more unequal. The power of the aristocracy grew bigger and the aristocracy became even more important than before.34 As a result of these developments luxury goods were also less equally divided. The prestigious tombs of Praeneste are a well-known example of the princely graves that have been found in the area and show the growing social stratification.35 Striking is that female graves contained many more objects than their male equivalents. These were usually equipped with large amounts of jewellery. Most male graves contained military goods. Chariots could be found in both and is an indication of prestige.36 The shape of the graves changes as well; big stone graves became common, sometimes containing different chambers. It is an indication of the existence of extended families.

Another striking feature of this period is appearance of several temples in the area. This suggests that religion became more important. The major priestly offices were probably held by the aristocracy.37 At the end of period IVA stone buildings and fortifications were build and there

31 A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 54-55.

32 A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 61. These have however not been found at the sites of Ficana and Osteria dell'Osa. 33

C.J. Smith, 1996: 230-231.

34 C.J. Smith, 1996: 112. 35 A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 61. 36 C.J. Smith, 1996: 108-109. 37 C.J. Smith, 1996: 231.



is evidence that early houses have been developed into cult places. Also several votive deposits have been identified.38

Although in general less burials can be found in the cemeteries, a few large necropoleis contain graves from this period, such as Lavinium and Osteria dell'Osa. Most graves from this period are found in clusters, some of which were empty as a result of robbery. Child graves could be among them as well.39

The most important difference between Period IVA and Period IVB (620-580 BC ) was the change from pre-urbanisation to urbanisation. One would assume that this transition to an urban society would yield more opulent material remains. The number of graves and their wealth however declines, which cannot be explained by damage to the graves alone. This lack of graves has not been explained as yet.40 An important feature of this last Latial period is the presence of big chamber tombs in which extended families were buried. These tombs relate to the monumental buildings that were built during the 6th and 5th centuries BC and emphasise the importance of family units. Some scholars suggest that these tombs were created by the aristocracy.41

In a certain way the graves mirrored the developments in their society. The more complex the society became, the bigger the differences between the graves were visible. While during period I all graves were similar, the following periods are characterised by a greater variety in the graves and their grave goods. Especially during the last periods there are big differences in the wealth of the graves. Most graves are poorly equipped, with the exception of a few really wealthy graves.

Also a change in architecture is visible during this period. The first stone houses were built and also traces of fortifications have been found: at Castel di Decima and Acqua Acetosa Laurentina.42

The sites

A summary of the two most important sites, Ficana and Osteria dell'Osa, will be given in the next section. The available literature on the other sites is limited and the few articles that are accessible in the Netherlands usually focus on the settlements of the sites and have only limited information on the burial grounds.

38 C.J. Smith, 1996: 86. 39 C.J. Smith, 1996: 87-91. 40 C.J. Smith: 98. 41 C.J. Smith, 1996: 99. 42 C.J. Smith, 1996: 87-91. 13



Ficana is situated 11 Roman mile from Rome, on the via Ostiense. The site has been excavated in zones by different archaeologists. Several connecting zones have yielded a settlement with multiple house-like structures and a cemetery, with both adults – as well as four child graves.43 The earliest graves, belonging to adult members of the society, can be dated to Latial period I and are all cremation graves that were found in a pit.44 From period IIB (830-770 BC) onwards also infant tombs have been discovered, which are associated with the settlement. These child graves are found in and next to the houses and were equipped with typical Latin pottery.45 They all date between the 8th and 5th century BC.46

Four different types of fossa graves can be distinguished at the site47; a simple fossa filled with tuff, a simple fossa filled with sand, a fossa with a burial niche covered with tiles and a simple fossa covered with tiles.48 More than half of the children have been buried in a fossagrave, the other children have been buried inside an olla or a dolium.49 Several of the vase burials that have been found next to building remains are examples of a so-called suggrundaria burial.50

Inside the settlement a house with a possible banqueting room has been found, which is one of the most important discoveries from this site. It appears that the house and the banqueting service have been destroyed by a fire. In a waste pit next to the house a lot of kitchen utensils have been found, such as cooking pots, containers, drinking cups, plates, cups and other containers. Besides these kitchen utensils, several spindle whorls and a very finely executed kotyle were found. All of these objects refer to the existence of an aristocratic family. The pottery that is related to thishouse was found in a waste pit. Because of the full banqueting service equipment, archaeologists suggest that the place was a banqueting hall. The deposit of pottery is considered an indication for the spread of the phenomenon of the symposium in the 7th century BC.51

During period IVB (620-580 BC) the burial culture becomes much wealthier than

43 R. Brandt, Scavi di Ficana, 1990: 453-479. 44 R.R. Holloway, 1994: 123-124.

45 C.J. Smith, 1996: 244. 46 R. Brandt, 1990: 453-479.

47 It is not mentioned is these types of fossa graves were used during all periods. 48

M. Cataldi Dini, Prima campagna di scavo nella necropoli di Ficana (Acilia-Roma), Parola del Passato XXXII,1977: 315.

49 J.R. Brandt, C. Pavolini & M. Cataldi Dini, Ficana, Quaderni del Centro di studio per l'archeologia etrusco-italica 2,

1979 pp. 29-36. Of 36 of the 46 children's burials we know how they were buried: 15 have been buried inside a vase, the rest of them in a fossagrave. Of the other 10 burials no detailed information is available.

50 E. Jarva,'Area di tombe infantili a Ficana', In QuadAEI 5, 1981: 269-273. At least tombs VII, X and XI have been

labeled as suggrundaria. More information on suggrundaria can be found in chapter 3.

51 C.J. Smith, 1996: 87.



before. The activities in agriculture and the production of goods stimulated the wealth.52 Although the presence of metal objects diminished in period IVB, their technical quality was very high.

For this thesis 46 child graves found at the site of Ficana, have been studied. It is certainly possible that this site contains even more children's burials. Except for the four individuals that have been found at the cemetery, all graves belong to infants between zero and 50 months.53

Osteria dell'Osa.

Osteria dell'Osa is situated on the Castiglione crater and is known for its big necropolis, on which more than 600 tombs have been discovered.54 All graves have been dated between 990-580 BC.55 It is one of the few places in Latium where archaeologists have excavated this many graves, among which many child graves.56 The necropolis has been used for a very long period and is therefore a very interesting subject to study social structures in Latial Iron Age.

During the first period of the burial ground, 10th century, all graves were cremation graves and had an east-west orientation with no signs of clustering.57 These graves are located in the centre of the inhumation graves clusters from the later period, period II (9th – 8th century).58

In this period, period II, a new area of the cemetery came into use at the Eastside of the necropolis, while the other side, the Westside, was still in use as well. During this period the cemetery was used the most intensive. Only a small group of graves can be dated to periods III and IV.

Both single graves as well as clusters of graves have been found dating to these later periods. A new feature that appeared in the 7th century (period III) is a fossa grave with a loculus at one side which contained the grave goods. In this period also chamber graves start to occur.59 One of the most important chamber graves in Latium has been found at this site which contains thirteen individuals. It is assumed that this grave from period IVB harbours an extended family of aristocrats.60

The necropolis is particularly important because it is the largest complete cemetery found

52 C.J. Smith, 1996: 88-89. 53 R. Brandt, 1990: 453-479. 54

C.J. Smith, 1996: 248.

55 A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 79.

56 Compared to other sites many child graves have been found at Osteria dell'Osa, although the children are still


57 A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 81-85. 58 C.J. Smith, 1996: 248.

59 A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 81-85. 60 C.J. Smith, 1996: 104-105.



in Latium, even though the graves are not extremely wealthy compared to other sites in the region. One of the most exciting finds is the earliest inscription with letters in the Greek alphabet and wasdiscovered on an impasto vase dating from period IIB.61

It seems that there were some distinct groups within the society of Osteria dell'Osa. This can be deduced from looking at the grave goods and funerary rituals. It is clear that there were different treatments when dealing with men and women.62 These distinct groups have been labelled as clusters by Anna Maria Bietti Sestieri, the main archaeologist and publisher of the catalogue of this site, and are numbered as A, B, C, etc., each containing an average of 35 graves. All clusters contain a variety of individuals; young and old, male and female and contain different types of burials and grave goods. Most clusters have one or two important graves in the centre, like a cremation grave or a wealthy inhumation grave, and often have features that are specific to these clusters, like the same types of ceramics or burial type. Bietti Sestieri suspects that each cluster has existed for about 30 years and contain the burials of an extended family. After this period the families split up and created their own burial cluster. It seems that the earliest datable two clusters, South (A) and North (B), did exist simultaneously and can be considered the predecessors of the people that have been buried in the later clusters. Several features that are typical of these two clusters can also be seen within the later clusters, which for this reason are interpreted as distinctgroups related to the South and North clusters.63

Because of the well documented excavations of the necropolis one is able to determine that there were much more female graves compared to male graves and that the amount of child graves is less than expected.64 In her study of the necropolis of Osteria dell'Osa Bietti Sestieri draws the conclusion that men held an important position in the necropolis. Their graves contain a lot of signature objects of high rank in society. All graves that could be attributed to leaders of a society are of men between the age of 20-40 years old. Graves of men between 20-30 years old contain a lot military of miniature objects, like swords. For women, status bound grave goods have been found in all types of graves, from the age of 20 years old until the old adults.65 Bietti Sestieri appoints the group of 11-19 year still as 'children', which I adopted. In total 142 child graves have been discovered.

Apart from Ficana and Osteria dell'Osa, some other sites that have been of importance during the

61 C.J. Smith, 1996: 76, 248. 62 C.J. Smith, 1996: 248. 63

A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 141-161. In Appendix 2 it is stated which clusters are linked to the South or North groups. This is based on the features that are typical of these clusters and if these can be traced back to either the South or the North cluster.

64 A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 99. 65 A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 206.



Iron Age are Lavinium/modern Partica di Mare, Aqua Acetosa, Laurentina and Castel di Decima.

Lavinium / Pratica di Mare, which has been inhabited from the 10th century onwards, was one of

the most important sites of Latium during the Iron Age. Modern excavations have revealed several huts inside the settlement to which at least thirty children's burials can be attributed. The area in the valleys was less inhabited, but nevertheless huts and child graves from period III and period IVA have been found.66There are however no detailed descriptions of these graves.

At the site of Aqua Acetosa Laurentina a total of 175 inhumation graves have been found, mostly dating from the 8th to the 6th century BC. Three houses were discovered one of which had a cistern, a kiln and indications of a child burial.67 Unfortunately no further information on this burial is available. Neither is there any excavation report available, so it is unsure if there are more children's burials at this site.

The necropolis of Castel di Decima was occupied from period II until period IVA. Approximately 300 graves have been excavated, all inhumation graves, of which half of them date to the late 8th – early 7th century BC. The rest of the graves can be dated to later periods. Nochild graves have been found in this necropolis. The only exceptions are a child that has been buried with a women, who is probably his or her mother, and a young person that has been buried with an adult.68 It is be possible that the children were buried within the settlement of Castel di Decima, but as for now it is uncertain if any children have been found in the settlement.

Information about the excavations of these sites, especially information about the graves and their contents, would be a very welcome addition to this research. In this case a more extensive picture of the Latial culture and especially of the burial culture in this area could be presented. There are however no detailed descriptions of the (child) graves available, and they will therefore not be used in the analytical section of this thesis.

66 C.J. Smith, 1996: 77. 67 C.J. Smith, 1996: 239.

68 F. Zevi & A. Bedini, 'La necropoli arcaica di Castel di Decima' In: SE XLI (1973): 27-44.



Chapter 2: Theoretical framework

The central question of this thesis deals with the social status of children in Latium during the Iron age and will be researched by looking at the burial culture of the children in this region and period. The concepts of social status and burial culture are central themes within this research and need be specified and clarified. The main focus in this chapter will be on these two terms in relation to each other.

The phenomenon ‘social status’ will be described in relation to different aspects of the concept, like age, force and power, sex and gender and 'social persona'. The term burial culture will be described more generally. Besides that, the position that burials and burial grounds have in people's lives and in their society will be explained. In the context of this research the relationship between social status and burial culture is crucial and will be discussed as well.

2.1 Social status

In this subchapter a closer look will be taken into the term ‘social status’. First, a definition of this term and its meaning in general will be given. After that the concepts of power and force will be explained and several views of important scholars will be discussed in order to explain their importance for this research.

Social status has a substantial meaning for every person; it determines one's position in society. Usually this position is associated with a certain function, the importance that is attached to this function, the family to which someone belongs, married into or even adopted into and to personal achievements. The last aspect is connected to the qualities a person has and what the society he or she lives in requires. When a society for instance has to defend itself against enemies, the society needs strong leaders with strategic qualities. Or when a society needs a lot of members to survive, the position of mothers will get more respect.

Residence, personal belongings, clothing and naming are an indication for someone’s position. In some societies there exist many different roles, in others just a few. This is mostly related to the complexity of the society. When there are many roles and when these are placed in a vertical status structure the social system is called highly stratified.69 A complex society needs specialised qualifications and so the more complex a society is, the more unequal the social

69 J.W. Berry, et al, 1992: 46



positions of its members are, with unequal relations between members as a result.

Chris Fowler, a specialist in later prehistoric archaeology, argues that all social positions are based on power. Both power and identity are inseparably related to multiple contexts in a society. They indicate the position someone will hold in society during his life.70 It is important to make a difference between power and force in this context, because power has another base than force which has a lot of consequences.

It is usually clear who is able to make decisions within a society. When this is based on legislations that are accepted by all members of this society, we speak of power. The enforcers of these legislations have been delegated to do so and represent a form of legitimate power.71 This legitimated power is usually related to politics, religion and wealth.

There are several ways to exercise power like, as mentioned, through legislations, but also through sanctions (rewards and punishments) and physical and relational appearance (charismatic), knowledge, expertise and persuasion. Some of these means are more related to personal bound qualities, but others are not. When dealing with the more personal bound qualities we speak of force.72

The reason why the difference between the two, power and force, is crucial for this research, is because it can influence the social position of someone's children. When someone is born into an important family (nobility) he or she automatically gains the status of his or her parents. Especially the status of the father is deciding for a child's position. Sociologists speak of a committed and adjudged position.73 Power is inheritable and force is not.

During period I and II, Latial societies were egalitarian and in an equal society there is no great need for a strong leader and therefore there is no motive for getting a special status. Physically strong men (force) were probably the most important within the settlements. These men would therefore receive a wealthy burial and not the women and children.

From period III and IV onwards Latial societies got more and more complex and an aristocracy arose. Not surprisingly, the children of an aristocratic family received a high status and a wealthy grave in consequence of their heritage, especially the firstborn ones.74

I assume that the reason for the importance of firstborn children is that they are the inheritors of their parents possessions (sometimes including a public function) and therefore the heirs of their social status. This is a normal practise that exists in many modern cultures. And in

70 C. Fowler, 'Identities in transformation', In: The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Death and Burial. Editor:

Tarlow, S. Oxford University Press, 2013: 514.

71 E. Wijsman, Psychologie en sociologie, Wolters Noordhoff, 2005: 223. 72 E. Wijsman, 2005: 224.

73 E. Wijsman, 2005: 238. 74 A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 127.



most cultures it is, or until recently was, the habit that only males could be inheritors of a legacy or a family name.

It is an interesting question if this reasoning is a valid one in connection to Latium during Iron Age. During this research a closer look will be taken into the possible existence of high status firstborns within the several sites.

It is evident that ethnographers and sociologists can be of great help to understand social structures and social status, because both are specialised in a certain aspect of human life and in mechanisms within societies. Sociologists, like Sachse and Binford for instance, have developed theories to explore archaeological data in relation to social structures in the 1960's.75

Ethnographical research has on the other hand shown that differences in age and sex can be traced from grave goods.76 Certain patterns have been discovered in these grave goods that correspond to these differences. These patterns can be used when identifying social structures. Looking at the grave goods inside child graves can at the same time give a better idea of the differences between age groups during childhood and also of the differences between boys and girls. All of this is connected to their social status.

2.1.1 Social position of adults

In this part of the subchapter the relevant aspects of the social position of adults will be discussed, such as profession and public function, social persona, sex and gender.

A persons personality contains a lot of different aspects and it is dependent on the relationship people have with each other which of these aspects interacts at what moment. For this research it is crucial to understand what this can mean for the social status of a person.

The social position of adults in society is mostly based on their profession and the possible public functions of that position. As it has been previously stated, this position can be partly inherited and is partly related to the function of someone's personal force, ambitions and special qualities.

The term persona comes from the Jungian psychology77 and is related to the term 'collective unconscious'. This term is described as the legacy that a person receives from his race

75 J.A. Tainter, 'Mortuary Practises and the Study of Prehistoric Social Systems'. In: Advances in Archaeological

Method and Theory, vol 1 (1978): 123-125., R. Chapman, I. Kinnes & K. Randsborg, 1981: 5-6.

76 A. Alekshin, et al., Burial Costums as an Archeological Source (and Comments), The University of Chicago Press

1983: 139.

77 Jungian psychology is named after Carl Gustav Jung, a Swiss psychologist, who developed his theory about the

collective unconscious in the early 20th century.



and culture. The persona, which means mask in Latin, is the face a person shows to the outside world to measure up to the social expectations. Someone can adapt a role to fulfil these expectations. The danger is that this persona will predominate the identity, individuality and personality.78

Within a stratified society the rulers (elite) might force others, on the basis of privileges and close personal contacts, to behave in a way that contradicts their esteem and self-interest.79 In this case the term social persona is applicable.

Not only the elite can create a social persona, but also the economy of a society. The economy can necessitate a certain upbringing of children. Studies show that certain early societies thought their children practical skills and 'tend to produce a particular kind of typical personality'.80 Scholars see a relationship between the economy of subsistence and the way people gather food. In an agricultural society people work together and learn different skills than for example in a hunter-gatherer society where people are more individualistic.81

Also someone's sex can influence his or her social persona. In every society there are modal differences in the behaviour of males and females and every society has some divisions in what labour is suited for which sex. Those two phenomena are universal and probably interrelated in a functional way. There is a very strong relationship between socialisation emphases and sex differences in behaviour.82 Sex differences in behaviour show that males tend to be more self-assertive, achievement-orientated and dominant, while women tend to be more socially responsive, passive and submissive. These differences between the sexes are nearly universal and are not only related to socialisation and labour, but also to economic factors.83 It is very imaginable that these differences started to develop during the education of children from an early age onwards to prepare them for their position in adult life.

Because this research deals with the differences between male and female aspects of the social status it is necessary to look at the position of women in the past. Although the position of women will not be investigated specifically, their position will be shortly discussed because the data is going to be divided into sex and gender.

The position of women is always dependent on the structure of a society, which position they have in this society and what kind of respect they gain. They can acquire respect on their own, for example by executing their role as a mother or as an extension of the status of their husband.


R. L. Morgan, Hedendaagse psychologie, leer- en werkboek. Translation: H. Geluk, Utrecht: Uitgeverij de Tijdstroom B.V., 1990: 152-153.

79 E. Wijsman, 2005: 227. 80

H. Barry, I Child & M. Bacon, Relation of child training to the subsistence economy, In: American Anthropologist 61, 1959: 51.

81 H. Barry, I Child & M. Bacon, 1959: 51.

82 R. L. Monroe, et al., Cross-cultural human development, 1975: 116. 83 J.W. Berry, et al, 1992: 25-26.



Childcare can be seen as a very important task and can therefore be seen as a social phenomenon. When a society needs more people, for instance for agriculture or for military goals, the position of mothers will get more important. In past societies it sometimes even occurred that the nurturing of young children was important in connection to rituals, for instance by offering them to Gods.84 This is a phenomenon that has and always had a universal character. It can contribute to the understanding of social structures and social changes within a society being aware of those phenomena.

In connection to this research it is important to be aware of the differences between the concepts of sex and gender. This because they are connected to different groups of burial evidence. When related to social status it is crucial to know if a grave belonged to a male of a female.

Sex and gender are two different terms to identify a person as a male or female. Someone's sex is related to direct physical evidence and is connected to osteological remains, while someone's gender is connected to indirect evidence, such as grave goods or grave appearance and location of the grave. 'Sex is a biological characteristic whereas gender is socially constructed, sustained, changed and performed.'85 Unlike sex, gender varies across cultures and can even vary a lot within cultures over time.86

It is not always possible to identify osteological remains as male or female. Only the cranial and pubic bones are significantly different and even those cannot always determine the sex of a deceased. When these bones lack, or when the complete skeleton is not present inside the grave archaeologists are dependent on other excavation evidence, such as personal objects. Though in every culture gender bound objects can differ, it is assumed that certain attributes can be prescribed to men, such as weapons, and certain objects to women, such as jewellery and beads.87 It is clear that osteological evidence gives far more certainty about the sex of a deceased than objects can give about the gender of a person.

As mentioned, social status is not only reflected during life, but can also be traced in graves. The size and appearance of the grave, the location on a burial ground, the materials which were used to make the graves, the grave goods and the materials they were made of as well as the amount of them; all these aspects may provide information on a the social position of the deceased during life in their society. In the section on the relation between social status and burial culture this will be further explained as well as the importance for this research.


E. Scott, The archaeology of infancy and infant death, Bar International Series 819, Archeopress Publishers of British Archeological Reports, Oxford, 1999: 5.

85 M.A. Fine & F.D. Fincham, Handbook of family theories: a content-based approach, 2013: 301. 86 M.A. Fine & F.D. Fincham, 2013: 301.

87 A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 130-131.



2.1.2 Social position of children

When conducting research into the social position of children, it is important to have a definition of the term ‘child’. Because the children are being compared to adults, also a description of the term ‘adult’ is necessary.

A child is dependent on other people, mostly on its parents, in every aspect until it is able to take care of itself. It is a vulnerable creature. In every culture, children are treated in a different manner than adults. It depends on contemporary rules which conditions are needed to be accepted to join the world of the grown-ups.

Within the discipline of modern psychology, childhood is divided into several stages, from infancy (0-2 years) to middle childhood (6-11 years).88 In between these stages the child develops physically, mentally and socially/emotionally from a totally vulnerable creature to an almost independent child. From a teeth less baby to a human being with permanent teeth, from a speechless child to a person with proper communication skills one and from an emotionally totally dependent infant to a creature that makes friends on its own. In between there is a period which is called early childhood.89

The phase of adolescence (11-18 years) is also divided in three main periods, in which they imperceptible changes from child into adult. The individual develops his own personality, gets an insight in his qualities and prepares himself for a future life. The adolescent gets interested in the other sex and starts to think about moral issues. The age groups within this phase are early adolescence (11-14 years), middle adolescence (14-16 years) and late adolescence (16-18 years).90 Adolescence is seen as a stage of childhood.

Most archaeologists, and also other scholars, agree that the term childhood changes through time and that categories are diffuse and difficult to determine.91 But when studying children in pre and proto-history it is necessary to make a classification system to make the differences between the children and adults visible. Scholars recognise the urgency to compare the different age classes in relation to age, sex and gender.92 In this way it is possible to get a very clear and differentiated view on social structure and social status of the past in course of time. Naturally a differentiated view on children can help to get a more refined view on past societies, so a universal classification system for age groups of children is a requirement for researching their position.


L.E. Berk, 2014: 212-213 & 358-359.

89 L.E. Berk, 2014: 286-287. 90 L.E. Berk, 2014: 428-429. 91 E. Scott, 1999: 12.

92 F. Fahlander & T. Oestigaard, 2008: 11.



It is difficult to determine exactly when childhood changes into adulthood. This change is also dependent on personal development and most of all it is culturally determined. I can imagine that in past times, when people died much earlier than nowadays, children were seen as adults at a much younger age.

In this respect it must be said that the social position of children in the past changed as well with their age. The younger they were, the more their social position was determined by society. When being very young, children nearly had no social status but the older they grew the stronger their social position grew. Although infants had a very low status, this might have been different if they were the first-born children.93

It is unfortunate that a lot of information about children in past times is not available. They are an interesting group of individuals from which a lot can be learned about all aspects of everyday life in past cultures. Perhaps this is the reason they are rarely mentioned in archaeological research. According to the English archaeologist Eleanor Scott this can be attributed to the fact that dealing with children is usually done by women and most archaeologists are male and usually not that interested in children and especially in young children.94 Bietti Sestieri however argues that young children can contribute to a better understanding of (ancient) societies, because they totally depend on others.95

Besides these essential biological facts, religion also dictates how children were supposed to be viewed. In the next section it will be explained how religion influenced daily life.

2.1.3 The influence of age

In almost every past society, the age of children determines how they were treated and a distinction was made between different ages. Infants had a different status compared to young children and adolescents were again treated in another way.

New-borns in particular held a special position, not only because of the high mortality rate during the pre- and protohistory, but also because cultural concepts, motivated by religion, influenced how babies were seen. In many cultures new-borns were seen as a connection between life and death, between the sacred and profane. The child was therefore helpless as well as fraught with meaning. It is more than a blank slate which can be bent into anything. In daily life babies were not seen as a member of society, but on the other hand they marked all kinds of relationships

93 A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 127. 94 A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 126-127. 95 A.M. Bietti Sestieri, 1992: 126-127.



within this society: they are the connection between adult members of society, between people and society and between human and religion. This because of their biological dependency and religious connotations.96

The position of children in past societies cannot be deduced by looking at the daily life alone but also by looking at the role they played within the religion and therefore in the culture of past societies. This has a reflection on how they were treated socially and on their social status. Every culture treated his children in prescribed manners. The Phoenicians sometimes killed new-borns for religious reasons. These sacrifices were accompanied by rituals and joyful music. The music was played as a guidance for the mourning and complaining parents.97

The offering of children was a common practice within the whole Mediterranean world and was carried out even until the Christian era. It was not only a religious attempt to please the gods but it was also used to obtain more prestige in society. By offering a child, the bond between family members and society was intensified. Eleanor Scott says that in Phoenicia there is a relation between the will to have children and the preparedness to offer.98 People were obliged to offer their children, even though they did not always do this willingly.99

Archaeologist Shelby Brown has observed that the children that are being sacrificed are usually male and young and could be both rich and poor. Sometimes the child was not the dedicant’s own but was bought for the purpose of sacrifice. There are also cases known whereby the sacrificed was the first-born and most beloved son of the family.100 In Roman times it was seen as cruel to sacrifice children older than 40 days and it became a habit to use animals as a substitute for the infants.101

Although it seems like a cruel habit to sacrifice children, it was a social act, in which the children played a central role and these children can therefore be seen as socially important. The fact that some people bought other children to avoid sacrificing their own suggests that they did love their own children or at least did not wish them any harm.

I know that within the Catholic religion it was, until a few decennia ago, a good habit to have a child allocated in the monastery. This is obviously a more humane manner, but it is still a sacrifice for religion.

These aspects will not be subject of this research, but to understand the social position of children

96 E. Scott, 1999: 89. 97 E. Scott, 1999: 88. 98

E. Scott, 1999: 88-89.

99 S. Brown, Late Carthaginian child sacrifice and sacrificial monuments in their Mediterranean context, Sheffield:

Sheffield Academic Press, 1991.

100 31 S. Brown, 1991: 22. 101 S. Brown, 1991: 174.



in Latium it can be interesting to get a better understanding of how deep religion penetrated daily life and has done so for ages. Especially being aware of the habits in the cultures in the Mediterranean can be helpful for this research, because there were certain interactions between several Mediterranean cultures and Latium. It is for instance clear that the Greek influenced the Latins. By trading routes Greek culture played an important role in Central Italian societies from the sixth century on, though there were trading movements in earlier periods. It is possible that the first Greek influence reached Latium by the Etruscans, but direct contact between the Greek and Latins was not impossible. They influenced Latin religion and society102 Eleanor Scott, for instance, notes that the Greek tended to sacrifice young boys in order to show their willingness to the gods. Killing your most beloved child became a social act.103 This is not a subject that will be discussed directly in this thesis, but it is good to keep in mind that child offerings are a subject of discussion among scholars and that they might be explanation of the lack of children on the burial grounds.

As it is known, age is an important concept when studying social status. For this research, where the social status of children is the central theme, it is important to know the current scientific point of view about children in respect to age.

Most archaeological articles on children deal with children between the age of zero and six. The children in this range go through rapid changes. Mike Parker Pearson, a British archaeologist specialised in the archaeology of death and burial, argues that children from the age of seven were prepared for a position in society104, which cannot be totally accidental: biologically seen, this is the age they get permanent teeth, which in our culture is a standard for a more structured education. It is the age that children are ready to go to school, they come in another phase and are receptive for new information.

Perhaps the lack of literature about older children might be related to the fact that in past societies older children were seen as a kind of young adults and therefore were treated in nearly the same way as adults. They were not seen as a special group of people.

An important archaeologist who has carried out research in the field of children in the Iron Age is Valentino Nizzo.105 He especially looked at the age at which children were accepted into the society. He is of the opinion that children were allowed to be buried within the funerary space

102 C.J. Smith, 1996: 225-227. 103 E. Scott, 1999: 89.


M. Parker Pearson, 1999: 103.

105 V. Nizzo, '''Antenate Bambini'' Visibiltà e invisibiltà dell'infanzia nei sepolcreti dell'Italia tirrenica dalla prima età

del Ferro all'Orientalizzante: dalla discriminazione funeraria alla costruzione dell'identità' In: Dalla nascita alla morte: antropologia e archeologia a confronto Atti dell'Incontro Internazionale di studi in onore di Claude Lévi-Strauss Editor: V. Nizzo, Muzeo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico '' Luigi Pigorini'' Roma, 2010: 51-93.



as the adults from the age of 4 years old. Before that age they were not seen as individuals. From the age of 5 or 6 it seems that, at least female, children got the same treatments as the other members of society. Girls from that age onwards often received weaving attributes in their graves. This was accompanied by a ceremony and marked a new phase in their lives.106

Anthropologists, who study human emotions, and archaeologists, who study human life and culture, indicate that because of the lack of evidence little can be said with certainty about the social position of young children within prehistoric societies.107 Material evidence can provide some clues, but what exactly do we know about the ritual practices around these burials? It is assumed that children were involved in the labour process; from an early age on they were prepared for their future positions and were subjected to very specific requirements.108

In most modern cultures, the group of firstborn children have a special position. They were the one who would inherit the families possessions. Because of the lack of written sources it is difficult to validate this. Burial evidence cannot give a decisive answer.

In this research I will try to get a better idea of the social position of children by studying, analysing and evaluating the data of several excavations in Latium from the Iron Age.


In conclusion it can be said that children were treated in a different manner than adults. Especially very young children were not yet seen as full members of society. They were dependent on the care of their family and could not yet contribute something in the society. A parallel can be drawn between their social status in practical life and in religion. It seems that for a great deal their social persona was prescribed by religion and defined by their biological and psychological vulnerability. The younger and the more vulnerable they were, the more these matters played a role. The older they grew, the more they were treated as adults.

Adults had a more complex social life, with different kinds of relations. All of these relationships formed his or her social persona and this social persona was also reflected in their social status. For men this status was mostly related to a profession and/or a public function and for women to their husband's position or their own position as a mother.

106 V. Nizzo, 2010: 56-58. 107 M. Parker Pearson, 1999: 103. 108 M. Parker Pearson, 1999: 103.



2.2 Burial culture

In this subchapter the term burial culture will be discussed. The concepts of cremation and inhumation, burial rituals, grave goods and their function and grave appearance will be explained because of their importance for this research.

It is clear that graves are an important source of information when conducting research into someone's social status, because they are usually one of the few material remains that have been preserved. Therefore it is of great value to include all possible evidence that is found on the necropoleis. Burial grounds can reveal a lot of information about past societies, not only about the type of graves and grave goods that were given and the chronology of the sites, but also about the age, sex, gender and kinship relations of the people buried there and other things that can help us to understand social structures in the past.109

The essence of humanity is often best expressed during death, which in many cultures, is the ultimate expression of self-perception in life and in afterlife. Death was seen as a mystery and this affected many choices people made during their lifetime. It was one of the highlights of the human life. Some scholars call death 'the origin and centre of culture' and that it lies 'at the bottom of all facets of humanity, and hence, it is a crucial factor in the development of society.'110 Religions are important because they influence the daily life activities and only through material remains of these activities archaeologists are able to determine social structures during the Iron Age in Latium. The definition of material culture which will be used in this paper is 'those objects manipulated or manufactured by humans'. They are 'the results or leftovers from intentional and unintentional human practise'.111

The highlights in people's lives are universal in function and they are marked by rituals and ceremonies. It is obvious that burials are one of these rituals and that burial customs can reveal a lot about the society the deceased lived in.

The term ritual can be described as 'the performance of ceremonial acts prescribed by tradition or by sacerdotal decree. Ritual is a specific, observable mode of behaviour exhibited by all known societies. It is thus possible to view ritual as a way of defining or describing humans.'112 The meaning of rituals is constantly changing because the context where they are performed in is


C.J. Smith, 1996: 12.

110 F. Fahlander & T. Oestigaard, The Materiality of Death: Bodies, Burials, Beliefs, Bar International Series 1768,

Archaeopress: Oxford, 2008: 2.

111 F. Fahlander & T. Oestigaard, 2008: 1-4. 112 Encyclopædia Brittanica.





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