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An interdisciplinary research collaborative
investigating the pasts, presents, and futures of
forager & mixed-subsistence children's lives


Check out this new paper by Guillermo Zorrilla-Revilla & colleagues examining energetic differences by sex in gathering-related activities among Spanish children and adolescents.

Gathering is Not Only for Girls: No Infuence of Energy Expenditure on the Onset of Sexual Division of Labor

Guillermo Zorrilla‐Revilla · Jesús Rodríguez · Ana Mateos

Abstract: In some small-scale societies, a sexual division of labor is common. For subadult hunter-gatherers, the onset of this division dates to middle childhood and the start of puberty; however, there is apparently no physiological explanation for this timing. The present study uses an experimental approach to evaluate possible energetic differences by sex in gathering-related activities. The energetic cost of gathering-related activities was measured in a sample of 42 subjects of both sexes aged between 8 and 14 years. Body mass and other anthropometric variables were also recorded. Our results show that the energetic differences in the simulated gathering activities depend only on body mass. Both sexes expend a similar amount of energy during locomotion activities related to gathering. Discarding the energetic factor, the sexual division of tasks may be explained as an adaptation to acquire the skills needed to undertake the complex activities required during adulthood as early as possible. Carrying out gathering activities during childhood and adolescence could be favored by the growth and development cycles of Homo sapiens. Moreover, if most of the energetic costs of gathering activities depend on body mass, the delayed growth in humans relative to other primates allows subadults to practice these tasks for longer periods, and to become better at performing them. In fact, this strategy could enable them to acquire adults' complex skills at a low energetic cost that can be easily subsidized by other members of the group.

Click here to access the paper, out now in Human Nature.

Check out this new article in NPR by Michaeleen Doucleff on cross-cultural variation in parenting.

Are We Raising Unhelpful, Bossy Kids? Here's The Fix.

Mackenzie Cory has just published a very interesting article in Evolutionary Human Sciences on identifying children's activities in the archaeological record.

Playing with method: testing one approach towards identifying the places of past children

Abstract: Before approaching larger questions surrounding the role of children as agents of innovation in the past, we must first be able to confidently archaeologically identify their presence within social spaces. While previous research has broken down some assumptions surrounding the use of material culture by children, there still exists a considerable gap in the identification of features relating to children's activities in the archaeological record. The identification of play areas at archaeological sites contributes to a better understanding of the artefacts located in proximity to them, increasing the accuracy of interpretations of the past. This paper presents a possible methodological solution to identifying children's spaces in the archaeological record of North America's Northwest Plains. The historic record indicates that Indigenous children engaged in domestic play using several varieties of play tipis, some of which have potential to be identified in the archaeological record as small stone circles. I examine if there is any significant difference between stone circles possibly representing play areas from those representing hearths based on the feature attributes identified from archival collections. Analysis of these features from nine Wyoming counties reveals significant differences between hearths and play tipis.