A new look into prehistoric motherhood

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© Bundesdenkmalamt Austria
A new look into
prehistoric motherhood
What was motherhood like during the Bronze and Iron Ages? e VAMOS project
aims to nd out with innovative archaeological analysis methods. In doing so, it
manages to challenge misconceptions about ‘natural’ childbearing.
There are many things about motherhood that we have come
to consider as set in stone since the dawn of time. But the truth
is, these are just assumptions. As a mother of two young boys,
Katharina Rebay-Salisbury, an archaeologist specialised in the
European Bronze and Iron Ages working at the Austrian Academy
of Sciences in Vienna, knows it all too well.
“There is a considerable amount of political debate in Europe
on how to best support working mothers in their careers while
providing optimal substitute care for babies and small children.
In such debates, naïve narratives of ‘prehistoric’ and ‘natural’
childrearing are frequently misused as political arguments. You’ll
hear either that mothers should never be separated from their
babies, or that child-rearing used to be communal,” she explains.
Whilst the three millennia preceding the rise of Rome are
generally considered as one of the foundations upon which our
societies are built, the truth is that we don’t know much about
what it meant to be a mother back then.
Was social status already impacting the number of surviving
children? When did women first become mothers and how many
Burial of a 12-14 year-old girl from Franzhausen
CORDIS Results Pack on gender frontier research
Advancing innovative ideas and perspectives on gender

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