When Death Comes, He Steals the Infant:

Children and Mortuary Practice on the Giza Plateau of Egypt

Children have often been described as being ‘invisible’ in the archaeological record. However, mortuary contexts offer a distinct category in archaeology where the actual physical remains of non-adults can be identified. While still problematic, as child burials offer a glimpse of how children were perceived in death rather than of how they functioned within society when alive, the remains of the youngest members of society nevertheless have the potential to add to our understanding of the place of children in ancient societies. The Wall of the Crow Cemetery in Giza offers an opportunity to investigate how the mortuary treatment of children changed over time in the non-elite local population. The cemetery has been under excavation since 2000 by Ancient Egypt Research Associates (AERA), and to date, 348 primary burials have been recovered from the site. Of these, 112 (32%) belonged to individuals under the age of 12. A recent analysis of the pottery associated with the burials has allowed several temporal phases to be recognized in the cemetery, with the majority of the burials dating to the 25th dynasty to Saite period, and a smaller number of burials to the early Roman period, i.e. first to second century CE, and the Old Kingdom, respectively. In all three phases, children were interred in a manner dissimilar to adults. This lecture will give an overview of the changes in mortuary treatment across time afforded to the Giza children, and how these changes may reflect attitudes toward premature death in Ancient Egyptian society.