Session: #87

Theme & Session Format

6. Material culture studies and societies
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

The Material Culture of Attachment: Social Bonds, Childhood and Emotionally Important Objects
Humans are intensely social creatures, capable of forming strong emotional attachments to others throughout life. These bonds emerge during childhood between children and their caregivers, who ideally provide the child with a sense of security, which serves as the foundation of the child’s wellbeing and ability to thrive in other relationships in later life. Yet attachment is not exclusively interpersonal, but can also include material culture. Thus, as archaeologists, there is clearly scope to study these attachment bonds using archaeological approaches to material culture.

This session will discuss and theorize the archaeological evidence for attachment bonds, with a focus on both childhood and material culture. How can material culture or osteological evidence provide insights into these bonds or the lack of them? How do difficulties and trauma during childhood affect not only the lives of children but adults as well? What archaeological evidence exists for traumatic experiences to be inherited from one generation to the other? These may be evident through examining the evolution of child-mother bonds during breastfeeding, studying generational and intergenerational effects of conflicts, identifying signs of caregiving in osteological materials, or looking at funerary material through the lenses of attachment and resilience.

Similarly, while attachment is often studied in relation to childhood, this session also welcomes papers which explore the impact of attachment in adolescence and adulthood. Why do certain objects and places become so emotionally significant to us? What long-term impacts do these attachments have on our lives and our relationships with others? How can we, as archaeologists, look for traces of attachment in the archaeological record?

While the expression of attachment may be culturally bound, the theme is intercultural. We are interested in both theoretical approaches and research on and around the topic with wide cultural and temporal scope.
social bonds, childhood, attachment, emotions, osteology, trauma
Session associated with MERC:
Session associated with CIfA:
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Main organiser:
Sanna Lipkin (Finland) 1
Taryn Bell (United Kingdom) 2
Tiina Väre (Finland) 1
1. University of Oulu
2. University of York