The Archaeology of Play Things: Theorising a Toy Stage in the Biography of Objects
Childhood in the Past 2, (2009)
Toys – objects that we can recognise and confidently assert were toys, either through specific association with children, or through comparison with objects that we ‘know’ were toys in other periods – are absent in the settlement archaeology of most pre- and proto-historic periods. There is good reason to argue that children played with things, so why is it so difficult for archaeologists to recognise things that children played with? This paper argues that being a ‘toy’ is a potential characteristic of all objects within a childís environment, and that this transient ‘toy’ stage is not irrecoverable and invisible in archaeological terms if the role of children in the depositional pathway of objects into the archaeological record is reassessed within a child-centred theoretical framework.
The Anglo-Saxon settlement site of Mucking, Essex, was inhabited from the first half of the fifth to the beginning of the eighth century AD (Hamerow 1993). The site was subject to open area excavation in the late 1960s to mid 1970s, and the published excavation results reveal one of the most extensive Early Anglo-Saxon settlements excavated to date, consisting of a complex of at least 203 sunken featured buildings, twenty-seven pits, fifty-three timber-built halls, ditches, trackways and two associated cemeteries.