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Child Labor In The Bronze Age

Austria — Deep in the Hallstatt salt mine, archaeologists discovered a tattered leather shoe that has been well-preserved for nearly 3,000 years, along with other small shoes, as well as woolen and leather caps. The tattered shoe was said to have fit on a child under 10 years old. This finding gave archaeologists a glimpse of the life in this place during the Bronze and Iron Ages.

“We must conclude … children were regularly and in large numbers employed for underground mining,” wrote Fritz Eckart Barth, the archaeological site’s director in 1992, when the slipper was analyzed.
In the years since the shoes and caps spurred investigations at Hallstatt, scientists have assembled a vivid picture of the child laborers’ lives based on artifacts and bones. Wear and tear on their skeletons, in particular, suggests the youngest miners performed specific tasks at the site.

This study stands out from other archaeological studies of ancient children, as this tries to reconstruct what their lives have been in the past, compared to other studies which usually just study their physical traits such as height and brain size.

Few studies have re-created everyday experiences — how kids played, learned and labored.

This one clearly was an example of those few studies.

As a subject of scientific inquiry, “the archaeology of childhood is quite recent,” says Queen’s University Belfast researcher Mélie Le Roy. Archaeologists at Hallstatt and elsewhere are just beginning to uncover children’s contributions to ancient societies.

Know more about the history of the Hallstatt salt mine over at Discover Magazine.

(Image Credit: A. Rausch/NHM Vienna/ Discover)

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You might have a point in that. I mean, it's normal to have children accompanying their parents in the past. We can also say that they might have started apprenticeship at a very young age.
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I was going to suggest that maybe the child was in the salt mines, but wasn't necessarily a child laborer. But I guess with so much data collected, the chances are better than average. What I was going to say was - perhaps the child was simply there (with mom or dad) and not actually laboring. I mean, imagine how unreliable daycare was back then. Daycare today hasn't gotten much better. I think its possible kids were still *at work* sometimes, because the parents had no other options. I'm not saying for sure that shoe didn't belong to a child laborer tho. Just a thought I had.
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