Growing Up in the Ice Age: Were Children Drivers of Human Cultural Evolution?

  • October 03, 2022
  • 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
  • Zoom virtual lecture

        April Nowell, Ph.D  

April Nowell is a Paleolithic archaeologist and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Victoria, Canada.  She directs an international team of researchers in the study of Lower and Middle Paleolithic sites in Jordan and collaborates with colleagues on the study of cave art in Australia and France and on ostrich eggshell beads in South Africa.  

In 2016, she and her colleagues working in Jordan published the world’s oldest identifiable blood on stone tools, demonstrating that 300,000 years ago Homo erectus ate a range of animals from duck to rhinoceros.  She is known for her publications on cognitive archaeology, Paleolithic art, the archaeology of children and the relationship between science, pop culture, and the media. Her work has been covered by more than 100 outlets including  The Washington Post, The Guardian, The New York Times, CNN website, Al-Jazeera, The Economist,  CBC’s The National and As It Happens and her blood residue work was named one of Time Magazine’s top 100 discoveries.  Her co-edited volumes include the Archaeology of Night: Life After Dark in the Ancient World and the forthcoming Culturing the Body: Prehistoric Perspectives on Identity and Sociality. She is also the author of the new book Growing Up in the Ice Age: Fossil and Archaeological Evidence of the Lived lives of Plio-Pleistocene Children. Watch her TEDx talk “Paleo Porn” at

Growing Up in the Ice Age: Were Children Drivers of Human Cultural Evolution?

It is estimated that in prehistoric societies children comprised at least forty to sixty-five percent of the population, yet by default, our ancestral landscapes are peopled by adults who hunt, gather, fish, and make stone tools and art. But these adults were also parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles  who had to make space physically, emotionally, intellectually, and cognitively for the infants, children and adolescents around them. The economic, social, and political roles of Ice Age children are often understudied because they are assumed to be unknowable or negligible. Drawing on the most recent data from the cognitive sciences and from the ethnographic, fossil, archaeological, and primate records, this talk challenges these assumptions. By rendering the “invisible” children visible, a new understanding will be gained not only of the contributions that children have made to the biological and cultural entities we are today but also of the Ice Age as a whole.

This event is part of the Fall 2022 Speaker series. Register for the Fall 2022 Event Series.

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