A peek at child mortality in ancient Vietnam

A neolithic(?) site in southern Vietnam reveals an infant burial, curiously positioned with discarded kitchen material suggesting that infant death lacked emotional attachment compared to burials with children of older age.

Excavation sheds new light on child death
Australian National University, 02 July 2009

Excavation at 3000 yr old Vietnam site reveals ancient child deaths
ANI, via Malaysia Sun, 02 July 2009

An archaeological excavation in southern Vietnam of a site more than 3000 years old has shed new light on how the death of young children was viewed by community members and uncovered the oldest clear evidence of rice agriculture in the region.

The excavation, led by Professor Peter Bellwood and Dr Marc Oxenham from the ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology, studied a site 3-4000 years old named An Son. The research team’s findings suggest that death in young children was so common that community members were unlikely to revere the death of their offspring until they had survived for more than five years.

“The burial of a new born baby without any associated grave goods and positioned within discarded kitchen material may suggest high levels of infant mortality, as well as a reduced emotional investment in very young children that may not live long anyway,” said Professor Bellwood.


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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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