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Conformity in diversity? Isotopic investigations of infant feeding practices in two Iron Age populations from southern Öland, Sweden
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Archaeological Research Laboratory.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Archaeological Research Laboratory.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Archaeological Research Laboratory.
2012 (English)In: American Journal of Physical Anthropology, ISSN 0002-9483, E-ISSN 1096-8644, Vol. 149, no 2, 217-230 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article presents the results of a study of infant diet at two Iron Age sites on the island of Öland, Sweden. The cemetery at Bjärby contained a large number of subadults who had survived the earliest years of life, whereas most individuals at Triberga had died by 6 months of age. To investigate whether differences in infant feeding could explain the different mortality rates, the carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur stable isotope ratios of bone and tooth dentin collagen from the two sites were analyzed. Twenty-two samples from Triberga and 102 from Bjärby yielded data that could be included in the carbon and nitrogen analysis. Twelve samples from Triberga and 42 from Bjärby were included in the sulfur analysis. The results for carbon (δ13C: Triberga X = -18.8, s.d. = 1.1; Bjärby X = -19.8, s.d. = 0.4), nitrogen (δ 15N: Triberga X = 12.9, s.d. = 1.5; Bjärby X = 13.4, s.d. = 1.4), and sulfur (δ34S: Triberga X = 8.1, s.d. = 1.1; Bjärby X = 5.8, s.d. = 1.3) suggest that diet was broadly similar at both sites and based on terrestrial resources. At Bjärby, females and high-status individuals consumed higher-trophic level protein than other males from early childhood onward. There was some indication that the contribution of marine resources to the diet may also have differed between the sexes at Triberga. No consistent differences in breast milk intake were observed between the two sites, but there was substantial variation at each. This variation may reflect an influence of gender and social status on infant feeding decisions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 149, no 2, 217-230 p.
Keyword [en]
Breastfeeding, Carbon, Iron age, Nitrogen and sulfur stable isotopes, Palaeodiet, Weaning
National Category
Archaeology
Research subject
Archaeological Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-80057DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.22113ISI: 000308879100007OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-80057DiVA: diva2:552037
Funder
EU, FP7, Seventh Framework Programme, 215362
Note

Correspondence Address: Howcroft, R.; Archaeological Research Laboratory, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm University, rachel.howcroft@arklab.su.se

Available from: 2012-09-17 Created: 2012-09-12 Last updated: 2017-12-07Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Weaned Upon A Time: Studies of the Infant Diet in Prehistory
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Weaned Upon A Time: Studies of the Infant Diet in Prehistory
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis is concerned with how prehistoric infants were fed in different physical and cultural environments, and in particular what impact the economic, social, and epidemiological changes associated with the development of agriculture had on infant feeding practices. In order to examine these effects, stable isotope ratio analysis has been used to assess the duration of breastfeeding and weaning in a variety of prehistoric contexts. The first study is of Pitted Ware Culture hunter-gatherers at the site of Ajvide on Gotland, Sweden. Breastfeeding usually continued for at least two years, but there was some variation in supplementary foods, which is attributed to seasonal variations in resource availability. The second study analysed a number of Neolithic and early Bronze Age sites from south-east Poland. Breastfeeding duration varied both within and between sites and ranged from six months to five years. The third study found that the infant feeding practices of two Iron Age populations on Öland, Sweden, were very varied, and infants may have been fed differently depending on their social status. The fourth study is of the childhood diet in the Únětice Culture of south-west Poland. Individual diets changed little during the lifetime, suggesting that eventual adult identity was determined early in life. A small number of infants in the study were found to have breastfed for differing lengths of time. The final paper considers the health consequences of introducing animal milks into the infant diet in a prehistoric context, and finds that their availability is unlikely to have made it possible to safely wean infants earlier.

Comparison of the results from the four stable isotope studies to those of other published studies reveals that the modal age at the end of weaning was slightly lower in agricultural communities than hunter-gatherer communities, but the range of ages was similar. Weaning prior to the age of eighteen months was rare before the post-medieval period. It is argued that the gradual reduction in breastfeeding duration since the Neolithic, and the replacement of breastmilk with animal milk products, means that on the whole the development of agriculture probably served to increase infant morbidity and mortality.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm University, 2013. 96 p.
Series
Theses and papers in scientific archaeology, ISSN 1400-7835 ; 14
Keyword
Infant Feeding, Breastfeeding, Weaning, Milk, Diet, Fertility, Neolithic, Agriculture, Hunter-Gatherer, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Prehistory, Carbon and Nitrogen Stable Isotope Ratios, Bone, Dentine
National Category
Archaeology
Research subject
Archaeological Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-88237 (URN)978-91-7447-662-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-04-19, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 12, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Projects
Lactase Persistence and the early Cultural History of Europe (LeCHE)
Funder
EU, FP7, Seventh Framework Programme, 215362
Note

At the time of doctoral defense the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1: Manuscript; Paper 4: Accepted; Paper 5: Forthcoming 2014

Available from: 2013-03-26 Created: 2013-03-12 Last updated: 2013-08-06Bibliographically approved

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