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Breastfeeding and weaning practices during the Neolithic and early Bronze Age in Poland
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Archaeological Research Laboratory.
Institute of Archaeology, Warsaw University.
Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences.
Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences.
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(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Infant feeding practices are culturally determined behaviours that have significant repercussions for infant morbidity and mortality rates. Knowledge of the infant feed-ing practices of prehistoric populations is thus important for understanding prehis-toric population dynamics. This study used carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analy-sis to investigate breastfeeding and weaning in Middle Neolithic to Early Bronze Age populations in the Little Poland region. A single Neolithic individual from north-east Poland was also included in the study for comparative purposes. The Little Poland re-gion was occupied by a number of overlapping culture groups during the time period under investigation, and it was predicted that norms and ideals about infant feeding might have differed between these groups. The results show that there was substan-tial variation in the infant feeding practices of these populations, with some infants being breastfed for just six months and others not being fully weaned until over three years of age. Infant feeding also differed between individuals buried in the same bur-ial grounds. At some sites this may be due to the death or illness of the mother while infants were still breastfeeding, however it is also possible that infants were not being forcibly weaned at any particular age. The small sample sizes mean that it is not pos-sible to state with any certainty whether the differences in breastfeeding duration ob-served between the different sites were due to differences in cultural norms about breastfeeding, or were simply the result of local traditions that were independent of broader cultural affiliation. Further research is recommended to explore this question further.

Keyword [en]
Carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes, Little Poland, Infant Feeding, Corded Ware, Bell Beaker, Mier-zanowice, Lengyel, Globular Amphora, Funnel Beaker.
National Category
Archaeology
Research subject
Archaeological Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-88235OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-88235DiVA: diva2:610642
Projects
Individual Relations – Cultural Diversity and Interaction in Neolithic Poland
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2009-1722
Available from: 2013-03-12 Created: 2013-03-12 Last updated: 2013-03-14
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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