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Weaned Upon A Time: Studies of the Infant Diet in Prehistory
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies.
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 [en]
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: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-88237ISBN: 978-91-7447-662-0 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-88237DiVA: diva2:610999
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
List of papers
1. Breastfeeding and weaning practices during the Neolithic and early Bronze Age in Poland
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Breastfeeding and weaning practices during the Neolithic and early Bronze Age in Poland
Show others...
(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
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:nbn:se:su:diva-88235 (URN)
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
2. Conformity in diversity? Isotopic investigations of infant feeding practices in two Iron Age populations from southern Öland, Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Conformity in diversity? Isotopic investigations of infant feeding practices in two Iron Age populations from southern Öland, Sweden
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.

Keyword
Breastfeeding, Carbon, Iron age, Nitrogen and sulfur stable isotopes, Palaeodiet, Weaning
National Category
Archaeology
Research subject
Archaeological Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-80057 (URN)10.1002/ajpa.22113 (DOI)000308879100007 ()
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
3. The Milky Way: The implications of using animal milkproducts in infant feeding
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Milky Way: The implications of using animal milkproducts in infant feeding
2012 (English)In: Anthropozoologica, ISSN 0761-3032, E-ISSN 2107-0881, Vol. 47, no 2, 31-43 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Animal milks have been used in infant feeding for at least a few millennia, but this can only have become a common practice after the domestication of dairy animals during the Neolithic. Neolithic population increase has often been attributed to the effect of a reduction in breastfeeding duration on female fertility. It is possible, therefore, that animal milks were first introduced to the infant diet at this time as a replacement for the lost breastmilk. Milks are complex liquids and are species specific. The consumption of the milk of one species by the infants of another thus has implications for the welfare of those infants. This paper reviews some of the differences between the milks of three ruminant species and human milk and discusses what the health consequences of introducing these animal milks to the infant diet are likely to have been. It is argued that, except in extreme circumstances, animal milks would fail to adequately compensate for the reduction in breastmilk consumption. Fermented milk products could however have been valuable weaning foods if consumed alongside other iron-rich products.

Keyword
Milk, Infant Feeding, Breastfeeding, Neolithic, Fermented Milk, Dairying, Farming, Demography, Weaning, Complementary Foods
National Category
Archaeology
Research subject
Archaeological Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-85816 (URN)10.5252/az2012n2a3 (DOI)000313306200004 ()
Funder
EU, FP7, Seventh Framework Programme, 215362
Available from: 2013-01-09 Created: 2013-01-09 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
4. Infant feeding practices at the Pitted Ware Culture site of Ajvide, Gotland
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Infant feeding practices at the Pitted Ware Culture site of Ajvide, Gotland
2014 (English)In: Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, ISSN 0278-4165, E-ISSN 1090-2686, Vol. 42, 42-53 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The infant feeding practices used at the Pitted Ware Culture (PWC) site of Ajvide on the Baltic island of Gotland were investigated using carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratio analysis. The PWC weremarine hunters with a seal-based economy who lived in the Baltic region during the Middle Neolithic, and were contemporary with the farming Funnel Beaker and Boat Axe Cultures. The carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios of bone collagen from adult females (14 individuals) and bone and dentine collagen from subadult individuals (23 individuals, 55 samples) from Ajvide were analysed. The results showed that the majority of infants continued breastfeeding into the third or fourth year of life. There was some variation in the types of supplementary foods used and the timing of their introduction, perhaps due to seasonal variation in the availability of different resources. One infant, a neonate, had carbonand nitrogen isotope ratios indicative of a much more terrestrial diet than usually consumed by the PWC, suggesting contact with the Neolithic farming populations in the Baltic region. Comparison of the results from Ajvide to those from other PWC sites in the Baltic region reveals that both adult and subadult dietary practices differed slightly between sites.

Keyword
Breastfeeding; Weaning; Seasonality; Neolithic; Sweden; Baltic; Stable Isotope; Carbon; Nitrogen; Paleodiet
National Category
Archaeology
Research subject
Archaeological Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-88056 (URN)10.1016/j.jaa.2014.01.001 (DOI)000336562600003 ()
Projects
LeCHE
Funder
EU, FP7, Seventh Framework Programme, MC-ITN 215362 LeCHE.
Available from: 2013-03-12 Created: 2013-03-04 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
5. Children, Childhood and Food: The Diets of Subadults in the Unetice Culture of Southwestern Poland
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Children, Childhood and Food: The Diets of Subadults in the Unetice Culture of Southwestern Poland
2015 (English)In: Forging Identities: the mobility of culture in Bronze Age Europe: report from a Marie Curie project 2009-2012 with concluding conference at Aarhus University, Moesgaard 2012 / [ed] Paulina Suchowska-Ducke, Samantha Scott Reiter, Helle Vandkilde, Oxford: British Archaeological Reports , 2015, Vol. 1, 245-252 p.Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Dietary habits are a means by which social identity is expressed and negotiated and the foods consumed by children reflect both the social status of being a child and membership within other social groups that would eventually come to shape adult identity. Study of the diets of children in prehistory can, thus, provide information about the construction of childhood in the past and also about the perpetuation and negotiation of social structures. In this study, carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analysis was used to investigate the diets of subadults in the Únětice Culture of southwestern Poland. The results show that diets differed quite substantially between individuals, however diet changed very little during the lifetimes of each individual. This indicates that an individual’s social position was ascribed early in life and remained constant thereafter.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, 2015
Series
BAR international series, ISSN 0143-3067 ; 2771
Keyword
Bronze Age, Food, Childhood, Carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes, Poland, Únětice, Social status, Identity
National Category
Archaeology
Research subject
Archaeological Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-88057 (URN)9781407314334 (ISBN)
Conference
12th Nordic Bronze Age Symposium, International Conference: Cultural Mobility in Bronze Age Europe, Aarhus, Denmark, June 6-9, 2012
Funder
EU, FP7, Seventh Framework Programme, 212402
Available from: 2013-03-12 Created: 2013-03-04 Last updated: 2016-11-11Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
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