Nov 1, 2016

Weaning practices among pastoralists: New evidence of infant feeding patterns from Bronze Age Eurasia

American Journal of Physical Anthropology
Alicia Ventresca MillerDmitry Razhev

Abstract

This paper investigates infant feeding practices through stable carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotopic analyses of human bone collagen from Kamennyi Ambar 5, a Middle Bronze Age cemetery located in central Eurasia. The results presented are unique for the time period and region, as few cemeteries have been excavated to reveal a demographic cross-section of the population. Studies of weaning among pastoral societies are infrequent and this research adds to our knowledge of the timing, potential supplementary foods, and cessation of breastfeeding practices. Samples were collected from 41 subadults (<15 years) and 27 adults (15+ years). Isotopic reference sets from adult humans as well as faunal remains were utilized as these form the primary and complementary foods fed to infants. Slight shifts in δ13C and δ15N values revealed that weaning was a multi-stage process (breastfeeding, weaning, and complete cessation of nursing) that began at 6 months of age, occurred over several years of early childhood, and was completed by 4 years of age. Our results indicate that weaning was a multi-stage process that was unique among late prehistoric pastoralist groups in Eurasia that were dependent on milk products as a supplementary food. ...Continue Reading

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Mentioned in this Paper

Study
Central
Middle Region of Body
Patterns
Research
Diet
Food
History, Ancient
Carbon
Human Bone for Identification

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