Meta-analysis on infant feeding practice after weaning in archeological populations in the Holocene using carbon isotopic data
Takumi Tsutaya (The University of Tokyo)
Paper short abstract:
We compiled previously reported stable carbon and nitrogen isotopic data of child bones from 45 archaeological Holocene populations. Results of the meta-analysis suggest that the dietary items and its relative proportions of children after weaning were similar to those of adults in each population.
Paper long abstract:
Infant feeding practice is at the continuum of childbirth and represents a part of perspective on the child-rearing in human population. However, there are less information of child diet in ancient periods. Stable isotopes in body tissues provide a way to reconstruct past human diet because they are signatures of what people have eaten. In this study, we compiled previously reported stable carbon and nitrogen isotopic data of archaeological child bones from 45 populations all over the world, and analyzed them to investigate the general tendency of infant feeding practice in the Holocene. First, the ages at the start and end of weaning process were estimated in each archaeological population from the change in the nitrogen isotopic value, which is a proxy of breast milk intake. Then, the carbon isotopic values, which record the type of consumed dietary items, of children aged after the age at the end of weaning to 10 years were compared to those of adults in the population. As a result, there is little difference in carbon isotopic values between children after weaning and adults in most of the archaeological populations. Our results suggest that the dietary items and its relative proportions of children after weaning were similar to those of adults in most of pre-modern human populations in the Holocene. Furthermore, it appears that this general tendency did not differ with the type of subsistence practiced (i.e. hunting-gathering or not). The isotopic results are also compared to weaning food data from ethnographic meta-analysis.
Cross-cultural perspectives on pregnancy and childbirth: encounters with unknowns at the natal/postnatal juncture