subject: teeth

Residue of Ruminant Milk Identified in Prehistoric Baby Bottles

Residue of Ruminant Milk Identified in Prehistoric Baby Bottles

It has been quite an amazing year for milk-related anthropology research. First came a study in the fall of 2018 on barium levels in the molar of a 250,000 year old Neanderthal fossil that demonstrated the child was weaned between two and three years of age, similar to the age of weaning in modern human populations. Using the same methods on even more ancient teeth, a study published this summer found that australopithecines living 2 million years ago likely weaned one to two years later than modern humans. Then in September, an analysis of plaque on several 6,000-year-old human teeth from Great Britain provided the oldest direct evidence of human consumption of cow, sheep, and goat milk. And to end the year comes a study that combines the topics of weaning and dairy agriculture—organic residue analysis on 3,000-year-old ceramic artifacts suspected of being baby bottles found fatty acids unique to ruminant milk fats, demonstrating cow or sheep or goat milks were used as weaning foods for infants and young children after the advent of agriculture. Read More...

Fossil Teeth Tell Story of Neanderthal Life and Lactation

Fossil Teeth Tell Story of Neanderthal Life and Lactation

New parents use baby books to record the dates of all of their child’s firsts—when they first eat solid foods, take their first steps, cut their first tooth, and say their first words. These books tell part of the child’s life story, allowing parents to reminisce years later about when all of these exciting milestones happened in the life of their child. Researchers that study the evolutionary history of humans are similarly interested in knowing the dates of these developmental milestones in order to recreate life stories for fossil skeletons (albeit for the less sentimental reason of comparing to living humans). Amazingly, teeth—even those from individuals that died hundreds of thousands of years ago—act much like doting parents, capturing every day of childhood as they grow. Read More...

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