The late Bronze Age feeding vessels of Vosendorf, Austria, are seen in this image released on September 25, 2019. Enver-Hirsch Museum / Wien / Disclosure via REUTERS
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ceramic pots, sometimes molded into whimsical animal shapes, were used thousands of years ago as baby bottles to feed animal milk, scientists said, offering an intriguing insight into how and which babies were fed. in prehistoric times.
Archaeologists said on Wednesday that they confirmed the function of these ceramic objects by finding chemical traces of milk belonging to animals such as cows, sheep and goats in three of these items found buried in children's graves in Germany.
The oldest of the three ships described in the study was manufactured between 2,800 and 3,200 years ago during the Bronze Age. Other similar objects dating back about 7,000 years ago during Neolithic times were found in several other locations, the researchers said.
"I think this provided us with the first direct evidence of what foods the baby was eating or weaning in prehistory," said biomolecular archaeologist Julie Dunne of the University of Bristol, Britain, lead author of the study published in the journal. Nature "I think it shows us the love and care these prehistoric people had for their babies."
These objects, small enough to fit into a baby's hands, served as milk vessels with a narrow spout for the baby to suck up. While the three objects examined for the study were somewhat clear, others boasted lively shapes, including long-eared or horned animal heads and human-looking feet.
“I find them incredibly cute. And prehistoric people may have thought so too – they would certainly have a dual function of entertaining children, like modern stuffed animals, ”said archaeologist Katharina Rebay-Salisbury of the Institute of Eastern and European Archeology at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. , co-author of the study.
"They testify to the creativity and fun we often forget to attribute to our ancestors," Rebay-Salisbury added.
Life at the time was not easy, Rebay-Salisbury added, with many people living in unhygienic conditions, experiencing hunger and disease and facing low life expectancy. During the Bronze Age and the subsequent Iron Age in Europe, perhaps about one-third of all newborns died before their first birthday, and only half of all children reached adulthood, Rebay-Salisbury said.
These feeding vessels can make life easier for mothers, as animal milk can replace breastfeeding, the researchers said. "The duties of motherhood – of which feeding is important – can also be performed by other community members when children are fed with feeding vessels," said Rebay-Salisbury.
Will Dunham report; Editing by Sandra Maler
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