Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Sippy Cups

Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

Some clay vessels "with open tops (that) fit easily in an adult hand" with "thin spouts jutting out of them" have puzzled archaeologists. What were they used for?

In an article in Science, chemical residues were found inside "three vessels...found in children's graves from the Bavaria region of Germany (1200 B.C.E. to 450 B.C.E.)"...contain "fatty acid from milk." The vessels are thought to be the world's oldest baby bottles."

Lizzy Wade, writing for Science, reports. There is a picture of three of them.

In a Nature commentary essay, Sian Halcrow, a bioarcheologist at the University of Otago (New Zealand) who was not involved in the research writes,

For years, many archaeologists ignored children when studying ancient populations, but researchers now increasingly recognize the importance of children when trying to understand the factors affecting earlier societies. One such example concerns a major societal turning point in human prehistory, known as the Neolithic demographic transition, when there is evidence of a substantial increase in fertility and a growth in the number of individuals in human populations compared with that of earlier societies.
The Neolithic period in Europe began roughly around 7000 BC. During the Neolithic, some humans began to move away from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle towards one that depended on crops and domesticated animals. How did this transition to agriculture lead to a baby boom? An exploration of the approaches used to feed infants might provide some of the evidence needed to answer this question. 
"(B)reast milk," as Halcrow notes, "is a perfect baby food, containing carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, digestive enzymes and hormones. It provides protection from infection because it contains numerous types of immune cell. Some of the sugars it contains, although not digested by babies, support certain communities of gut microorganisms , which prevent disease-causing microbes from establishing a presence in the body. By contrast, animal-milk products do not provide a complete nutritional source for infants. And the use of hard-to-clean bottles for animal milk poses a risk of exposure to life-threatening infections such as gastroenteritis. The introduction of milk in bottles during the Neolithic, therefore, might have led to a deterioration in the health of some infants."

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