The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Weaning, age identities and embodiment in the South Central Andes: a preliminary paleodietary investigation using carbon and oxygen stable isotope analysis


1School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, 2Department of Anthropology, University of Vermont

Friday 10:30-10:45, Parlors Add to calendar

Andean ethnographic and ethnohistoric documents demonstrate that the weaning process played a significant role in the embodiment of social connections and transitions across the life course. Current knowledge of infant feeding practices in the prehistoric Andes consists of a small body of bioarchaeological research. Using light stable isotope data from thirteen individuals from the Middle Horizon (500-1000AD) Tiwanaku-affiliated Bolivian sites of Kirawi, Lukurmata and Tiwanaku, we investigate whether weaning was rigidly structured within these communities, or a process with pan-Andean chronological, biological or social cues.

We use the stable carbon and oxygen isotope signals of enamel to monitor the processes of dietary supplementation (δ13C) and changing water sources (δ18O) associated with weaning. Carbon and oxygen stable isotope results demonstrate inconsistency in weaning times within sites. Across sites, the highest δ18O values are associated with first molars (x̄δ18O apatite= -8.2‰ ±1.9, 1σ, n=9) with a decrease in later forming teeth (P3, M2, M3: x̄δ18O apatite= -11.2‰ ±1.2, 1σ, n=6), indicating juveniles were commonly weaned within three years of birth. Stable carbon isotope values are elevated in first molars and incisors on average 0.9‰ ±0.3 (1σ, n=40) over later forming dentition, suggesting the introduction of C4 foods between three months and seven years of age.

Results indicate that weaning may have been more closely tied to large-scale Andean social conceptions of aging than community-specific chronological markers. Sex-based distinctions in weaning times and supplemental foods employed during this process indicate gender may have impacted weaning behavior, presenting prolific ground for future research.

This research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

comments powered by Disqus