The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

Prehistoric motherhood: diet from pregnancy to baby-led weaning in the Danube Gorges Mesolithic-Neolithic


1Laboratory for Bioarchaeology, Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade, Serbia, 2UMR 7269 LAMPEA, Aix-Marseille University, CNRS, MCC, France, 3UMR 5199 PACEA, Bordeaux University, CNRS, MCC, France

March 27, 2015 8:00, Grand Ballroom C Add to calendar

The Danube Gorges Mesolithic-Neolithic sites (ca. 9500-5500 BC, Balkans) offer a unique osteological collection including well preserved young children (26 gestational weeks to 9 yrs old) discovered in a specific archaeological context (eg. association with adults, deposit of ochre, burial under house floor). This collection provides the opportunity to tackle the issue of Prehistoric motherhood, of particular importance during this period of demographic transition and subsistence changes. Indeed, the quality of nutrition during the pregnancy and the weaning practices have an important influence on females’ fertility and a major impact on the survival of the babies. Our paper presents a multi-sampling strategy (bone, deciduous and permanent teeth) and new multi-element stable isotope data (carbon, nitrogen, sulfur on collagen) from 64 immature individuals from the sites of Padina, Vlasac, Lepenski Vir, Hajdučka Vodenica and Ajmana, located in the right bank of the Danube river. From the results we discuss for the first time longitudinal dietary changes occurring from the pregnancy stage to breastfeeding and baby-led weaning. Compared with previous published data (neonates and adult females), our multi-element stable isotope results allow us to assess specific dietary strategies during pregnancy. Moreover, these new results indicate significant subsistence differences between the Mesolithic children buried inside the Gorges (diversified and mixed diet) and the Early Neolithic ones discovered in Ajmana (mainly meat-based diet) at the entrance of the Gorges. This study opens new prospect regarding both diet and physiology during pregnancy and cultural effects on dietary behaviors during childhood.

Supported by BEAN project (Marie Curie Actions, FP7) and French-Serbian bilateral collaboration (PreFert ; Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France - Ministry of Education Science and Technological Development, Serbia).