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

Variation in Infant Feeding Practices in Ancient Greece: Stable Isotope Analysis of Serial Sections of Dentin


1Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Calgary, 2Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta, 3Ephorate of Paleoanthropology and Speleology of Southern Greece, Ministry of Culture and Sports

March 27, 2015 8:15, Grand Ballroom C Add to calendar

Serial sections of dentin collagen from adult teeth are analyzed for stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes from three ancient Greek populations from the Bronze Age (Kalamaki, 3100-1065 BC) and Byzantine periods (Nemea, Stymphalos, 5th-6th c. AD). This approach is used to investigate variation during tooth formation, which reflects infant feeding practices. The permanent first molar and first premolar are obtained from a total of 88 individuals. Each tooth is sectioned horizontally into 5 sequential parts and dentin collagen from each segment is analyzed for δ13C and δ15N. Using this approach, individual isotopic profiles are established. It is also possible to assess sex differences within samples, and variation between sites. From the δ13C and δ15N values, most individuals are weaned between 2 and 3 years of age. However, infant feeding strategies are not consistent within populations. For instance, nitrogen isotope results suggest that some individuals were never breastfed while others were weaned at a later age. Moreover, a sex-based difference is present as males were weaned earlier than females. The stable carbon and nitrogen isotope results also indicate that variation existed in the type of supplementary foods consumed by individuals during weaning. Written records from the Greco-Roman period are also consulted and compared to the stable isotope evidence to comprehend how this childhood process varies in antiquity.