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New findings: Stone Age Europeans also fed their babies with "feeding bottles"

Ancient feeding bottle
Modern baby drinks from a reconstructed cup of the type used to feed Stone Age babies. Photo: Helena Seidl da Fonseca

A research team at the University of Bristol has found the first evidence that ancient babies were fed with animal milk using the equivalent of modern feeding bottles.

About 7,000 years ago, during the Neolithic or Neolithic, special cups began to appear in Europe, possibly used to feed babies. During the Bronze and Iron Ages, these cups became increasingly common, but it has not been possible to say with certainty how they were used.

The small cups are usually designed so that a baby can hold it by himself, and it has a small pouring spout through which liquid can be sucked. As you can see in the picture below of Bronze Age beakers, they were sometimes shaped like animals.

Late Bronze Age cups found in Vösendorf, Austria, used to feed babies. Photo: Enver-Hirsch, Wien Museum

Now researchers have investigated whether these cups were actually used to feed babies. The study selected three specimens that have been found in children's graves in Bavaria, Germany. Chemical and isotopic analysis of liquid residues from inside the vessels has now enabled the researchers to identify the liquids as milk from cows, sheep and goats for the first time.

Isn't it fascinating?

It's funny how, even today, when I hear the word "Stone Age", I instinctively conjure up an image of a primitive caveman, wooden mallet in one hand, dragging a woman by the hair with the other. I have "The Flintstones" to thank for that, I suppose.

Our ancestors were much more sophisticated than that. That's not surprising, given that even in the Stone Age, humans possessed the same cognitive capacity, the same ability to think, as a modern human.

This discovery also brings to mind the plethora of modern, processed powder substitutes on store shelves, with ingredient labels that can make you dizzy. Isn't it strange how we "suddenly" have to fill the shopping trolley with lab-produced infant formula when Homo sapiens (i.e. we, modern man) have survived without it in literally hundreds of thousands of years? Does it make sense? Is it really the best, most nutritious and healthy option for young children in their most basic stage of development in life?

I am not convinced. The best thing for a child is, of course, the mother's own milk. The next best thing? If we are to believe in thousands of years of accumulated experience, we might suggest a base of fat and nutrient-dense cow's milk, sheep's milk or goat's milk. It's ancient.

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2 thoughts on “Nya rön: Stenålderns européer matade också sina bebisar med ”nappflaska”

    • Daniel Sjöberg says:

      Hey Love! A common misconception is that there were no old men and women in the Stone Age. This is of course not true. The low life expectancy is due to the fact that so many people died as newborns or small children, which makes such a figure seriously misleading. Once you survived infancy, it was not at all uncommon to live to be 70+ years old even in the Stone Age, as a 2007 study in Population and Development Review, among others, shows.

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