Isotopic and dental evidence for infant and young child feeding practices in an imperial Roman skeletal sample

Authors

  • Tracy L. Prowse,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Carbondale, IL 62901
    • Department of Anthropology, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Faner Hall Room 3542, Mail Code 4502, 1000 Faner Drive, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA
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  • Shelley R. Saunders,

    1. Department of Anthropology, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada L8S 4L9
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  • Henry P. Schwarcz,

    1. Department of Anthropology, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada L8S 4L9
    2. School of Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada L8S 4K1
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  • Peter Garnsey,

    1. Faculty of History, Jesus College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB5 8BL, UK
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  • Roberto Macchiarelli,

    1. Département de Préhistoire, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, UMR 5198 CNRS, Paris, and Département de Géosciences, Université de Poitiers, 86022 Poitiers, France
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  • Luca Bondioli

    1. Sezione di Antropologia, Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico “L. Pigorini”, P.le G. Marconi, 14 00144 Rome, Italy
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Abstract

This study integrates isotopic, palaeopathological, and historical evidence to investigate infant and young child feeding practices in a Roman period (1st to 3rd centuries AD) skeletal sample from the Isola Sacra necropolis (Rome, Italy). Stable isotope analysis of bone collagen from 37 rib samples indicates that transitional feeding began by the end of the first year and weaning occurred by 2–2.5 years of age. Both δ15N and δ13C data clearly show the trophic level effect associated with breastfeeding. Childhood diet is investigated using dental pathology data in the deciduous dentitions of 78 individuals aged between 1 and 12 years. The presence of calculus, caries, and tooth wear in young children suggests that individuals were provided complementary foods and other items that impacted their dental health at an early age. The isotopic and dental data are generally consistent with the historical evidence from the Roman period with respect to the general timetable of weaning and the character of complementary foods. This is the first study to integrate isotopic and deciduous dental pathology data to explore infant and young child feeding practices in the Roman world. Am J Phys Anthropol 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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