Scientists have said that baby bottles discovered in prehistoric graves have given them important information about how prehistoric parents raised their children. The bottles were discovered alongside the bodies of infants who died many thousands of years ago and still contained traces of milk.
Additionally, the bottles had been made into the shapes of mythical animals and scientists think they can help shed some light on what could have been a Neolithic baby boom.
It is well known that around 7,000 years ago human society started to move towards larger settlements. Communities moved away from hunter-gathering and towards agriculture which provided a greater ability to feed larger groups of people and is a pivotal moment in the development of human civilization.
This early form of society led to the development of villages, towns, and cities and is the precursor of the society that we enjoy today.
Scientists have published the results of their research in Nature following the excavation of infants graves found in Germany. The graves have been dated as far back as the Iron and Bronze Ages; one as early as 1200-800BC, the other at around 800-450BC.
The bones found buried there indicate that the children would have been between 0-6 years of age when they died. The bottles were discovered when scientists excavated the site some 20-30 years ago but they have only recently been available for study.
Looking For Context
To find out the purpose of the bottles, if they were for children or for feeding the sick, for example, the scientists wanted to look for vessels that had specifically been found in the graves of infants. Contextually, it would seem that these bottles would have been used for children and were likely to have been used to feed them.
There were residues present within the bottles and further analysis indicated that these were traces of milk. Two showed traces of what is likely to be cow or sheep milk, the other may have been obtained from a pig or human being and seems to prove that our Neolithic ancestors were happy to feed their children milk from animals to supplement their diet.
There were some vessels from the same period, including the infant bottles, that had been shaped like mythical animals but these were less common than their plain counterparts. It could mean that the people spent more care and time over bottles for babies, showing a level of affection and care, and allowing us some insight into the people of the past.
The agricultural lifestyle meant that there was more food available and milk was one of these new foods. Better access to food seems to have been a factor in the rise in population in the Neolithic Age and the availability of milk would have brought with it earlier weaning, increasing the rate of new pregnancies.
The bottles were found alongside other items like toys and were likely to be grave goods for lost children. This could indicate that there may have been a religious component to life, perhaps with a belief in the afterlife, although it is not possible to know for sure. Whatever the reason the bottles ended up in the graves, they still give a fascinating insight into the life of early man.