ABOVE: A variety of pottery, including vessels shaped like animals, has been found at prehistoric sites and may have been used to feed babies (the vessels pictured were not the ones analyzed for fatty acids).

Scientists described evidence yesterday (September 25) in Nature that suggests infants in prehistoric times were given animal milk to drink. A team led by Julie Dunne and Richard Evershed at the University of Bristol analyzed three spouted, clay vessels from the graves of Bronze Age and Iron Age infants and found that the artifacts contained fatty acids, likely from the milk of ruminant animals such as cows, goats, or sheep.

A baby tries out a reconstructed vessel similar to those made thousands of years ago that the researchers studied.

The three bottles that the researchers examined, dated from 1200–450 BCE, represent the earliest known evidence of...

J. Dunne et al., “Milk of ruminants in ceramic baby bottles from prehistoric child graves,” doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1572-x, Nature, 2019.

Emily Makowski is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at emakowski@the-scientist.com.

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