Thousands of years ago, ceramic vessels were used as baby bottles to feed infants animal milk, according to scientists. Sometimes these vessels were fashioned into whimsical animal shapes. This offers an intriguing look at how and what infants were fed in prehistoric times.
Archaeologists found three of these ceramic artefacts buried in child graves in Germany. The function of these objects was confirmed by finding traces of milk belonging to animals such as cows, sheep and goats. According to their study, the oldest of these vessels was made between 2,800 and 3,200 years ago during the Bronze Age.
"I think this has provided us the first direct evidence of what foods baby were eating or being weaned on to in prehistory," said biomolecular archaeologist Julie Dunne of the University of Bristol in Britain, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature. "I think this shows us the love and care these prehistoric people had for their babies."
These objects were small enough to fit into a baby's hands and served as vessels for milk, with a narrow spout for the baby to suckle liquid. The ones examined for the study were plain, but the archeologists found others shaped whimsically, like animal heads with long ears or horns, human feet etc.
Archaeologist Katharina Rebay-Salisbury of the Institute for Oriental and European Archaeology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, a study co-author explains, life at that time was not easy. Many people lived in unhygienic conditions, experienced famine and disease outbreaks. Perhaps about a third of all newborns died before they were a year old and only about half of children reached adulthood, Rebay-Salisbury said.
These feeding vessels may have made life easier for mothers, as animal milk could substitute for breastfeeding, the researchers said.