ADVERTISEMENT

Post-weaning Diet In Archaeological Human Populations

There are two unique evolutionary characteristics in human childhood. First, human children take a longer time to acquire the physical and reproductive capacity of adults, compared with closely related primate species like the chimpanzee. Second, food provisioning from older individuals after the end of weaning is essential for the survival and health of human children. Food provisioning to the immature post-weaning individual has never be seen in non-human wild primates.

Food provisioning to post-weaning children enabled relatively higher fertility and lower mortality in humans. Although the cost of breastfeeding was mainly taken by mothers, food provisioning to post-weaning children can be done by others. The burden of childcare disperses from mothers to other members of the population by food provisioning. Children are inferior in food acquisition, and provisioned foods benefit their survival and health, especially if they are diseased or injured. These features of food provisioning enable a mother’s time and energy to concentrate more on future offspring and thus support higher fertility rates without increasing the mortality rates of offspring.

ADVERTISEMENT

Childhood diet includes foods obtained by self-acquisition, as well as provisioning. Children mostly adopt alternative foraging strategies and obtain different foods than adults, because of their immature skills and physical strength. Also, the type of food provisioned possibly differs with culture and environment of the human populations. However, human diet in post-weaning childhood has rarely been studied cross-culturally.

In this study, post-weaning childhood diet was investigated in diverse human populations in past by using published data of stable isotope analysis. Carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes are the natural tracers of food source. Dietary difference between the children and adults in the same population can be reconstructed by comparing the stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios of skeletons from the archaeological site.

Results of the meta-analysis of maximum 36 skeletal populations from 10,000 to a few hundred years before present around the world indicated that:

  • Diets of the post-weaning children and adults are generally similar. This result is consistent with the evolutionary characteristics of food provisioning to children in humans.
  • But in non-hunter-gatherer (agricultural and urban) populations, post-weaning children probably consumed a slightly larger proportion of plant foods than the adults in the same population.

Clarification of detailed causes and consequences of this slight dietary differences in non-hunter-gatherer human populations awaits for future study because the limited sample size and information in the archaeological dataset prevent further investigation. However, cultural beliefs and behavioral and physiological characteristics of human post-weaning children would be related.

ADVERTISEMENT

This study, Post-weaning diet in archaeological human populations: A meta-analysis of carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios of child skeletons was recently published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

Comments

READ THIS NEXT

Sustainable Energy Production Over Molybdenum Carbide-Based Nanocomposite

Rational design and synthesis of appropriate, eco-friendly, and cost-effective catalysts with preserved chemical and energy functionalities is a vital research […]

Using An Electrochemical Approach To Show That TP Binds To DNA Nucleobases

Exposure of deoxyribonucleic acid to endogenous or exogenous chemical and physical agents often leads to conformational changes in DNA structure. […]

The Role Of Aeration In Floating Treatment Wetlands

Water availability and supply dynamics are issues of great concern to society. Water quality also influences water availability dynamics because […]

No More Graph Clustering Algorithms, Please: Disjoint Clustering Algorithms Now Able To Detect Overlapping Clusters

Published by Tanmoy Chakraborty IIIT Delhi, India These findings are described in the article entitled Ensemble-based overlapping community detection using […]

When Melancholia Adds To Breathlessness: Is There A Link Between Asthma And Depression?

Asthmatics often suffer from depression and anxiety disorders. Why that is the case has now been investigated in twins. Now […]

Mindset: An Often Overlooked Factor In Nutrition And Health

When it comes to nutrition, it’s often assumed that the physiological effects of a food item are directly attributable to […]

A Novel Approach To Identify Genetic Signatures Of Clinical Outcome To Ipilimumab

Immune therapies focused on unleashing the body’s own immune system against cancer have heralded a revolution in clinical oncology. Dramatic […]

Science Trends is a popular source of science news and education around the world. We cover everything from solar power cell technology to climate change to cancer research. We help hundreds of thousands of people every month learn about the world we live in and the latest scientific breakthroughs. Want to know more?