Analysis of Hominin Teeth Tells Us About Prehistoric Breastfeeding Practices

Analysis of growth rings in Australopithecus africanus teeth may tell us about prehistoric hominin's breastfeeding habits. A recent analysis looked at four teeth, recovered from South Africa’s Sterkfontein Cave, belonged to two individuals who lived between 2.6 and 2.1 million years ago. The results suggest that they exclusively breastfed for the first six to nine months of life.

Although other foods were added around the 1st birthday, milk intake also ramped up again each year, over a period of four or five years. Why this yearly return to breastmilk? Perhaps during times of food scarcity, mothers would return to breastfeeding, to ensure their children got enough to eat.

The analysis found an additional piece of evidence suggesting that breastmilk was a starvation-food used to keep young children nourished. Levels of lithium in the teeth rose right before the period of breastfeeding began each year. Such a distinctive biological time-stamp connected to the later-life breastfeeding suggests that the breastfeeding began again each year in the same season, likely corresponding to the time of year when food was scarcest. One can speculate that lithium was high in a specific food source which became available only during a certain season each year (like apples in autumn) -- or which Australopithecus africanus only resorted to when other foods were scarce (like tree bark in winter).

Europe Once Had Giant Ostrichs

These flightless birds were 11 feet tall and weighed nearly half a ton at an estimated 450 kilograms. For context: the ostrich is he largest bird on earth and adult ostriches weigh just 150 kilos (330 lbs).

The Pachystruthio dmanisensis was discovered using a femur bone found in 2018 on the Crimean Peninsula, in the northern Black Sea. Based on other animal remains found in the same cave this particular dmanisensis is estimated to have died between 1.5 and 2 million years ago. It is at the right time to have been around when the first humans migrated to the area!

PreHistoric BYOPs

During the 2000s BCE, Neolithic Britons held annual celebrations at sacred monuments such as Stonehenge. New research reveals that people from all over the island attended these BYOPs — Bring Your Own Pigs. Isotope analysis of porcine bones from several henge sites in southwestern England indicates that the pigs eaten there were not raised locally. Not only did festivalgoers travel from as far away as Scotland, northeastern England, and western Wales, they transported their own pigs with them.

The first known Treatise of Hippology, or study of horses, was written in the Hittite language by a man named Kikkuli around 1300 BCE.

The first blue-feathered prehistoric bird has been detected by science. It’s feathers are long gone, but remains of their pigment were analyzed, and fall on the spectrum of what human eyes call “blue.” The bird lived about 48 million years ago.

Have Capuchin Monkeys Entered Their Own Stone Age?

A new study found that Brazilian bearded capuchins at the Serra da Capivara National Park have been using stone tools to break open cashew nuts. But that's not what's amazing. It turns out their ancestors have been doing the same thing -- for about 3,000 years! The tools appear to have evolved over time. The newest archaeological dig has turned up 122 capuchin stone artefacts of varying sizes, and each is thought to cater to a different hardness or type of food. In other words? This group of capuchin monkeys have their own archaeological record, just like a human society! This is the first known example of long-term tool variation ever discovered outside of humans.

Can You Name A Flying Dinosaur?

That's a trick question -- because in the scientific classification system "dinosaurs" only live on land, and do not fly or live in the water.

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    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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