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Title: Early life histories : a study of past childhood diet and health using stable isotopes and enamel hypoplasia
Author: Henderson, Rowena Claire
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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The δδ13C and δ15N composition of incremental segments of tooth dentine was used to infer infant and childhood diet in a post-medieval London population, and a hunting and gathering Mesolithic/Neolithic group from Latvia. Health was analysed using defects on the tooth enamel caused by stress, termed enamel hypoplasia. The populations, which differ markedly in their economy, diet and health, were selected because of the difference in childhood experiences between the two groups. The results were used to consider questions about childhood, including how early diet may have been influenced by social factors such as class or status, the effect this could have on population dynamics and how childhood diet and health are related. The results show that the London individuals were rarely breastfed beyond 6 months and in some instances not at all. A small isotopic difference between males and females was observed which could be caused by dietary or physiological differences. The peak incidence of hypoplasia may be related to developmental patterns, rather than stress caused by weaning. The Zvejnieki individuals had a slightly longer breastfeeding duration. Those buried with pendants consumed a different diet in childhood to those without pendants, suggesting a complex social system, possibly indicating that diet was related to the role a person had within the community. There is a suggestion diet may have shifted between the Middle Mesolithic and Late Neolithic, although not dramatically. Neither population have elevated δ13C often associated with breastfeeding. The early life histories of the groups are not compared directly, but general observations concerning the children’s lives are considered. It is concluded that economy is not a reliable predictor of infant feeding strategies, as hunter-gatherers provide children with solid foods at a similar time to industrial groups. Intra-population variability was found to be a feature of all socio-economic groups.
Supervisor: Lee-Thorp, Julia Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Archaeology ; History of childhood ; childhood ; infancy ; breastfeeding ; hunter-gatherers ; Victorian ; stable isotopes ; hypoplasia ; health