Milk was discovered in prehistoric bottles from child graves in Germany dating back as far as around 5000 B.C., giving scientists a look into the feeding habits of babies thousands of years ago.
The bottles — which date back to the Neolithic Age in Europe — are believed to have been used for infants, researched published Wednesday in the journal Nature said.
“These very small, evocative, vessels give us valuable information on how and what babies were fed thousands of years ago, providing a real connection to mothers and infants in the past,” Dr. Julie Dunne, the study’s lead author from the University of Bristol’s School of Chemistry, said in a statement.
Made from clay, the bottles found in Bavaria are around 5 to 10 cm across (roughly 2 to 3.9 in), “have a spout through which liquid could be suckled,” and were sometimes shaped like imaginary animals or had feet.
Bottles had milk residue from cattle, goat or sheep inside, along with possible human breast milk or traces from a pig in one bottle.
Dunne detailed in an email to the Daily News how scientists discovered the milk residue.
"We use a combined molecular and isotopic approach which confirmed that all three vessels were used to process milk from ruminants. There may have been a small amount of mixing of other fats, either pig (perhaps in the form of a thin broth) or human breast milk, in one vessel,” Dunne told The News.
While the bottles analyzed in the study were from Bavaria, Dunne said that other sites — including Jebel Moya in Sudan, Africa dating around 3,000 B.C. — had similar vessels.
While the bottles in the study are from the Neolithic Age, scientists said they become more common through the Bronze and Iron Age.
“Similar vessels, although rare, do appear in other prehistoric cultures (such as Rome and ancient Greece) across the world. Ideally, we’d like to carry out a larger geographic study and investigate whether they served the same purpose,” Dunne said.
“Prior to this study, the only evidence for weaning came from isotopic analysis of infant skeletons, "Dunne added, “but this could only give rough guidelines of when children were weaned, not what they were eating/drinking. The study thus provides important information on breastfeeding and weaning practices, and infant and maternal health, in prehistory.”