Some 3000 years ago, infants drank animal milk in small cups specially designed for them. According to the German News Agency, scientists reached this conclusion by examining drinking vessels that were used in the prehistoric era.
Julie Dunne, the study's lead author from the University of Bristol, said in a statement: "These very small, evocative, vessels give us valuable information on how and what babies were fed thousands of years ago."
In former studies, researchers found that people used drinking vessels made of ceramic 5000 years ago.
However, they didn't manage to determine what people used to drink in these containers, or whether these small cups featuring a beak-like drinking opening were used for infants, elderly, or patients. The examined baby-friendly prehistoric vessels were found in two cemeteries dating back to the period 800 to 450 years B.C., in which children were buried.
Researchers took samples from the vessels and used a combination of different chemical compounds to detect certain fatty acids, which indicated the use of milk from domesticated ruminants such as cows, goats or sheep.
Katharina Rebay-Salisbury of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, who was involved in the study, explained in a statement that "goat's milk is most similar to human milk and was relatively easily available as sheep, goats and cattle were among the most common domesticated animals. But cow's milk was less suitable because it causes diarrhea and digestive problems in babies, which people knew back then."
The animal milk could have been used according to the researchers to supplement mother's milk, or even in babies weaning.
So far, the evidence for weaning in prehistoric times came mainly from the analysis of skeletons. Scientists had previously discovered vessels dating back to ancient Greece and the Roman Empire.
Researchers believe that infants' sippy cups existed in Old Egypt as well. The scientists plan to expand their study's geographical field in order to examine further similar antiquities.
Rebay-Salisbury emphasized that raising children in prehistoric times was not an easy task. "We are interested in exploring cultural practices of motherhood that have had a massive impact on baby's chances of survival," she added.