Those who died very young—Inferences from δ15N and δ13C in bone Collagen and the absence of a neonatal line in enamel related to the possible onset of breastfeeding

Siebke, Inga; Moghaddam, Negahnaz; Cunningham, Craig A.; Witzel, Carsten; Lösch, Sandra (2019). Those who died very young—Inferences from δ15N and δ13C in bone Collagen and the absence of a neonatal line in enamel related to the possible onset of breastfeeding. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 169(4), pp. 664-677. Wiley 10.1002/ajpa.23847

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Objectives: Stable isotope analysis has often been used in neonatal remains from archeological contexts to investigate the presence of a signal of breastfeeding and weaning in past populations. Tooth histology on the other hand might be used as an indicator of birth survival. This pilot study aimed to investigate the feasibility of using stable nitrogen (δ15N) and carbon (δ13C) isotope values from neonatal bone Collagen to elucidate if values deviating from the adult female average could indicate breastfeeding and co-occur with the presence of a neonatal line (NNL). The combination of these independent indicators might be useful in clarifying the fate of individuals who died around birth. Materials and Methods: Bone collagen from 21 archeological human and animal specimens was extracted and analyzed via mass-spectrometry for δ15N and δ13C. A verification of the stable isotope results was undertaken using tooth histology on three individuals who were investigated for the presence of a NNL as an indicator of live birth and short survival. Results: The biological age of the human samples varied between 8.5 lunar months (Lm) and 2 postnatal months (Pm) of age. All except one individual exhibited elevated δ15N values compared to the female average. The histological analyses revealed no NNL for this and two further individuals (n = 3). Discussion: The results indicate that elevated nitrogen values of very Young infants relative to a female average in archeological contexts are not necessarily associated with a breastfeeding onset signal, and therefore cannot be used exclusively as a Proxy of birth survival. The elevation might be possible due to various reasons; one could be nutritional, in particular maternal stress during pregnancy or a metabolic disorder of mother and/or her child. In those cases, the evaluation of a NNL might reveal a false breastfeeding signal as seen for two individuals in our sample who have elevated nitrogen values despite the fact no NNL could be observed. Overall, our data Support the growing awareness that bone collagen δ15N values of neonates/infants should not be used as a proxy for breastfeeding or birth survival on its own.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

04 Faculty of Medicine > Service Sector > Institute of Legal Medicine > Anthropology

Graduate School:

Graduate School for Cellular and Biomedical Sciences (GCB)

UniBE Contributor:

Siebke, Inga and Lösch, Sandra

Subjects:

500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology

ISSN:

0002-9483

Publisher:

Wiley

Funders:

[42] Schweizerischer Nationalfonds

Language:

English

Submitter:

Sandra Lösch

Date Deposited:

27 Aug 2019 16:00

Last Modified:

23 Oct 2019 00:00

Publisher DOI:

10.1002/ajpa.23847

PubMed ID:

31050814

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.132588

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/132588

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