Social weaning: childhood diet and health in medieval Canterbury, UK

Mahoney, Patrick, Schmidt, Christopher W Schmidt, Deter, Chris, Slavin, Philip, Miszkiewicz, Justyna J. (2015) Social weaning: childhood diet and health in medieval Canterbury, UK. In: American Journal of Physical Anthropology. . p. 1. WILEY-LISS, DIV JOHN WILEY & SONS INC (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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Abstract

Food consumption during the medieval period is understood mainly from adult diet, higher status families, and monastic communities. By contrast, there is little direct evidence for foods consumed by children, or whether their diet corresponded with health and status. Here, we address these questions in skeletal samples from the medieval city of Canterbury. We undertake the first comprehensive intra-specific microwear texture analysis of childhood diet (n=51) and integrate this with histological ‘snap-shots’ of general health from enamel accentuated markings (n=71). An adult comparative sample (n=11) is included. Microwear texture complexity values increased from age 1 to 4yrs while anisotropy values decreased suggesting that foods became harder and required more varied jaw movements during chewing. The 4.1-6 year olds had a significantly lower mean complexity value than younger children. Complexity values increased again while anisotropy decreased in 6.1-9 year olds. Prevalence of accentuated markings peaked at 6 months, early in the second year, and just before age 4yrs. Diet did not relate to childhood status, and adults consumed a greater range of softer and harder foods. Health of the youngest children likely relates to an immature immune system. Correspondence between a softer diet and improved health around age 4yrs may indicate the start of ‘social weaning’. Textual evidence refers to lifestyle changes from this age onwards, as children undertook household chores and then work outside the home. This might have provided less opportunity for early childhood dietary staples contaminated with grit, and initially introduced a softer but more nutritious adult food.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Poster)
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > Biological Anthropology
Depositing User: Patrick Mahoney
Date Deposited: 22 Nov 2017 15:28 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 19:52 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/64629 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Slavin, Philip: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6460-145X
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