Sarah Holt

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




A. Cannon




Duration of breast feeding and the process of weaning in past populations are of interest to anthropologists because of implications for short and long term health effects, fertility rates and birth spacing, and differential resource access in the earliest years of life. Stable isotope analysis of tissue from archaeological populations can create a picture of weaning patterns, providing one lens for assessing child health in past populations and the process has become widely used in the past three decades. The most frequently utilized method for stable isotope analysis of weaning requires a high frequency of child burials from a range of ages to create a population curve that compares the changes in child diet to the adult mean. By approaching weaning through a population aggregate pattern, however, data on individual variation is lost and with it, any patterns in variability. This study uses a Greek sample from Apollonia Pontica in modem Bulgaria to test the usefulness of approaching stable isotope weaning studies from a multidimensional perspective. By using dental serial sections from a smaller total sample, individuals show dietary levels dependant on age, revealing both population level patterns of a shared cultural weaning standard as well as variation in the diets of individuals. In addition to bypassing several of the major limitations of population aggregate sampling, the serial sampling method provides comparable conclusions to an independent study while simultaneously providing additional data on variability within household diets obscured by the traditional method.

McMaster University Library

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