The study focused on three bowls from the Iron and Bronze Ages discovered in children’s graves in Bavaria, Germany. Two of the bowls were found in a cemetery dating to between 800 BC and 450 BC, while the third bowl came from a cemetery dating to between 1200 BC and 800 BC, AFP reported.
The bowls, which feature narrow spouts, were long suspected to have been used as baby bottles, especially because they are often shaped like animals. Super cute!
Using chemical analysis, the researchers found that the bowls were used to hold milk from pigs, humans or cows, confirming their suspicions that the vessels were used for infant feeding purposes.
Lipids or fatty acids found in milk can actually absorb into ceramic and survive for thousands of years.
“What we know from years of experimental work is that fats absorb into the ceramic matrix of the vessel and are often preserved there,” Dunne explained, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Because of that, lipids do survive in about 80% of the assemblages we’ve looked at.”
After cleaning the ceramic vessels and then grinding parts of them into powder, the researchers were able to separate from the lipids from the ceramic by analyzing the powder.
According to Dunne, the revelation connects us to people in the past.
"They are almost toys as well as baby bottles and surely would have made the infants laugh," she said of the bowls. "I think this shows us the love and care these prehistoric people had for their babies and gives us a very real connection to people in the past.”
Dunne also noted that ancient Greeks and Romans used similar contraptions to feed their babies.
“We know the ancient Greeks were using similar vessels, also the Romans, and some have been found in prehistoric Sudan in North Africa,” she said. “It would be fantastic to do a really large-scale study to see if they are always used to hold milk or if they had other foods processed in them.”