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WEaning practices in ANcient ITaly: from Neolithic farmers to the first cities

Project description

Neolithic weaning in the context of urbanisation

The first permanent villages date back to Neolithic times – a period of transition from hunting and gathering to farming and settlement. Gradually, these villages became the first densely-populated urban centres. The mother-child relationship provides an excellent window on biocultural cause and effect. WEAN-IT is studying weaning age in Italy during this critical transition to determine if weaning age had differed for girls and boys. Analyses of bones and teeth from skeletons of that time will also help inform modern society about weaning and its relation to bone growth.


Weaning age directly reflects the way infants are cared for within a human society. It is linked to female fertility, maternal and non-maternal care strategies, social stratification, infant growth and even adult heath. Yet, we know almost nothing about the way weaning age developed during recent human evolution. This project focuses on a critical period in human evolution in Italy that led to major socio-economic changes as Neolithic farming economies gave way to the first cities. The goal in this project is to reconstruct weaning age in extensive collections of human skeletons that span these periods of transitions. I will integrate microstructural, histological and chemical signals of weaning in bones and teeth. Using recently developed cutting edge methodology I will determine for the first time if weaning age differed between the sexes. I will use this information to re-assess existing ideas and hypotheses about the biocultural consequences accompanying the Neolithic revolution and the origins of urbanism to bring a new understanding to this debate. This project adds value and competitiveness to the bioarchaeological research landscape in Europe, thanks to its innovative multi-methodological approach. Not only will my project be of interest to a broad range of academics within the social sciences but it can inform present day public health policy as I will directly measure the effect of weaning on bone growth. Results will be published in high-impact scientific journals and presented at international conferences. Particular attention will be dedicated to dissemination through the media to reach a broader non-academic audience.


Net EU contribution
€ 224 933,76
CT2 7NZ Canterbury, Kent
United Kingdom

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South East (England) Kent East Kent
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 224 933,76