The Teeth Don’t Lie

Scientists now know how long Neanderthal mothers breastfed their children, thanks to a new bioimaging technique that incorporates Agilent technology.

In findings recently published in the journal Nature, an international team of scientists examined the layers of enamel and dentin in a well-preserved Neanderthal tooth. The layers mark the passage of time (like tree rings) and the compounds found in them indicate the duration of breastfeeding. In the case of the Neanderthal, they learned, weaning started at seven months and was complete at 15 months.

The researchers used a laser ablation system connected to an Agilent 7500cs ICP-MS.

This technology also promises to take a lot of guess work out of modern-day studies of breastfeeding. Up to now, such studies have had to rely on questionnaires and the memories of mothers.

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Agilent Atomic Spectroscopy