Proceedings of the Society for California Archaeology
Breast-feeding and weaning are a part of childhood in all human populations, but the exact timing of these milestones varies between groups. As infants incorporate the nutrients from breast milk into their growing bones, chemical evidence is captured in the form of higher stable nitrogen (δ15N) isotope values. This study interprets δ15N values in the bone collagen of children (n = 24) buried at the Yukisma Mound (CA-SCL-38), in Santa Clara County, California. Radiocarbon dates for this site span 2200-250 B.P., but primarily fall during the Late period (740-230 B.P.). In the one probable mother-infant pair available for study, a 2.9 per mil enrichment of δ15N values was observed, consistent with the expected trophic level enrichment of breast-feeding infants. δ15N values of children under seven years old suggest the introduction of weaning foods between 1.5 and 2 years of age, and cessation of breast-feeding by 3 to 3.5 years of age. These results differ from the practices reported in the ethnohistoric literature. This paper includes photos of human remains, taken during excavation at CA-SCL-38 by Ohlone Family Consulting Services, the CRM arm of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe (which also served as the Most Likely Descendant tribal group for this project). The images were provided to the authors by the tribe, and specific permission was granted to include them in this publication.
Alan M. Leventhal, Karen S. Gardner, Rosemary Cambra, Eric J. Bartelink, and Antoinette Martinez. "Mothers and Infants in the Prehistoric Santa Clara Valley: What Stable Isotopes Tell Us about Ancestral Ohlone Weaning Practices" Proceedings of the Society for California Archaeology (2011): 14.