10,000 Year Old Baby Carrier
Humans must have needed something to migrate from place to place with their young in even in their earliest existence. But there isn't much concrete proof of this, and there aren't many prehistoric newborn graves either. As a result, it's been speculative if the practice actually occurred. A new study1 support the use of baby carriers as early as 10,000 years ago, providing insight into how young children were raised in prehistory and their social connections to their communities.
The scientists used a combination of cutting-edge analytical techniques to gain information on perforated shell beads discovered in the burial of a 40 to 50 day old female infant known as Neve at the Arma Veirana cave site in Liguria, Italy. They employed a high-definition 3D photogrammetry model of the burial along with microscopic observations and microCT scan analysis of the beads to thoroughly document how it was done and how the beads were probably used by Neve and her community in both life and death.
The findings demonstrate that the beads were sewed onto the leather or fabric used to wrap Neve before her burial. More than 70 little perforated marine shells and four large perforated bivalve pendants, which were not seen at other prehistoric sites, made up this design. The majority of the beads show substantial wear that could not have been generated during Neve's brief existence, the scientists note. This demonstrates that the beads had been worn by someone in the baby's community for a substantial amount of time before they were passed down to her, maybe as heirlooms or even to ward off evil spirits.
It is intriguing that the community chose to part with these beads in the burial of such a young person given the time and work required to make and reuse beads throughout time. According to the search, such pendants and beads were probably used to ornament Neve's carrier, which was buried with her.
The study hypothesizes that Neve's society may have embellished her carrier with beads intended to guard her against "evil," basing this hypothesis on ethnographic observations of how baby carriers are decorated and utilized in some contemporary hunter-gatherer societies. But rather than reusing the carrier, it would have been preferable to bury it since her passing indicated that those beads had failed.
Aside from providing evidence of prehistoric baby carriers, this new study adds to the expanding body of literature on prehistoric child rearing and the possible usage of beads for protection and reinforcing social ties.
Gravel-Miguel, C., Cristiani, E., Hodgkins, J., Orr, C. M., Strait, D. S., Peresani, M., Benazzi, S., Pothier-Bouchard, G., Keller, H. M., Meyer, D., Drohobytsky, D., Talamo, S., Panetta, D., Zupancich, A., Miller, C. E., Negrino, F., & Riel-Salvatore, J. (2022). The ornaments of the Arma Veirana Early Mesolithic infant burial. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10816-022-09573-7