Prehistoric babies were bottle-fed with animal milk more than 3,000 years ago, according to new evidence.
Archaeologists found traces of animal fats inside ancient clay vessels, giving a rare insight into the diets of Bronze and Iron Age infants.
The discovery suggests milk was given to infants to supplement breast feeding and could have contributed to a baby boom.
The type of milk is unknown, but goats or cows are likely suspects.
This is the first direct evidence for how prehistoric infants were fed, said Dr Julie Dunne of the University of Bristol, adding that the practice could have boosted fertility.
“It’s so nice to have that window on the past and think about how mothers and how families were dealing with bringing up children several thousand years ago,” she told BBC News.
“The fact that we can feed human babies animal milk for the first time means essentially that prehistoric women can have more babies, which leads to a massive population increase, which sets us on the pathway to how we live today.”
Some 7,000 years ago in Neolithic Europe, human lifestyles underwent a profound shift. The hunter gatherer lifestyle vanished as people grew crops and domesticated animals.
Humans began consuming dairy products about 6,000 years ago, but very little is known about the diet of ancient infants.