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MOTHERS is a five-year research project funded by the European Research Council (ERC-2022-STG 101077348) and is active at the Department of Odontostomatological and Maxillo Facial Sciences in Sapienza University of Rome (Italy) and it is led by Prof. Alessia Nava.

MOTHERS aims to reveal how the biocultural transitions influenced the mode and time of pregnancy and nursing of human infants in a well-known archaeological framework, from the Upper Palaeolithic hunter-gathering to Neolithic farming and domestication, until urbanization. The research will be focused on key archaeological sites from Italy and Croatia, which represent ideal contexts, given the presence of strategic archaeological sites, ecological variability and relative continuity in time in overall comparable climatic contexts.

This project has the following primary objectives

MOTHERS will combine the most advanced techniques of traditional and virtual dental histology with high spatial resolution biogeochemical analysis to reconstruct health, diet, and growth trajectories in early life on an extensive collection of human dental specimens. Also, the profound chemical differences in dental enamel between breastfed and herbivore milk/formula-fed children will allow the identification of the early use of non-human milk and shed light on herbivore domestication and alloparental care in past human populations.