The 2500-year-old tooth analysis shows that gender inequality during the Bronze Age in China started in childhood.
According to the agency Europa Press, the teeth come from the central plains of China and date from the Chou Dynasty, one of the first Chinese dynasties, between 771 and 221 B.C.
The researchers were able to show the types and amounts of various elements in dentin (bone tissue that forms most of the structure of teeth), including carbon and nitrogen, giving more information about the life and diet of this society.
“We already knew that this era had an increasing inequality between men and women. What we were able to discover is that these differences were also evident in relation to what people ate and how they took care of their children ”, explains Melanie Miller, a researcher in the Department of Anatomy at the University of Otago, New Zealand, and one of the authors of the study published, this month, in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
The analysis of 23 individuals, from two different archaeological sites, shows that boys were breastfed until the age of two and a half and four years, and the introduction of solid foods, such as wheat and soy, occurred a little earlier among girls.
“For the two communities we studied, food was an integral aspect of identity and a means of differentiating between women and men. We found that dietary differences between the sexes started in early childhood and continued throughout life, ”he adds.
According to the Spanish agency, men continued to eat more food from traditional cultivation, such as millet, while women consumed more of the “new” foods such as wheat and soy.
The Chou Dynasty is a very important period in the history of China, having been the time when notable intellectuals such as Confucius appeared. And yet, says Miller, "we see that some of the first forms of social inequality between men and women emerged during this period."