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New Thoughts on Prehistoric Infant Mortality

Monday, November 29, 2021

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA—According to a statement released by Australian National University, infant mortality in ancient societies is likely a reflection of the number of babies that were born, and not an indication of poor care. Archaeologist Clare McFadden said that it has long been thought that about 40 percent of all babies born in prehistoric populations did not survive their first year. She and her colleagues reviewed data collected by the United Nations in 97 countries on the infant mortality rate, fertility, and the number of deaths during infancy. The researchers found that fertility had a greater influence on the number of deceased infants than the infant mortality rate. Therefore burial samples, McFadden explained, cannot prove that a high percentage of babies that were born died, but rather do suggest that a lot of babies were born. To read about pre-Columbian infant burials uncovered in coastal Ecuador, go to "Protecting the Young."

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