Archaeologists discover 2,400-year-old Terracotta Baby Bottle
Archaeologists in Italy have found a 2,400-year-old terracotta baby’s bottle, which doubled as a pig-shaped toy. The unique artefact is one of several rare objects found last May in Manduria, when construction work exposed a Messapian tomb.
The relic is known as a guttus, which is a vessel with a narrow mouth or neck from which liquids were poured. They were used for wine and other drinks, but in this case, the guttus was used for feeding a baby or young child. Uniquely, this guttus was also shaped like a pig with pointy ears and human-like eyes. It featured terracotta rattles in its tummy to apparently encourage the baby to sleep after the meal.
The vessel dates back about 2,400 years when the southeast area of Italy was inhabited by the Messapian people, a tribal group who migrated from Illyria (a region in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula) around 1000 B.C. The Messapians died out after the Roman Republic conquered the region and assimilated the inhabitants.
The baby’s bottle was found in a Messapian tomb in Manduria, near Taranto in Puglia, last May. Measuring 8 by 4 feet, the tomb contained the remains of two individuals, believed to be related. Within the tomb were more than 30 funerary objects including jars, plates, lamps, ointment vases, three baby feeding vessels and two female statuettes. The presence of the three baby feeding vessels suggests a third burial, possibly belonging to a newborn girl, as suggested by the two terracotta statuettes found in the tomb. Indeed, these sculptures were often placed in burials of young girls.
“We might speculate that the female individual was pregnant at the time of death,” said archaeologist Gianfranco Dimitri. “It’s an intriguing hypothesis, although it is also likely that the tender baby’s bones totally decomposed over the centuries.”