PREFERT – Prehistoric Fertility: length of lactation during Mesolithic and Neolithic of South-Eastern Europe (9500-5500 BC) – is a bilateral Franco-Serbian project, co-funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of Republic of Serbia and The National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), France. It aims at initiating a long-term collaboration between different groups of researchers based in University of Belgrade, University of Bordeaux and Aix-Marseille University, focusing their efforts on the central question of Prehistoric Fertility.

The diffusion of Neolithic from the Near East to Europe was accompanied by the first important human demographic increase, following major socio-economic and cultural changes. In this context, the study of the Mesolithic-Neolithic demographic processes in the Balkans is essential for a deeper understanding of the patterns of Neolithic populating of Europe. Researchers involved in the PREFERT project tackle these demographic issues with an innovative bioarchaeological approach based on several lines:

  1. Prehistoric demographic reconstructions;
  2. The analyses of relations between human behavioural characteristics, subsistence strategies and demographic fluctuations;
  3. The study of birthing and perinatal conditions during the Mesolithic-Neolithic

The Mesolithic-Neolithic sites in the Danube Gorges (9500-5500 BC) provide the core anthropological sample to develop the frame of this approach to Human Fertility. One of the central issues addressed by PREFERT concerns the relationship between children feeding practices and demographic fluctuations. For this purpose, young researchers from Laboratory of Bioarchaeologyy are receiving state of the art training in isotopic analyses in Aix-Marseille University:

  • to test the hypothesis that a shortened period of weaning may have positively impacted female fertility at the advent of Neolithic;
  • to examine the changes in diet of mothers during various stages of their pregnancy;
  • to explore possible correlations between the evolution of the quality of food intake and changes in infant morbidity-mortality

Collaborators of the project: Dr Stéphane Rottier and Mélie Leroy, Laboratory PACEA (De La Préhistoire à l’Actuel Culture, Environnement et Anthropologie - CNRS UMR 5199, Université de Bordeaux 1); Dr Gwenaëlle Goude and Dr Estelle Herrscher, Laboratory LAMPEA (Laboratorie Méditerranéen de Préhistoire Europe Afrique –CNRS UMR 7269), Université d'Aix-Marseille). Prof. Dr Sofija Stefanović, Camille de Becdelièvre and Jelena Jovanović, Laboratory for Bioarchaeology (Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade).

Download PREFERT workshop programme