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Ancient Toilet Reveals Parasites

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Ancient Toilet Reveals Parasites

Post by Rowan » Wed June 19th, 2013, 2:19 pm

Okay I admit this is gross, but also an interesting discovery. I mean this will give insight into the day-to-day health of these people, no?
Intestinal parasites have been found lurking in ancient poop in the toilet of a medieval castle in western Cyprus, scientists report.

The findings paint a less than pretty picture of the health and hygiene of crusaders stationed on the Mediterranean island 800 years ago. Poor sanitation likely meant that food and water supplies were contaminated by fecal material, allowing parasitic infections to spread, the study suggests.
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Post by Carla » Wed June 19th, 2013, 5:21 pm

Yes, the most unromantic deposits are sometimes the most informative. One of the archaeologists on the Coppergate Dig in York famously called the Lloyds Bank Coprolite (the polite form of its name) 'as valuable as the Crown Jewels', or words to that effect.

If I remember rightly, eggs of the same parasites as found in Cyprus were also found at Coppergate in Viking York and in the intestines of Lindow Man. Also, the 'doctor's grave' from early Roman Colchester contained a strainer bowl that had been used to brew a concoction of Artemisia (http://www.archaeologyuk.org/ba/ba99/feat3.shtml). Some species of Artemisia were used as a treatment for parasite infection, hence the name 'wormwood', so maybe the Roman doctor had been treating someone for intestinal parasites as well.
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Post by Lisa » Wed June 19th, 2013, 5:47 pm

Saranta Kolones cool (ruined) castle, I visited it last year. It was partially constructed with ancient columns used in an earlier construction, and it's next to a lot of ancient ruins with mosaics. It's all open-air though, and quite near the sea, so it's good that the, um, waste matter, survived.

I'm no expert, but I did take some photos of what looked like possible toilet/wash facilities while I was there, I've attached them in case anyone is interested.
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Post by Divia » Sat June 22nd, 2013, 1:47 am

a really cool article! Granted, not glamorous at all, but interesting!
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Post by DianeL » Sat June 22nd, 2013, 3:57 pm

Archaeology is all about the middens. My brother has been an archaeologist for so long it's impossible to even think about "gross" aspects, really. (I'll never forget the time he called me from Hawai'i to tell me about the pre-Colombian poop he found, one of his first finds. ROFL)

Thank you, Rowan - I will probably have to blog about this one. Or maybe hand it over to him to post about! :)
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