Studying ancient poop

If you were to read the title of this post and immediately close the tab, I wouldn’t blame you. It’s a bit odd for sure, but rest assured, this information is entirely scientific and comes from a reputable source; a article.

The article reports that researchers from the University of Oxford in the zoology and archaeology departments are examining the genetics of 700-year-old parasites found in archaeological stool samples.

Why would someone study prehistoric poop, you ask?

To gain a better idea of what early human populations were like, the article says. The study of these stool samples can assist researchers in learning about the beginnings of human diets, sanitation, and movement, all from parasites in their poop.

Stool samples were collected from medieval latrines in Lübeck, Germany. In the samples, researchers found nematode (roundworm) and cestode (tapeworms) eggs, both of which have sturdy shells to protect breakdown over time and preserve their DNA in the process.

Results of the study show that the samples collected from medieval latrines in Lübeck, Germany contained high numbers of cestodes, or tapeworms. This finding allows researchers to understand how “freshwater fish was a known source of these cestodes” therefore “researchers could deduce that in Lübeck they had a diet high in freshwater fish which wasn’t effectively cooked, a practice distinct from other regions.

“Further analysis reveals that at around 1300-1325 there was a shift from the fish-derived parasite to a beef -derived parasite, which indicates a change in diet, culinary culture and food sources.”

Through their study, researchers also determined that Lübeck was home to the broadest range of parasites, with the port of medieval Bristol being the second most diverse.

These research findings, the first of their kind, can be found in Proceedings of The Royal Society B.

Pretty cool stuff for poop, no?

Photo on <a href=””>VisualHunt</a&gt;

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