Parasites found in ancient Jerusalem toilets betray residents’ way of life

Parasites found in ancient Jerusalem toilets betray residents way of

Analysis of rare sediments from toilets in the VIIe century BC made it possible to find eggs of intestinal parasites. These give clues to the way of life of the inhabitants of Jerusalem during this period.

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During archaeological research, it is not uncommon to find ancient burial sites. These tombs generally contain many clues and testimonies of past civilizations that the anthropologist will be able to interpret precisely. Inrap (National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research) tells us about its work in this short video.

The research theme of some anthropologists concerns the reconstruction of infections that have affected thespecies human. The results of this research obviously provide an image of the state of health of populations, of exchanges between communities, but also of the lifestyles of ancient societies. The use of drinking water, the cooking of food and the nomadic or sedentary lifestyle are behaviors that can be partially deduced from certain categories of parasites presented by individuals.

The sedentarization of hunter-gatherers increases the transmission of parasites through the air and through food

Eggs from parasites intestines may be present in faeces from ancient human societies and thus attest to a certain lifestyle of individuals. The sedentarization of hunter-gatherers increases, for example, the transmission of parasites through the air and through food as well as the pollution of the environment by faeces. L’emergence in humans of intestinal parasites, for example followed the first episodes of sedentarization and domestication the level of Fertile crescent, around 10,000 years BC.

Toilets for the rich but parasites for all

An archaeological excavation campaign took place in 2019-2020 south of Jerusalem and made it possible to highlight the presence of an old garden which contained trees fruit trees as well as ornamental plants. In this garden, the archaeologists also discovered a large water reservoir as well as a stone cut in the shape of a cube (53 x 49 x 35 cm), perforated with a central hole.

This object has been interpreted as being an old toilet seat dating from the VIIe century BC In a study published in theInternational Journal of Paleopathology, Dr. Dafna Langgut reports the results of the analysis of sediment present at the base of this old toilet seat, which contains parasite eggs. These come in particular from nematodes Ascaris lumbricoides and Trichuris trichiura, of lonely worms Taenia sp. and pinworms Enterobius vermicularis.

The transmission of Taenia sp. occurs when pork or beef is eaten raw, undercooked, smoked or salted. Dr. Langgut further explains that parasitism by nematodes Often induces malnutrition and stunted growth in children as well as susceptibility to infections. These parasites may have been transmitted through food and drink when food and water supplies were contaminated with faeces or when human faeces were used to fertilize the soil. Sanitary facilities were a symbol of wealth that only the well-off could afford, so the majority of people had to go to more open areas that feces could contaminate. However, in the absence of appropriate medical treatment as well as systems for wash one’s hands, it is difficult to avoid and stop the contaminations and the epidemics of these parasites.

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