Who is to say that treasures cannot be found in excrements? At least the scientists who wanted to fin out more about ancient people’s diets, health and habits called them treasures. In a new study which the journal PLOS One recently published, a team of Danish researchers analyzed the DNA from some ancient latrines. As bizarre as it may sound, this research sheds some light on the parasites and diets that were common in a period ranging from 500 B.C.E. to 1850’s Netherlands.
In order to obtain these results, the team collected samples of soil and latrines from eight different sites. After screening their samples, they discovered just how unhygienic life was centuries ago. According to paper co-author Martin Søe, most people dealt with intestinal parasites more than once in their lives. Moreover, what they found in the samples could also offer clues about the animals that these people were eating. Parasites from pigs and fish which can also infect humans were extremely common. Raw or undercooked meat was something normal for the people of that period.
A study about ancient people’s diets
Interestingly enough, the team also found a number of parasites that do not live in humans but in sheep, pigs, horses, dogs and rats. This indicates that people were also disposing the animal waste in their latrines. Thanks to this study, the team of experts also found out more about the diet of these people. In the Danish DNA, they discovered remains of hares, fin whales or even roe deer. As for plants, these people mostly ate pears, cabbages, cherries, and buckwheat.
All in all, these new and very interesting findings shed some light on the way these people were living centuries ago. Future studies might now be able to find out even more about ancient people’s health and how they migrated.
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