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Jul 15, 2013

Medieval Mondays: Parasites found in Crusader poop

This ugly picture is of a whipworm. It's a common parasite in the human gut along with roundworm. Back in the Middle Ages they were even more common thanks to poor sanitation.

Now Reuters reports that archaeologists working at Saranda Kolones castle, a 12th century Crusader castle in Cyprus, have discovered a medieval latrine. It consists of a stone bench with a half circle cut through it, so the Crusader poop could drop into sewer. We archaeologists have an insatiable curiosity about life in the past so this was a great opportunity to dredge up some 800 year-old sewage and look at it under a microscope.

The team discovered large numbers of whipworm and roundworm eggs, showing the Crusaders had trouble with these little critters. These worms suck out nutrients from food before the body can absorb them and can often kill someone if they are already malnourished, a common problem for medieval soldiers.

Experts estimate that 15-20 percent of medieval troops died from malnourishment or infectious diseases while on campaign.

3 comments:

  1. That's a huge chunk. Not to mention those killed by the elements.

    ReplyDelete