900 BC British intestinal parasites


Well-Known Member
Mar 27, 2016
Hmm.. these parasites must have been very tiring

Article in today's Guardian re Must Farm, in the wetland fens of East Anglia

The clutch of homes that stood on stilts in the wetland fens of East Anglia were the envy of the local peasantry 3,000 years ago. But amid the remains of the grand wooden huts and the belongings of the well-to-do residents lurked evidence that all was not well at Must Farm, Britain’s premier bronze age settlement.
Firm, sausage-shaped lumps found skulking in the mud that swallowed the settlement after a catastrophic fire have been identified as pieces of faeces. Inside these deposits researchers found a grim array of tiny eggs – the calling card for parasitic worm infestations.

In the sanitising jargon of archaeology, the human coprolites were found to be brimming with eggs from fish tapeworms, giant kidney worms, whipworms and other undesirable creatures, pointing to a downside of the settlers’ fresh and convenient marsh diet.
“They must have been eating raw or undercooked fish, frogs or shellfish,” said Piers Mitchell, the director of the ancient parasites laboratory at Cambridge University, who studied the precious deposits. “Some might not have had symptoms but others would have known about it.”

Once fish tapeworms have set up home in the gut they can grow to a length of 10 metres, coiling around the twists and turns of the intestines. The most infested inhabitants in the Must Farm community probably would have been anaemic as the worms absorbed food intended for their hosts.

Kidney worms are more reasonable in size but properly fed will still reach a metre and destroy the organ in the process. Other parasites called Echinostoma worms are only 1cm long when fully grown, but heavy infestations inflame the intestines, causing abdominal pain, diarrhoea, weight loss and tiredness.

Full article here:
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Well I just hope they don't go all Jurassic Park on the remains and clone some horrible bronze age tapeworms which escape into the general population.
Can’t wait for them to open a visitor centre at Must Farm.
And stop in to the Visitor Centre Cafe, conveniently located beside the gift shop, to stock up on snacks to fuel your day of adventures or enjoy a light lunch. Everyone checking the food hygiene rating just a little more rigorously than usual.
I've read some debate concerning the degree of medical knowledge of the mesolithic/ neolithic/ bronze age. Clearly, whatever their knowledge, it does not seem to have extended to tapeworms.
Those parasites still exist and still cause disease, rspecially in those eating fresh, raw fish and meat. Freezing and cooking destroy most of them.

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