In addition to a Neolithic monument, the builders of Stonehenge left behind something a little less memorable: fossilized dung. A new analysis of this so-called coprolite shows that during epic winter feasts, ancient workers and their dogs ate undercooked meat full of parasitic worm eggs.
The team of researchers discovered fossilized “poop balls” in a pile of rubbish at Durrington Walls – a Neolithic settlement located about 2.8 kilometers from Stonehenge. Experts believe the site will be home to many of the workers who built the iconic standing stone rings, could have acted as a solar calendarbetween 4,000 and 5,000 years ago, according to a statement by researchers.
The researchers analyzed 19 coprolites found at the site, of both human and canine origin, and they found that five of the samples (4 from dogs and one from humans) contained eggs of different types of parasitic worms. The team suggests that most of the parasite eggs were served to the Neolithic builders in undercooked meat dishes enjoyed at large winter feasts, the rest probably given away. dog eat. This is the oldest evidence of parasitic worms in the UK can also be traced back to their original source, according to the statement.
Lead researcher Piers Mitchell, a biological anthropologist at the University of Cambridge in the UK, said: “This is the first time that intestinal parasites have been recovered from Neolithic times in Britain, and finding Seeing them in the environment of Stonehenge is really something.” declare.
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Four of the five contaminated samples, including human faeces, contained lemon-shaped eggs belonging to the unknown capillary worm, a parasitic worm that grows in the internal organs of a number of animals including gnaw, monkey and livestock such as cows, sheep and pig.
Capillariid worms have an unusual life cycle involving at least two other animals. First, the worms infect animals – such as mice – that inadvertently ingest eggs from their environment. The eggs then attach to the animal’s internal organs, such as the liver, lungs and intestines. The eggs hatch, and as the worms develop, they begin to eat organs before reproducing asexually to produce more eggs. Infected animals are then eaten by larger predators, and the eggs are passed through the predator’s digestive tract before being excreted back into the environment to be eaten by another host.
Modern humans are known to be infected by two species of capillariid worms: Capillaria hepatica and Capillaria philippinensis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when these worms begin to eat humans, the disease is called dilated capillaries and can be fatal if not treated properly.
However, in this case, the people who built Stonehenge and their dogs are likely free of worms. If they are already infected, the eggs will not pass into their feces as they will lodge in their internal organs and hatch. Instead, they may have eaten the flesh of an infected animal and passed on the eggs just like a predator in the wild, according to the statement.
“The parasite we found is compatible with previous evidence of winter cannibalism during the construction of Stonehenge,” said Mitchell. Parties are more common in winter because that’s when most workers arrive at Stonehenge: For the rest of the year, they return home elsewhere in the UK and construction work is slowed, according to the statement. .
The researchers suspect the builders may have purchased the eggs after eating the organs, intestines and other internal organs from cattle. Previous studies have shown that builders may have consumed livestock more than 62 miles (100 km) during these parties, and that capillarid eggs can infect cattle and other ruminants, according to the statement.
Offal is not widely eaten today (although it is still common in some Asian cultures), but was a common food in Neolithic communities, according to the statement.
This particular offal may have been undercooked. Study co-author Mike Parker Pearson, an archaeologist at University College London in the UK, said: ‘Pork and beef are either grilled or boiled in clay pots, but it appears the viscera are not always cooked. So well cooked.” declare.
In 2021, another study from the Durrington Walls website revealed that Ancient builders also ate ‘energy bars’ made from berries, fruit and meat.
The last dog coprolite contained the eggs of a tapeworm, most likely Dibothriocephalus dendriticus, commonly found in freshwater fish. Since there is no evidence that fish was consumed at parties at Durrington Walls, the researchers suspect that the dog may have eaten an infected fish before the builders reached Stonehenge in season bronze.
The study was published online May 18 in the journal Parasitology.
Originally published on Live Science.
https://www.livescience.com/stonehenge-fossilized-feces-with-parasitic-worms Stonehenge builders were infested with parasites, ancient poop reveals