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Article contents

Intestinal parasites at the Late Bronze Age settlement of Must Farm, in the fens of East Anglia, UK (9th century B.C.E.)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 August 2019

Marissa L. Ledger
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, Henry Wellcome Building, Cambridge, CB2 1QH, UK
Elisabeth Grimshaw
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, Henry Wellcome Building, Cambridge, CB2 1QH, UK
Madison Fairey
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, Henry Wellcome Building, Cambridge, CB2 1QH, UK
Helen L. Whelton
Affiliation:
Organic Geochemistry Unit, School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, Cantock's Close, Bristol, BS8 1TS, UK
Ian D. Bull
Affiliation:
Organic Geochemistry Unit, School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, Cantock's Close, Bristol, BS8 1TS, UK
Rachel Ballantyne
Affiliation:
McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3ER, UK
Mark Knight
Affiliation:
Cambridge Archaeological Unit, Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3DZ, UK
Piers D. Mitchell*
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, Henry Wellcome Building, Cambridge, CB2 1QH, UK
*
Author for correspondence: Piers Mitchell, E-mail: pdm39@cam.ac.uk

Abstract

Little is known about the types of intestinal parasites that infected people living in prehistoric Britain. The Late Bronze Age archaeological site of Must Farm was a pile-dwelling settlement located in a wetland, consisting of stilted timber structures constructed over a slow-moving freshwater channel. At excavation, sediment samples were collected from occupation deposits around the timber structures. Fifteen coprolites were also hand-recovered from the occupation deposits; four were identified as human and seven as canine, using fecal lipid biomarkers. Digital light microscopy was used to identify preserved helminth eggs in the sediment and coprolites. Eggs of fish tapeworm (Diphyllobothrium latum and Diphyllobothrium dendriticum), Echinostoma sp., giant kidney worm (Dioctophyma renale), probable pig whipworm (Trichuris suis) and Capillaria sp. were found. This is the earliest evidence for fish tapeworm, Echinostoma worm, Capillaria worm and the giant kidney worm so far identified in Britain. It appears that the wetland environment of the settlement contributed to establishing parasite diversity and put the inhabitants at risk of infection by helminth species spread by eating raw fish, frogs or molluscs that flourish in freshwater aquatic environments, conversely the wetland may also have protected them from infection by certain geohelminths.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019 

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Intestinal parasites at the Late Bronze Age settlement of Must Farm, in the fens of East Anglia, UK (9th century B.C.E.)
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