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

Marissa L. Ledger, Elisabeth Grimshaw, Madison Fairey, Helen L. Whelton, Ian D. Bull, Rachel Ballantyne, Mark Knight, Piers D. Mitchell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

1 Citation (Scopus)
73 Downloads (Pure)

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 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 faecal 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1583-1594
Number of pages12
JournalParasitology
Volume146
Issue number12
Early online date8 Aug 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019

Keywords

  • palaeoparasitology
  • Late Bronze Age
  • helminth
  • Diphyllobothrium
  • fish tapeworm
  • Echinostoma
  • Dioctophyma

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