Skip to main content Accessibility help

Parasite infection at the early farming community of Çatalhöyük

  • Marissa L. Ledger (a1), Evilena Anastasiou (a1), Lisa-Marie Shillito (a2), Helen Mackay (a2), Ian D. Bull (a3), Scott D. Haddow (a4), Christopher J. Knüsel (a5) and Piers D. Mitchell (a1)...


The early village at Çatalhöyük (7100–6150 BC) provides important evidence for the Neolithic and Chalcolithic people of central Anatolia. This article reports on the use of lipid biomarker analysis to identify human coprolites from midden deposits, and microscopy to analyse these coprolites and soil samples from human burials. Whipworm (Trichuris trichiura) eggs are identified in two coprolites, but the pelvic soil samples are negative for parasites. Çatalhöyük is one of the earliest Eurasian sites to undergo palaeoparasitological analysis to date. The results inform how intestinal parasitic infection changed as humans modified their subsistence strategies from hunting and gathering to settled farming.


Corresponding author

*Author for correspondence (Email:


Hide All
Anastasiou, E. 2015. Parasites in European populations from prehistory to the industrial revolution, in Mitchell, P.D. (ed.) Sanitation, latrines and intestinal parasites in past populations: 203–17. Farnham: Ashgate.
Anastasiou, E. & Mitchell, P.D.. 2013. Simplifying the process for extracting parasitic worm eggs from cesspool and latrine sediments: a trial comparing the efficacy of widely used techniques for disaggregation. International Journal of Paleopathology 3: 204207.
Anastasiou, E., Papathanasiou, A., Schepartz, L.A. & Mitchell, P.D.. 2018. Infectious disease in the ancient Aegean: intestinal parasitic worms in the Neolithic to Roman period inhabitants of Kea, Greece. Journal of Archaeological Science Reports 17: 860–64.
Armelagos, G.J. & Harper, K.N.. 2005. Disease globalization in the third epidemiological transition, in Guest, G. (ed.) Globalization, health, and the environment: an integrated perspective: 2733. Walnut Creek (CA): AltaMira.
Bayliss, A., Brock, F., Farid, S., Hodder, I., Southton, J. & Taylor, R.E.. 2015. Getting to the bottom of it all: a Bayesian approach to dating the start of Çatalhöyük. Journal of World Prehistory 28: 126.
Beer, R.J.S. 1976. The relationship between Trichuris trichiura (Linnaeus 1758) of man and Trichuris suis (Schrank 1788) of the pig. Research in Veterinary Science 20: 4754.
Bethony, J., Brooker, S., Albonico, M., Geiger, S.M., Loukas, A., Diemert, D. & Hotez, P.J.. 2006. Soil-transmitted helminth infections: ascariasis, trichuriasis, and hookworm. The Lancet 367: 1521–32.
Bogaard, A., Charles, M., Livarda, A., Ergun, M., Filipović, D. & Jones, G.. 2013. The archaeobotany of mid–later Neolithic occupation levels at Çatalhöyük, in Hodder, I. (ed.) Humans and landscapes of Çatalhöyük: reports from the 2000–2008 seasons: 93128. Los Angeles (CA): Cotsen Institute of Archaeology.
Bogaard, A., Filipovic, D., Fairburn, A., Green, L., Stroud, E., Fuller, D. & Charles, M.. 2017. Agricultural innovation and resilience in a long-lived early farming community: the 1,500-year sequence at Neolithic to Early Chalcolithic Çatalhöyük, central Anatolia. Anatolian Studies 67: 128.
Brown, T.A., Jones, M.K., Powell, W. & Allaby, R.G.. 2009. The complex origins of domesticated crops in the Fertile Crescent. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 24: 103109.
Bull, I.D., Simpson, I.A., Van Bergen, P.F. & Evershed, R.P.. 1999. Muck ‘n’ molecules: organic geochemical methods for detecting ancient manuring. Antiquity 73: 8696.
Bull, I., Lockheart, M., Elhmmali, M., Roberts, D. & Evershed, R.. 2002. The origin of faeces by means of biomarker detection. Environment International 27: 647–54.
Cohen, M.N. & Armelagos, G.J.. 1984. Paleopathology at the origins of agriculture. Orlando (FL): Academic.
Dufour, B. & Bailly, M. Le. 2013. Testing new parasite egg extraction methods in paleoparasitology and an attempt at quantification. International Journal of Paleopathology 3: 199203.
Garcia, L.S. 2016. Diagnostic medical parasitology (6th edition). Washington, D.C.: ASM.
Harper, K. & Armelagos, G.. 2010. The changing disease-scape in the third epidemiological transition. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 7: 675–97.
Harter-Lailheugue, S., Mort, F. Le, Vigne, J.-D., Guilaine, J., Brun, A. Le & Bouchet, F.. 2005. Premiéres données parasitologiques sur les populations humaines précéramiques chypriotes (VIII e et VII e millénaires av. J.-C.). Paléorient 31: 4354.
Hillson, S., Larsen, C.S., Boz, B., Pilloud, M.A., Sadvari, J.W., Agarwal, S.C., Glencross, B., Beauchesne, P., Pearson, J., Ruff, C.B., Garofalo, E.M., Hager, L.D. & Haddow, S.D.. 2013. The human remains I: interpreting community structure, health, and diet in Neolithic Çatalhöyük, in Hodder, I. (ed.) Humans and landscapes of Çatalhöyük: reports from the 2000–2008 seasons: 339–96. Los Angeles (CA): Cotsen Institute of Archaeology.
Hodder, I. 2014. Çatalhöyük: the leopard changes its spots. A summary of recent work. Anatolian Studies 64: 122.
Jourdan, P.M., Lamberton, P.H., Fenwick, A. & Addiss, D.G.. 2018. Soil-transmitted helminth infections. The Lancet 391: 252–65.
Larsen, C.S., Hillson, S.W., Boz, B., Pilloud, M.A., Sadvari, J.W., Agarwal, S.C., Glencross, B., Beauchesne, P., Pearson, J., Ruff, C.B., Garofalo, E.M., Hager, L.D., Haddow, S.D. & Knüsel, C.J.. 2015. Bioarchaeology of Neolithic Çatalhöyük: lives and lifestyles of an early farming society in transition. Journal of World Prehistory 28: 2768.
Ledger, M.L., Stock, F., Schwaiger, H., Knipping, M., Brückner, H., Ladstätter, S. & Mitchell, P.D.. 2018. Intestinal parasites from public and private latrines and the harbor canal in Roman period Ephesus, Turkey (1st c. BC to 6th c. AD). Journal of Archaeological Science Reports 21: 289–97.
Maicher, C., Hoffmann, A., Côté, N.M.L., Pérez, A.P., Segui, M.S. & Le Bailly, M.. 2017. Paleoparasitological investigations on the Neolithic lakeside settlement of La Draga (Lake Banyoles, Spain). Holocene 27: 1659–68.
Matthews, W. 2005. Life-cycle and life-course of buildings, in Hodder, I. (ed.) Catalhoyuk perspectives: themes from the 1995–99 Seasons: 125–51. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.
Matthews, W., Shillito, L.-M., Elliot, S., Bull, I.D. & Williams, J.. 2014. Neolithic lifeways: microstratigraphic traces within houses, animal pens and settlements, in Whittle, A. & Bickle, P. (ed.) Early farmers: the view from archaeology and science: 251–79. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
McMahon, A. 2015. Waste management in early urban southern Mesopotamia, in Mitchell, P.D. (ed.) Sanitation, latrines and intestinal parasites in past populations: 1939. Farnham: Ashgate.
Mehlhorn, H. 2016. Animal parasites: diagnosis, treatment, prevention. Cham: Springer.
Mitchell, P.D. 2013. The origins of human parasites: exploring the evidence for endoparasitism throughout human evolution. International Journal of Paleopathology 3: 191–98.
Mitchell, P.D. 2015a. Assessing the impact of sanitation upon health in early human populations from hunter-gatherers to ancient civilizations, using theoretical modelling, in Mitchell, P.D. (ed.) Sanitation, latrines and intestinal parasites in past populations: 517. Farnham: Ashgate.
Mitchell, P.D. 2015b. Human parasites in medieval Europe: lifestyle, sanitation and medical treatment. Advances in Parasitology 90: 389420.
Mitchell, P.D. 2017a. Sampling human remains for evidence of intestinal parasites, in Mitchell, P.D. & Brickley, M. (ed.) Updated guidelines to the standards for recording human remains: 5456. Reading: British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology.
Mitchell, P.D. 2017b. Human parasites in the Roman world: health consequences of conquering an empire. Parasitology 144: 4858.
Molleson, T., Andrews, P. & Boz, B.. 2005. Reconstruction of the Neolithic people of Çatalhöyük, in Hodder, I. (ed.) Inhabiting Çatalhöyük: reports from the 1995–99 seasons: 279300. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.
Morrow, J.J., Newby, J., Piombino-Mascali, D. & Reinhard, K.J.. 2016. Taphonomic considerations for the analysis of parasites in archaeological materials. International Journal of Paleopathology 13: 5664.
Orton, D., Anvari, J., Gibson, C., Last, J., Bogaard, A., Rosenstock, E. & Biehl, P.. 2018. A tale of two tells: dating the Çatalhöyük West Mound. Antiquity 92: 620–39.
Pearson, J.A., Haddow, S.D., Hillson, S.W., Knüsel, C.J., Larsen, C.S. & Sadvari, J.W.. 2015. Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis and dietary reconstruction through the life course at Neolithic Çatalhöyük, Turkey. Journal of Social Archaeology 15: 210–32.
Petroutsa, E.I. & Manolis, S.K.. 2010. Reconstructing Late Bronze Age diet in mainland Greece using stable isotope analysis. Journal of Archaeological Science 37: 614–20.
Pokutta, D.A. 2017. Food, economy and social complexity in the Bronze Age world: a cross-cultural study. Musaica Archaelogica 1: 2341.
Prost, K., Birk, J.J., Lehndorff, E., Gerlach, R. & Amelung, W.. 2017. Steroid biomarkers revisited—improved source identification of faecal remains in archaeological soil material. PLoS ONE 12: e0164882.
Reagan, R. & Taylor, J.. 2009. Building 80, Building 86, external spaces Sp.344, Sp.376, Sp.329, and Building 75, in Farid, S. (ed.) Çatalhöyük 2009 Archive Report: 1319. Çatalhöyük Research Project. Available at: (accessed 5 April 2019).
Reinhard, K.J., Confalonieri, U.E., Herrmann, B., Ferreira, L.F. & Araújo, A.J.G.. 1986. Recovery of parasite remains from coprolites and latrines: aspects of paleoparasitological technique. Homo 37: 217–39.
Reinhard, K.J., Ferreira, L.F., Bouchet, F., Sianto, L., Dutra, J.M.F., Iniguez, A., Le Bailly, M., Fugassa, M., Pucu, E. & Araújo, A.. 2013. Food, parasites, and epidemiological transitions: a broad perspective. International Journal of Paleopathology 3: 150–57.
Russell, N., Twiss, K.C., Orton, D.C. & Arzu Demirergi, G.. 2013. More on the Çatalhöyük mammal remains, in Hodder, I. (ed.) Humans and landscapes of Çatalhöyük: reports from the 2000–2008 seasons: 213–58. Los Angeles (CA): Cotsen Institute of Archaeology.
Ryan, P. 2008. Plant exploitation from household and landscape perspectives: the phytolith evidence, in Hodder, I. (ed.) Humans and landscapes of Çatalhöyük: reports from the 2000–2008 seasons: 163–90. Los Angeles (CA): Cotsen Institute of Archaeology.
Shillito, L.-M. & Matthews, W.. 2013. Geoarchaeological investigations of midden-formation processes in the early to late ceramic Neolithic levels at Çatalhöyük, Turkey ca. 8550–8370 cal BP. Geoarchaeology 28: 2549.
Shillito, L.-M., Matthews, W., Almond, M.J. & Bull, I.D.. 2011a. The microstratigraphy of middens: capturing daily routine in rubbish at Neolithic Çatalhöyük, Turkey. Antiquity 85: 1024–38.
Shillito, L.-M., Bull, I.D., Matthews, W., Almond, M.J., Williams, J.M. & Evershed, R.P.. 2011b. Biomolecular and micromorphological analysis of suspected faecal deposits at Neolithic Çatalhöyük, Turkey. Journal of Archaeological Science 38: 1869–77.
Shillito, L.-M., Matthews, W., Bull, I.D. & Williams, J.. 2013. Biomolecular investigations of faecal biomarkers at Sheik-e Abad and Jani, in Matthews, R., Matthews, W. & Mohammadifar, Y. (ed.) The earliest Neolithic of Iran: 2008 excavations at Sheikh-e Abad and Jani (Central Zagros Archaeological Project Volume 1): 105–15. Oxford: Oxbow.
Stephenson, L.S., Holland, C.V. & Cooper, E.S.. 2000. The public health significance of Trichuris trichiura. Parasitology 121: 7395.
Van Neer, W., Gravendeel, R., Wouters, W. & Russell, N.. 2013. The exploitation of fish at Çatalhöyük, in Hodder, I. (ed.) Humans and landscapes of Çatalhöyük: reports from the 2000–2008 seasons: 317–27. Los Angeles (CA): Cotsen Institute of Archaeology.
Weller, P.F. & Nutman, T.B.. 2014. Intestinal nematode infections, in Kasper, D. (ed.) Harrison's principles of internal medicine (19th edition). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Williams, F., Arnold-Foster, T., Yeh, H.-Y., Ledger, M.L., Baeten, J., Poblome, J. & Mitchell, P.D.. 2017. Intestinal parasites from the 2nd–5th century AD latrine in the Roman baths at Sagalassos (Turkey). International Journal of Paleopathology 19: 3742.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed