Skip to main content

Trichuris trichiura in the mummified remains of southern Siberian nomads

  • Vyacheslav Sergeyevich Slavinsky (a1), Konstantin Vladimirovich Chugunov (a2), Alexander Alekseevich Tsybankov (a1), Sergey Nikolaevich Ivanov (a3), Alisa Vladimirovna Zubova (a4) and Sergey Mikhailovich Slepchenko (a3) (a5)...

The identification of parasites in ancient human remains can address questions of past health, disease, mobility and mortuary customs. Archaeoparasitological evidence from Russia is, however, almost absent. This study presents the first such evidence in the form of a helminth infection in a mummified individual from the southern Siberian site of Doge-Bary II, the burial ground of a nomadic Iron Age community. Despite the removal of the intestines as part of the mummification procedure, the residual eggs of Trichuris trichiura, a non-indigenous species of whipworm, were detected. This evidence provides the first confirmation of prehistoric contact between southern Siberian nomads and distant agricultural areas, such as China and Central Asia.

Corresponding author
*Author for correspondence (Email:
Hide All
Araújo, A., Reinhard, K., Bastos, O.M., Costa, L.C., Pirmez, C., Iñiguez, A., Vicente, A.C., Morel, C.M. & Ferreira, L.F.. 1998. Paleoparasitology: perspectives with new techniques. Revista do Instituto de Medicina Tropical de São Paulo 40: 371–76.
Ash, L.R. & Orihel, T.C.. 2007. Atlas of human parasitology. Chicago (IL): Pathology.
Aspöck, H., Auer, H. & Picher, O.. 1996. Trichuris trichiura eggs in the Neolithic glacier mummy from the Alps. Parasitology Today 12: 255–56.
Aufderheide, A.C. 2003. The scientific study of mummies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Beer, R.J. 1976. The relationship between Trichuris trichiura (Linnaeus 1758) of man and Trichuris suis (Schrank 1788) of the pig. Research in Veterinary Science 20: 4754.
Bianucci, R., Torres, E.J., Santiago, J.M., Ferreira, L.F., Nerlich, A.G., Souza, S.M., Giuffra, V., Chieffi, P.P., Bastos, O.M., Travassos, R. & Souza, W.D.. 2015. Trichuris trichiura in a post-colonial Brazilian mummy. Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz 110 (1): 145–47.
Bundy, D.A.P., Thompson, D.E., Coolden, H.M.N., Cooper, E.S., Anderson, R.M. & Harland, P.S.E.. 1985. Population distribution of Trichuris trichiura in a community of Jamaican children. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 79: 232–37.
Callen, E.O. & Cameron, T.W.M.. 1960. A prehistoric diet revealed in coprolites. New Scientist 7: 3540.
Chugunov, K.V. 2007. Burial Doge-Bary II as a monument to Uyuk saglynsk culture formation of Tuva (based on excavations of 1990–1998), in Chavrin, S.V. (ed.) Collection of scientific works in 295 honor of the 60th anniversary of Vinogradov, A.V.: 123–45. Saint Petersburg: Cultural Information.
Chugunov, K.V. 2011. Art Arjan-2: style, composition, iconography, ornamental motifs. European Sarmatia. Saint Petersburg: Nestor History (in Russian).
Cockburn, A., Cockburn, E. & Reyman, T.A.. 1998. Mummies, disease and ancient cultures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dufour, B. & Le Bailly, M.. 2013. Testing new parasite egg extraction methods in paleoparasitology and an attempt at quantification. International Journal of Paleopathology 3: 199203.
Fischer, C. 1980. Bog bodies of Denmark, in Cockburn, A. & Cockburn, E. (ed.) Mummies, diseases and ancient cultures: 177–93. London: Cambridge University Press.
Fugassa, M.H., Sardella, N.H., Guichón, R.A., Denegri, G.M. & Araújo, A.. 2008. Paleoparasitological analysis applied to museum-curated sacra from Meridional Patagonian collections. Journal of Archaeological Science 35: 1408–11.
Gonçalves, M.L.C., Araújo, A. & Ferreira, L.F.. 2003. Human intestinal parasites in the past: new findings and a review. Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz 98: 103–18.
Gvozdetsky, N.A. & Mikhailov, N.. 1978. Physical geography of the USSR. The Asian part. Moscow: Misl (in Russian).
Harter, S. 2003. Implication de la paléoparasitologie dans l’étude des populations anciennes de la vallée du Nil et de proche-orient: étude de cas. Unpublished PhD dissertation, Université de Reims-Champagne Ardenne.
Kenney, M. & Yermakov, V.. 1980. Infection of man with Trichuris vulpis, the whipworm of dogs. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 29: 12051208.
Kumm, K.J., Reinhard, K.J., Piombino-Mascali, D. & Araújo, A.. 2010. Archaeoparasitological investigation of a mummy from Sicily (18th–19th century AD). L'Anthropologie 48: 177.
Letyagin, A.Y., Savelov, A.A. & Polosmak, N.V.. 2014. High field magnetic resonance imaging of a mummy from Ak-Alakha-3 mound 1, Ukok Plateau, Gorny Altai: findings and interpretations. Archaeology, Ethnology & Anthropology of Eurasia 60 (4): 8391 (in Russian).
Lubo-Lesnichenko, E.I. 1988. Great Silk Road: east Turkestan in antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Moscow: Nauka (in Russian).
Lubo-Lesnichenko, E.I. 1994. China on the Silk Road. Moscow: Nauka (in Russian)
Manning, J.G. 2014. At the limits: long-distance trade in the time of Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic kings, in Mair, V.H. & Hickman, J. (ed.) Reconfiguring the Silk Road: new research on east–west exchange in antiquity: 514. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Márquez-Navarro, A., García-Bracamontes, G., Álvarez-Fernández, B.E., Ávila-Caballero, L.P., Santos-Aranda, I., Díaz-Chiguer, D.L., Sánchez-Manzano, R.M., Rodríguez-Bataz, E. & Nogueda-Torres, B.. 2012. Trichuris vulpis (Froelich, 1789) infection in a child: a case report. Korean Journal of Parasitology 50: 6971.
Minasyan, R.S. 2004. Secrets Scythian jewelers. Arjan: a source in the Valley of the Kings. Archeological discoveries in Tuva. Saint Petersburg: Slavia (in Russian).
Molodin, V.I. 2003. The population of the Altai Mountains in the Early Iron Age as an ethno-cultural phenomenon: origin, genesis, and historical destinies (from archeological, anthropological and genetic data). Novosibirsk: SB RAS (in Russian).
Nezamabadi, M., Mashkour, M., Aali, A., Stöllner, T. & Le Bailly, M.. 2013. Identification of Taenia sp. in a natural human mummy (third century BC) from the Chehrabad salt mine in Iran. Journal of Parasitology 99: 570–72.
Peck, W.H. 1998. Mummies of ancient Egypt, in Cockburn, A., Cockburn, E. & Reyman, T. (ed.) Mummies, disease and ancient cultures: 1537. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Phuc, P.D., Konradsen, F., Phuong, P.T., Cam, P.D. & Dalsgaard, A.. 2006. Practice of using human excreta as fertilizer and implications for health in Nghean Province, Vietnam. Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health 37: 222–29.
Polosmak, N.V. 1996. The burial of a noble Pazyryk woman. Bulletin of Ancient History 4 (219): 265–68 (in Russian).
Polosmak, N.V. 2000. Mummification and embalming by the Pazyryk. The phenomenon of the Altai mummies. Novosibirsk: IAET SB RAS (in Russian).
Rawlinson, G. 1885. The history of Herodotus. New York: Appleton and Company.
Reinhard, K. & Urban, O.. 2003. Diagnosing ancient diphyllobothriasis from Chinchorro mummies. Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz 98: 191–93.
Reinhard, K.J., Mrozowski, S.A. & Orloski, K.A.. 1986. Privies, pollen, parasites, and seeds, a biological nexus in historic archaeology. Masca Journal 4 (1): 3136.
Rudenko, S.I. 1953. The culture of the population of the Altai Mountains in Scythian times. Moscow & Leningrad: USSR Academy of Sciences.
Searcey, N., Reinhard, K.J., Egarter-Vigl, E., Maixner, F., Piombino-Mascali, D., Zink, A.R., der Sanden, W., Gardner, S.L. & Bianucci, R.. 2013. Parasitism of the Zweeloo Woman: dicrocoeliasis evidenced in a Roman-period bog mummy. International Journal of Paleopathology 3: 224–28.
Sianto, L., Reinhard, K.J., Chame, M., Chaves, S., Mendonça, S., Gonçalves, M.L., Fernandes, A., Ferreira, L.F. & Araújo, A.. 2005. The finding of Echinostoma (Trematoda: Digenea) and hookworm eggs in coprolites collected from a Brazilian mummified body dated 600–1,200 years before present. Journal of Parasitology 91: 972–75.
Singh, S., Samantaray, J.C., Singh, N., Das, G.B. & Verma, I.C.. 1993. Trichuris vulpis infection in an Indian tribal population. Journal of Parasitology 79: 457–58.
Slepchenko, S.M., Ivanov, S.N., Bagashev, A.N., Tsybankov, A.A. & Slavinsky, V.S.. 2016. Traditional living habits of the Taz Tundra population: a paleoparasitological study. Korean Journal of Parasitology 54: 617–23.
Slepchenko, S.M., Ivanov, S.N., Vybornov, A.V., Alekseevich, T.A., Sergeyevich, S.V., Lysenko, D.N. & Matveev, V.E.. 2017. Taenia sp. in human burial from Kan River, east Siberia. Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz 112: 387–90.
Soulsby, E.J.L. (ed.). 1982. Helminths, arthropods and protozoa of domesticated animals. London: Bailliere, Tindall & Cassell.
Vozianova, J.S. 2000. Infectious and parasitic diseases. Kiev: Health Protection (in Russian).
Wei, O. 1973. Internal organs of a 2100-year-old female corpse. The Lancet 7839: 1198.
Yang, W., Song, G. & Teng, R.. 1984. Parasitologische Untersuchung einer alten Leiche aus der Chu-Dynastie der Streitenden Reiche aus dem Mazhuan-Grab Nr. 1, Kreis Jiangling, Provinz Hubei. Acta Academiae Medicinae Wuhan 4: 2327.
Yeh, H.-Y. & Mitchell, P.D.. 2016. Ancient human parasites in ethnic Chinese populations. Korean Journal of Parasitology 54: 565–72.
Yeh, H.-Y., Mao, R., Hui, W., Qi, W. & Mitchell, P.D.. 2016. Early evidence for travel with infectious diseases along the Silk Road: intestinal parasites from 2000-year-old personal hygiene sticks in a latrine at Xuanquanzhi Relay Station in China. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports: 758–64.
Ziegelbauer, K., Speich, B., Mäusezahl, D., Bos, R., Keiser, J. & Utzinger, J.. 2012. Effect of sanitation on soil-transmitted helminth infection: systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS Medicine 9: e1001162.
Zolotko, Ju.L. 1967. Atlas of topographical anatomy of man. Moscow: Medicine (in Russian).
Zubova, A.V. 2009. On the question of mummification in the early Scythian population of Tuva. Problems of Archeology, Ethnography, Anthropology: Siberia and Adjacent Territories 15: 267–69 (in Russian).
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: 4
Total number of PDF views: 45 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 393 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 24th April 2018 - 24th June 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.