Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

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 (a1), Elisabeth Grimshaw (a1), Madison Fairey (a1), Helen L. Whelton (a2), Ian D. Bull (a2), Rachel Ballantyne (a3), Mark Knight (a4) and Piers D. Mitchell (a1)...

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.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

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

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

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

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

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

Copyright

Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: Piers Mitchell, E-mail: pdm39@cam.ac.uk

References

Hide All
Anastasiou, E (2015) Parasites in European populations from prehistory to the industrial revolution. In Mitchell, PD (ed.), Sanitation, Latrines and Intestinal Parasites in Past Populations, Farnham: Ashgate, pp. 203217.
Anastasiou, E and Mitchell, PD (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, LA and Mitchell, PD (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, 860864.
Arriaza, BT, Reinhard, KJ, Araújo, AG, Orellana, NC and Standen, VG (2010) Possible influence of the ENSO phenomenon on the pathoecology of diphyllobothriasis and anisakiasis in ancient Chinchorro populations. Memorias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz 105, 6672.
Ash, LR and Orihel, TC (2015) Atlas of Human Parasitology, 5th Edn. Chicago: American Society for Clinical Pathology Press.
Aspöck, H, Flamm, H and Picher, O (1973) Darmparasiten in men-schlichen exkrementen aus prähistorischen salzbergwerken der Hallstatt-Kultur (800–350 v. Chr). Zentralblatt für Bakteriologic und Hygiene Abt Originale A 223, 549558.
Ballantyne, R (2018) Task 7 plant macrofossils – seeds and fruits. In Knight, M, Ballantyne, R, Gibson, D and Robinson Zeki, I (eds). Must Farm Timber Platform: Post-Excavation Assessment and Updated Project Design, vol. II (CAU Report 1387). Cambridge: Cambridge Archaeological Unit, pp. 119.
Beer, R (1973) Morphological descriptions of the egg and larval stages of Trichuris suis Schrank, 1788. Parasitology 67, 263278.
Beer, RJS (1976) The relationship between Trichuris trichiura (Linnaeus 1758) of man and Trichuris suis (Schrank 1788) of the pig. Research in Veterinary Science 20, 4754.
Bergman, J (2018) Stone age disease in the north – human intestinal parasites from a Mesolithic burial in Motala, Sweden. Journal of Archaeological Science 96, 2632.
Bouchet, F (1997) Intestinal capillariasis in Neolithic inhabitants of Chalain (Jura, France). The Lancet 349, 256.
Bouchet, F, Petrequin, P, Paicheler, JC and Dommelier, S (1995) Première approche paléoparasitogique du site néolithique de Chalain (Jura, France). Bulletin de la Société de Pathologie Exotique 88, 265268.
Bouchet, F, Guidon, N, Dittmar, K, Harter, S, Ferreira, LF, Chaves, SM, Reinhard, K and Araújo, A (2003) Parasite remains in archaeological sites. Memorias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz 98(Suppl 1), 4752.
Brewster, B (2016) Aquatic Parasite Information: A Database on Parasites of Freshwater and Brackish Fish in the United Kingdom. PhD thesis, Kingston University London, London, UK.
Chappell, LH and Owen, RW (1969) A reference list of parasite species recorded in freshwater fish from Great Britain and Ireland. Journal of Natural History 3, 197216.
Chunge, RN and Chunge, CN (2017) Infection with Echinostoma sp. in a group of travellers to Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania, in January 2017. Journal of Travel Medicine 24, 13.
Clapham, AJ (2019) The animal dung pellets from Must Farm. Interim analytical report for the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, University of Cambridge.
Confalonieri, UEC, Ribeiro-Filho, BM, Ferreira, LF and Araújo, AJG (1985) The experimental approach to paleoparasitology: desiccation of Trichuris trichiura eggs. Paleopathology Newsletter 51, 911.
Dark, P (2004) New evidence for the antiquity of the intestinal parasite Trichuris (whipworm) in Europe. Antiquity 78, 676681.
Dittmar, K (2009) Old parasites for a new world: the future of paleoparasitological research. A review. The Journal of Parasitology 95, 365371.
Dommelier, S, Bentrad, S, Bouchet, F, Paicheler, JC and Pétrequin, P (1998) Parasitoses liées à l'alimentation chez les populations du site néolithique de Chalain (Jura, France). Anthropozoologica 27, 4149.
Dommelier-Espejo, S (2001) Contribution à l'Etude Paléoparasitologique des Sites Néolithiques en Environnement Lacustre dans les Domaines Jurassien et Péri- Alpin. PhD thesis, Université de Reims, Reims, France.
Dupouy-Camet, J and Peduzzi, R (2004) Current situation of human diphyllobothriasis in Europe. Euro surveillance: Bulletin Europeen sur les Maladies Transmissibles = European Communicable Disease Bulletin 9, 56.
Dutour, O (2013) Paleoparasitology and paleopathology. Synergies for reconstructing the past of human infectious diseases and their pathocenosis. International Journal of Paleopathology 3, 145149.
French, C (2003) Geoarchaeology in Action: Studies in Soil Micromorphology and Landscape Evolution. London: Routledge.
French, C (2018) Task 10 micromorphology. In Knight, M, Ballantyne, R, Gibson, D and Robinson Zeki, I (eds), Must Farm Timber Platform: Post-Excavation Assessment and Updated Project Design, vol. II (CAU Report 1387). Cambridge: Cambridge Archaeological Unit, pp. 4059.
Fugassa, MH, Taglioretti, V, Gonçalves, MLC, Araújo, A, Sardella, NH and Denegri, GM (2008) Capillaria spp. eggs in Patagonian archaeological sites: statistical analysis of morphometric data. Memorias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz 103, 104105.
Garcia, LS (2016) Diagnostic Medical Parasitology. Washington, DC: ASM Press.
Gibson, DJ, Knight, M and Allen, M (2010) The Must Farm Timber Alignments: An Archaeological and Environmental Evaluation. Post-excavation Assessment Vols 1 & 2, 935. Cambridge: Cambridge Archaeological Unit.
Goncalves, MLC, da Silva, VL, de Andrade, CM, Reinhard, K, da Rocha, GC, Le Bailly, M, Bouchet, F, Ferreira, LF and Araujo, A (2004) Amoebiasis distribution in the past: first steps using an immunoassay technique. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 98, 8891.
Gustinelli, A, Menconi, V, Prearo, M, Caffara, M, Righetti, M, Scanzio, T, Raglio, A and Fioravanti, ML (2016) Prevalence of Diphyllobothrium latum (Cestoda: Diphyllobothriidae) plerocercoids in fish species from four Italian lakes and risk for the consumers. International Journal of Food Microbiology 235, 109112.
Jiménez, FA, Gardner, SL, Araújo, A, Fugassa, M, Brooks, RH, Racz, E and Reinhard, KJ (2012) Zoonotic and human parasites of inhabitants of Cueva de Los Muertos Chiquitos, Rio Zape Valley, Durango, Mexico. Journal of Parasitology 98, 304309.
Jones, AKG (1990) Coprolites and faecal concretions. In Bell, M (ed.), Brean Down: Excavations 1983–1987. London: English Heritage, pp. 242245.
Kerouanton, I (2002) Le lac du Bourget (Savoie) à l'Âge du Bronze final: les groupes culturels et la question du groupe du Bourget. Bulletin de la Société Préhistorique Française 99, 521561.
Knight, M, Ballantyne, RM, Robinson Zeki, I and Gibson, D (2019) The Must Farm pile-dwelling settlement. Antiquity 93, 645663.
Kuchta, R, Brabec, J, Kubáčková, P and Scholz, T (2013) Tapeworm Diphyllobothrium dendriticum (Cestoda)–neglected or emerging human parasite? PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 7, e2535.
Kuchta, R, Serrano-Martínez, ME and Scholz, T (2015) Pacific broad tapeworm Adenocephalus pacificus as a causative agent of globally reemerging Diphyllobothriosis. Emerging Infectious Diseases 21, 16971703.
Langdon, C (2018) Task 13 microfossils – chironomids. In Knight, M, Ballantyne, R, Gibson, D and Robinson Zeki, I (eds). Must Farm Timber Platform: Post-Excavation Assessment and Updated Project Design, vol. II (CAU Report 1387). Cambridge: Cambridge Archaeological Unit, pp. 114118.
Le Bailly, M (2005) Evolution de la Relation Hôte/Parasite dans les Systèmes Lacustres Nord Alpins au Néolithique (3900–2900 BC), et Nouvelles Données dans la Détection des Paléoantigènes de Protozoa. PhD thesis, Université de Reims, Reims, France.
Le Bailly, M and Bouchet, F (2010) Ancient dicrocoeliosis: occurrence, distribution and migration. Acta Tropica 115, 175180.
Le Bailly, M and Bouchet, F (2013) Diphyllobothrium in the past: review and new records. International Journal of Paleopathology 3, 182187.
Le Bailly, M, Leuzinger, U and Bouchet, F (2003) Dioctophymidae eggs in coprolites from Neolithic site of Arbon-Bleiche 3 (Switzerland). The Journal of Parasitology 89, 10731076.
Le Bailly, M, Leuzinger, U, Schlichtherle, H and Bouchet, F (2005) Diphyllobothrium: neolithic parasite? The Journal of Parasitology 91, 957959.
Le Bailly, M, Leuzinger, U, Schlichtherle, H and Bouchet, F (2007) ‘Crise économique’ au Néolithique à la transition Pfÿn-Horgen (3400 BC): contribution de la paléoparasitologie. Anthropozoologica 42, 175185.
Ledger, ML and Mitchell, PD (2019) Tracing zoonotic parasite infections throughout human evolution. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 112. doi: 10.1002/oa.2786.
Leles, D, Cascardo, P, Freire, ADS, Maldonado, A Jr, Sianto, L and Araújo, A (2014) Insights about echinostomiasis by paleomolecular diagnosis. Parasitology International 63, 646649.
Leštinová, K, Soldánová, M, Scholz, T and Kuchta, R (2016) Eggs as a suitable tool for species diagnosis of causative agents of human Diphyllobothriosis (Cestoda). PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 10, e0004721.
Maicher, C, Hoffmann, A, Côté, NML, Palomo Pérez, A, Saña Segui, M and Le Bailly, M (2017) Paleoparasitological investigations on the Neolithic lakeside settlement of La Draga (Lake Banyoles, Spain). The Holocene 27, 16591668.
Maicher, C, Bleicher, N and Le Bailly, M (2019) Spatializing data in paleoparasitology: application to the study of the Neolithic lakeside settlement of Zürich-Parkhaus-Opéra, Switzerland. The Holocene 29, 11981205. doi: 10.1177/0959683619838046.
Mehlhorn, H (2016) Animal Parasites: Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention. Cham: Springer.
Mitchell, PD (2013) The origins of human parasites: exploring the evidence for endoparasitism throughout human evolution. International Journal of Paleopathology 3, 191198.
Mitchell, PD (2015) Human parasites in medieval Europe: lifestyle, sanitation and medical treatment. Advances in Parasitology 90, 389420.
Mitchell, PD (2017) Human parasites in the Roman world: health consequences of conquering an empire. Parasitology 144, 4858.
Moravec, F (1980) Revision of nematodes of the genus Capillaria from European freshwater fishes. Folia Parasitologica 27, 309324.
Pedrassani, D, Hoppe, EGL, Avancini, N and do Nascmento, AA (2009) Morphology of eggs of Dioctophyme renale Goeze, 1782 (Nematoda: Dioctophymatidae) and influences of temperature on development of first-stage larvae in the eggs. Revisita Brasileira de Parasitologia Veterinária 18, 1519.
Perri, AR, Power, RC, Stuijts, I, Heinrich, S, Talamo, S, Hamilton-Dyer, S and Roberts, C (2018) Detecting hidden diets and disease: zoonotic parasites and fish consumption in Mesolithic Ireland. Journal of Archaeological Science 97, 137146.
Pryor, F (2001) The Flag Fen Basin: Archaeology and Environment of a Fenland Landscape. London: English Heritage.
Rajkovača, V (2018) Task 15 faunal remains. In Knight, M, Ballantyne, R, Gibson, D and Robinson Zeki, I (eds). Must Farm Timber Platform: Post-Excavation Assessment and Updated Project Design, vol. II (CAU Report 1387). Cambridge: Cambridge Archaeological Unit, pp. 131137.
Reinhard, KJ (1992) Parasitology as an interpretive tool in archaeology. American Antiquity 57, 231245.
Reinhard, KJ and Pucu de Araújo, E (2014) Comparative parasitological perspectives on epidemiologic transitions: the Americas and Europe. In Zuckerman, MK (ed.), Modern Environments and Human Health: Revisiting the Second Epidemiologic Transition. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, pp. 321336.
Reinhard, KJ, Ferreira, LF, Bouchet, F, Sianto, L, Dutra, JMF, Iniguez, A, Leles, D, Le Bailly, M, Fugassa, M, Pucu, E and Araújo, A (2013) Food, parasites, and epidemiological transitions: a broad perspective. International Journal of Paleopathology 3, 150157.
Robinson, I, Knight, M and Murrell, K (2015) Must Farm Palaeochannel Investigations 2009–2012. Post-Excavation Assessment, 1266. Cambridge: Cambridge Archaeological Unit.
Sah, R, Khadka, S, Hamal, R and Poudyal, S (2018) Human echinostomiasis: a case report. BMC Research Notes 11, 17.
Sampaio, JL, de Andrade, VP, Lucas, MC, Fung, L, Gagliardi, SM, Santos, SR, Mendes, CM, Eduardo, MB and Dick, T (2005) Diphyllobothriasis, Brazil. Emerging Infectious Diseases 11, 15981600.
Scaife, R (2001) Flag Fen: the vegetation and environment. In Pryor, F (ed.), The Flag Fen Basin: Archaeology and Environment of A Fenland Landscape. London: English Heritage, pp. 351381.
Scholz, T and Kuchta, R (2016) Fish-borne, zoonotic cestodes (Diphyllobothrium and relatives) in cold climates: a never-ending story of neglected and (re)-emergent parasites. Food and Waterborne Parasitology 4, 2338.
Scholz, T, Garcia, HH, Kuchta, R and Wicht, B (2009) Update on the human broad tapeworm (genus Diphyllobothrium), including clinical relevance. Clinical Microbiology Reviews 22, 146160.
Šebela, L, Vojtkova, L and Vojtek, J (1990) Intestinal parasites in man of old bronze age. L'Anthropologie 28, 105107.
Thanchomnang, T, Tantrawatpan, C, Intapan, PM, Sanpool, O, Lulitanond, V, Tourtip, S, Yamasaki, H and Maleewong, W (2016) Rapid identification of nine species of diphyllobothriidean tapeworms by pyrosequencing. Scientific Reports 6, 37228.
Toledo, R and Esteban, JG (2016) An update on human echinostomiasis. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 110, 3745.
Traversa, D, Di Cesare, A, Lia, RPCastagna, G, Meloni, S, Heine, J, Strube, K, Milillo, P, Otranto, D, Meckes, O and Schaper, R (2011) New insights into morphological and biological features of Capillaria aerophila (Trichocephalida, Trichuridae). Parasitology Research 109(Suppl 1), S97104.
Wicht, B, Yanagida, T, Scholz, T, Ito, A, Jiménez, JA and Brabec, J (2010) Multiplex PCR for differential identification of broad tapeworms (Cestoda: Diphyllobothrium) infecting humans. Journal of Clinical Microbiology 48, 31113116.
Yeh, H-Y, Pluskowski, A, Kalējs, U and Mitchell, PD (2014) Intestinal parasites in a mid-14th century latrine from Riga, Latvia: fish tapeworm and the consumption of uncooked fish in the medieval eastern Baltic region. Journal of Archaeological Science 49, 8389.

Keywords

Type Description Title
WORD
Supplementary materials

Ledger et al. supplementary material
Ledger et al. supplementary material

 Word (28 KB)
28 KB

Metrics

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