Free Republic
Browse · Search
General/Chat
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

This Castle’s Toilet Still Holds Parasites From Crusaders’ Feces
Smithsonian Magazine ^ | 6-18-2013 | Rachel Nuwer

Posted on 06/19/2013 5:25:10 AM PDT by Renfield

Ruins of Saranda Kolones, Cyprus’ feces-preserving castle. Photo by Matthew Wilkinson

Cyprus, the Mediterranean island nation just south of Turkey, took centuries to gain its independence. The Greeks, Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Romans, Ottomans, British and others all took their turns taking over the island, and each left their mark on the archeological record. But in a ruined chamber in a castle on the western corner of the island, it may be more apt to say the invaders left a smear.

In 1191, during the Third Crusade, King Richard I of England invaded Cyprus and ordered that a castle be built on the island’s western corner in order to defend the harbor there. Called Saranda Kolones, the castle’s name refers to its many monolithic columns. But in typical tumultuous Cyprus fashion, the medieval castle was only used for thirty years before it was destroyed by an earthquake. By then, King Richard had sold Cyprus to Guy de Lusignan, the King of Jerusalem. Lusignan and his successors had other plans for expanding the island. The wrecked port was abandoned and the castle never rebuilt.

An ancient toilet from Saranda Kolones, perched over a pit of dried human waste. Photo by Anastasiou & Mitchell, International Journal of Paleopathology

As castles go, Saranda Kolones had a pretty poor run. But two University of Cambridge researchers recently realized that, precisely thanks to the castle’s short use, a priceless treasure had been left behind in the Saranda Kolones’ bowels. One of the centuries-old castle latrines (read: ancient toilet), they found, was still full of dried-up poo. That feces, they thought, could provide valuable insight into what kind of parasites plagued the former residents’ guts. And because only 30 years’ worth of waste clogged the ancient sewage system, those parasites could provide specific insight into what ailed medieval crusaders. The researchers rolled up their sleeves and collected samples from the dessicated cesspool.

To rehydrate the ancient night soil, the team placed one gram of their sample into a chemical liquid solution. They used micro sieves, or tiny strainers to separate parasite eggs from the digested remains of the crusaders’ meals. They created 20 slides, and peeked into their microscopes to see what creatures the soldiers may have left behind.

One of the recovered whipworm eggs. Photo by Anastasiou & Mitchell, International Journal of Paleopathology

The samples revealed 118 “lemon-shaped” Trichuris trichiura eggs–a type of roundworm commonly called the whipworm–as well as 1,179 Ascaris lumbricoides, or giant roundworm, eggs. A control sample of non-toilet soil they tested did not contain any parasite eggs, confirming that the eggs did indeed come from the toilet, they report in the International Journal of Paleopathology.

The study of ancient parasites, whether through old bones that reveal leprosy-causing pathogens or dried up leaves that elucidate the cause of the Irish potato famine, is a thriving field. In this case, the long-dead parasite eggs were pooped out by the crusaders using the toilet years ago. These species reproduce within human bodies, and go on to infect new hosts through egg-contaminated soil or food delivered courtesy of the host.

Heavy infection with either of these worms was no picnic. The authors write, first of giant roundworms:

The mature female then starts to lay about 200,000 eggs per day that can be fertile or unfertile if no male worms are present. Although a mild infection with roundworms is mostly asymptomatic, heavy burdens with Ascaris can cause intestinal blockage and abdominal pain in adults. Because children are less able to tolerate parasites that compete with them for nutrients in their diet, heavy infection with roundworms can cause nutritional impairment, vitamin deficiencies, anaemia and growth retardation.

And of whipworms:

When the females reach maturity they can release 2000–10,000 eggs per day. As with roundworm a heavy worm burden may contribute to malnutrition, stunted growth in childhood and sometimes mechanical damage of the intestinal mucosa, diarrhoea and prolapsed rectum.

The presence of these worms, the authors write, attests to the poor hygienic conditions the castle residents likely practiced and put up with. “Poor hygiene with dirty hands, contamination of the food and water supplies with faecal material, inadequate disposal of the faecal material, and consumption of unwashed vegetables fertilized with human faeces are some of the means through which roundworms and whipworms are spread.”

The worms also could have jeopardized the health of their hosts, especially during years of famine when both parasite and human competed for scarce nutrients from meals few and far between. Previous studies found that between 15 to 20 percent of nobles and the clergy died from malnutrition and infectious disease during the crusades. Although death records for poor soldiers are not available, the authors think it’s safe to assume that malnutrition probably hit the lower-ranking crusaders even harder.

It is quite likely that a heavy load of intestinal parasites in soldiers on crusade expeditions and in castles undergoing long sieges would have predisposed to death from malnutrition,” they write. “This clearly has implications for our understanding of health and disease on mediaeval military expeditions such as the crusades.”

Before contemporary readers breathe a sign of relief that these parasites infested the guts of people living more than 800 years ago, it’s important to note that the giant roundworm infests an estimated one-sixth of all humans living today. As the authors write, “In modern times A. lumbricoides and T. trichiura are two of the most common and widespread intestinal parasites.” Other parasites continue to plague human populations worldwide, especially in developing countries. Who knows what the archaeologists of the future will find in the scum of your latrine?


TOPICS: Health/Medicine; History; Science
KEYWORDS: crusaders; godsgravesglyphs; helixmakemineadouble; medieval; parasites

1 posted on 06/19/2013 5:25:10 AM PDT by Renfield
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

Ping


2 posted on 06/19/2013 5:25:26 AM PDT by Renfield (Turning apples into venison since 1999!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Renfield

Thanks. I was eating breakfast. Was.


3 posted on 06/19/2013 5:31:36 AM PDT by Doc Savage ("I've shot people I like a lot more,...for a lot less!" Raylan Givins)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Renfield
I visited Cyprus years ago and saw these places. There were mosaics there from the Romans, as fresh and vivid as if they had been put in last month.
I lived in the middle east for some years and saw so much that I am still absorbing it. But I REALLY had to hand it to those Crusaders who fought over there and lived to return to their European homes: unbelievable IMMUNE SYSTEMS!

I got sick in Damascus once but didn't get it 100% taken care of until six months later. The doctor told me that I had a bug with a name about 10 inches long. He gave me medicine for it...and MY HUSBAND had to take the medicine too because that particular dysentery was sexually transmittable.

I was convinced that for those folks who survived the bugs of the middle east, NOTHING short of a silver bullet will kill them. Yuck. What a place Jesus chose to be born in...the middle east. Yuck.

4 posted on 06/19/2013 5:33:43 AM PDT by cloudmountain
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Renfield

Someone needs to send this to Sheryl Crow - the woman who thinks we only need one piece of toilet paper per visit.


5 posted on 06/19/2013 5:33:47 AM PDT by miss marmelstein ( Richard Lives Yet!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Renfield
The Supersizers Eat... Episode 2: Medieval
6 posted on 06/19/2013 5:35:29 AM PDT by Joe 6-pack (Qui me amat, amat et canem meum.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Renfield

Great article. Thanks for posting it.


7 posted on 06/19/2013 5:51:35 AM PDT by paterfamilias
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Renfield

Some showed up on the slides better than others.

8 posted on 06/19/2013 6:07:08 AM PDT by BerryDingle (I know how to deal with communists, I still wear their scars on my back from Hollywood-Ronald Reagan)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

ping for your GGG list


9 posted on 06/19/2013 6:49:44 AM PDT by Bigg Red (Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved! -Ps80)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: Renfield

Thanks for posting — I think. :)

Fascinating stuff, even though I have to admit to deliberately skipping some of the descriptions of the activities of the parasites.


10 posted on 06/19/2013 6:51:15 AM PDT by Bigg Red (Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved! -Ps80)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: cloudmountain

“and MY HUSBAND had to take the medicine too because that particular dysentery was sexually transmittable.”

Ha, I would have been safe for at least 3-4 months!...


11 posted on 06/19/2013 6:55:29 AM PDT by Resolute Conservative
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: cloudmountain

What a place Jesus chose to be born in...the middle east.

***
Well, I am thinking that it has more to do with the backward cultures of many who have inhabited the area since. After all, the lands that the Crusaders came from wound up advancing in terms of hygiene.

When I looked at that beautifully preserved toilet I thought about how advanced it is compared to elimination practices still in use in many places in the world.


12 posted on 06/19/2013 6:55:47 AM PDT by Bigg Red (Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved! -Ps80)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: Renfield

What’s even more cool, is that those arches are still standing!


13 posted on 06/19/2013 8:35:19 AM PDT by BenLurkin (This is not a statement of fact. It is either opinion or satire; or both)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: miss marmelstein

Someone needs to send this to Sheryl Crow - the woman who thinks we only need one piece of toilet paper per visit.


Ha! I’m not the only person that is still grossed out by Ms. Crow’s statement!


14 posted on 06/19/2013 8:52:31 AM PDT by MWestMom (Psalms 109:8)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: Joe 6-pack

I discovered the episode on the Medieval diet to be the most impressive of the entire series, and I’d thought it would be the least. Much of the food looked delicious!

What happened between the Medieval and the Restoration periods that made dishes so thoroughly disgusting in the latter? On the one hand, Puritanism was suggested and a fear of plague and poison and most things “vegetable”, and on the wealthier side, a desire to impress with an overabundance of spiced game and spirits.

I’d never seen Susan and Giles so sick; to the extent they were laid-up for two days during taping; after which they made their “escape” to the countryside where they were fed on more moist and nourishing food that gave them some relief!

Ick on the Restoration diet and all their silly jellies.


15 posted on 06/19/2013 3:15:14 PM PDT by floralamiss ("For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: floralamiss
"Ick on the Restoration diet and all their silly jellies."

My dear, I'd remind you I'm at least 2/3rds jelly these days. Need to get back on exercis bike!

16 posted on 06/19/2013 4:14:04 PM PDT by Joe 6-pack (Qui me amat, amat et canem meum.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: Joe 6-pack

Ah, but you are not a silly jelly. You are sexy in aspic. :-*


17 posted on 06/19/2013 5:04:19 PM PDT by floralamiss ("For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: Renfield; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; decimon; 1010RD; 21twelve; 24Karet; ...

 GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother & Ernest_at_the_Beach
Thanks Renfield.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.


18 posted on 06/20/2013 9:35:45 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (McCain or Romney would have been worse, if you're a dumb ass.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Bigg Red

I think this may have been prefigured by the Council of Wurms.


19 posted on 06/20/2013 9:36:44 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (McCain or Romney would have been worse, if you're a dumb ass.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

I think this may have been prefigured by the Council of Wurms.
__________

And finalized as a result of the Diet of Worms.


20 posted on 06/20/2013 9:50:45 PM PDT by pax_et_bonum (Never Forget the Seals of Extortion 17 - and God Bless America)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: pax_et_bonum

LOL!


21 posted on 06/20/2013 9:53:04 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (McCain or Romney would have been worse, if you're a dumb ass.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 20 | View Replies]

To: Renfield

Holy $#it!


22 posted on 06/21/2013 6:09:06 AM PDT by Winstons Julia (Hello OWS? We don't need a revolution like China's; China needs a revolution like OURS.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv
It was the standard diet of the times.


23 posted on 06/21/2013 10:09:13 AM PDT by Lady Jag (If you can't make them see the light, let them feel the heat. - Reagan)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: Renfield; SunkenCiv

Crusader feces ping!

The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, they play pinochle upon your snout.


24 posted on 06/21/2013 3:10:09 PM PDT by wildbill (You're just jealous because the Voices talk only to me.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Bigg Red
What a place Jesus chose to be born in...the middle east.

I don't know your ancestry, but if you are of English, Irish, and Scottish stock like me, realize that the holy land was a more civlizied place than where we were 2000 years ago.

25 posted on 06/21/2013 3:20:14 PM PDT by catfish1957 (Hey NSA Goon watching FR... Suck this - > |=====>)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: wildbill

LOL!


26 posted on 06/21/2013 9:15:38 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (McCain or Romney would have been worse, if you're a dumb ass.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 24 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

[groan]


27 posted on 06/21/2013 9:19:48 PM PDT by Bigg Red (Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved! -Ps80)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: catfish1957

What a place Jesus chose to be born in...the middle east.

***
That was not my statement; my comment was responding to that statement from another FReeper.


28 posted on 06/21/2013 9:21:03 PM PDT by Bigg Red (Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved! -Ps80)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 25 | View Replies]

To: Bigg Red

Hey, I worked hard on that for about 2 seconds! ;’)


29 posted on 06/22/2013 4:20:36 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (McCain or Romney would have been worse, if you're a dumb ass.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 27 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
General/Chat
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson