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Intestinal parasites in the Neolithic population who built Stonehenge (Durrington Walls, 2500 BCE)

Mitchell, Piers D; Anastasiou, Evilena; Whelton, Helen L; Bull, Ian D; Pearson, Mike Parker; Shillito, Lisa-Marie; (2022) Intestinal parasites in the Neolithic population who built Stonehenge (Durrington Walls, 2500 BCE). Parasitology , 149 (8) pp. 1027-1033. 10.1017/S0031182022000476. Green open access

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Abstract

Durrington Walls was a large Neolithic settlement in Britain dating around 2500 BCE, located very close to Stonehenge and likely to be the campsite where its builders lived during its main stage of construction. Nineteen coprolites recovered from a midden and associated pits at Durrington Walls were analysed for intestinal parasite eggs using digital light microscopy. Five (26%) contained helminth eggs, 1 with those of fish tapeworm (likely Dibothriocephalus dendriticus) and 4 with those of capillariid nematodes. Analyses of bile acid and sterol from these 5 coprolites show 1 to be of likely human origin and the other 4 to likely derive from dogs. The presence of fish tapeworm reveals that the Neolithic people who gathered to feast at Durrington Walls were at risk of infection from eating raw or undercooked freshwater fish. When the eggs of capillariids are found in the feces of humans or dogs it normally indicates that the internal organs (liver, lung or intestines) of animals with capillariasis have been eaten, and eggs passed through the gut without causing disease. Their presence in multiple coprolites provides new evidence that internal organs of animals were consumed. These novel findings improve our understanding of both parasitic infection and dietary habits associated with this key Neolithic ceremonial site.

Type: Article
Title: Intestinal parasites in the Neolithic population who built Stonehenge (Durrington Walls, 2500 BCE)
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1017/S0031182022000476
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0031182022000476
Language: English
Additional information: © Cambridge University Press 2022. This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Keywords: Capillariasis, Dibothriocephalus, fish tapeworm, helminth, Neolithic, palaeoparasitology
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10149772
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