A study of the remains of a 1,000 year old latrine reveals an unpleasant fact about the Vikings.
The Vikings may have been robust types, feared throughout much of Europe, but being a Viking wasn’t always much fun and according to a new study the fierce warriors were heavily plagued by intestinal worms.
The study, conducted on thousand-year-old parasite eggs recovered from Viking faeces, shows that both the Vikings and their domestic animals were plagued by parasites — which most likely enjoyed excellent living conditions in a dirty world in which domestic animals and humans lived in unhygienically close proximity to each other.
Examined eggs from a Viking lavatory
In the study, Søe examined the content of parasite eggs in soil samples from a Viking settlement near Viborg. The soil samples came from a latrine used during the period 1018-1030.
The scientists began by separating the ancient parasite eggs from the soil and then extracted DNA from them.
By sequencing the DNA, Søe was able to determine which species of parasite the eggs came from and whether the species infected humans.
The study shows that the soil samples contained parasite eggs from roundworm and human whipworm, along with liver fluke from cattle or sheep
“You can’t tell if they come from parasites that infected humans or animals by simply looking at the eggs,” says Søe. “But by examining their DNA, we are able to confirm what we until now have only believed to be the case: that a thousand years ago, humans carried these parasites around.”
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