ArticlePDF Available

Human Intestinal Parasites From the Wushantou Site in Neolithic Period Taiwan (800–1 BC)

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

Here, we investigate the presence of parasitic infections in Neolithic peoples from Taiwan to provide insight into the health and cultural development of these populations. Analysis was conducted on 27 soil samples collected from the pelvic region of human skeletal remains, along with control samples taken from the skulls and feet excavated from the Wushantou site in southwest Taiwan. The samples were disaggregated, passed through micro-sieves, and visualized using light microscopy. Analysis revealed the presence of roundworm eggs (Ascaris lumbricoides) within the remains of one individual. The control samples were negative for parasites, suggesting a true infection in this individual and not later environmental contamination of the soil. This is the first discovery of ancient parasite eggs in prehistoric Taiwan. The low apparent prevalence of parasites in this population is discussed in the context of the environment during this time and the consequences of regional climate on preservation of parasite eggs.
Content may be subject to copyright.
A preview of the PDF is not available
Chapter
Shifting to non-artifactual evidence, this chapter introduces zooarchaeology, beginning with the range of animal remains and the effects of taphonomy — the post-depositional effects that alter and differentially destroy remains. It then reviews the terminology used to describe skeletal and other hard remains of mammals, birds, bony fish, and molluscs, before outlining the main aspects of zooarchaeological identification and zooarchaeological reference collections. It briefly returns to the topic of quantification in zooarchaeological interpretation, building on Chap. 7, with emphasis on utility measures. It reviews some of the major research foci of zooarchaeology, including paleoecology and climate change, seasonality, food practices, archaeogenetics and other molecular methods, and research on “secondary products” (the non-meat resources that animals provide). It concludes with a case study on the reliability of faunal identifications and measurements.
Article
Full-text available
In this study we take a closer look at the diseases that afflicted Japanese police officers who were stationed in a remote mountainous region of Taiwan from 1921 to 1944. Samples were taken from the latrine at the Huabanuo police outpost, and analyzed for the eggs of intestinal parasites, using microscopy and ELISA. The eggs of Eurytrema sp., (pos- sibly E. pancreaticum), whipworm and roundworm were shown to be present. True infection with Eurytrema would indi- cate that the policemen ate uncooked grasshoppers and crickets infected with the parasite. However, false parasitism might also occur if the policemen ate the uncooked intestines of infected cattle, and the Eurytrema eggs passed through the human intestines. These findings provide an insight into the diet and health of the Japanese colonists in Taiwan nearly a century ago.
Article
Full-text available
The Silk Road has often been blamed for the spread of infectious diseases in the past between East Asia, the Middle East and Europe. While such a hypothesis seems plausible, there is actually very little concrete evidence to prove that diseases were transmitted by early travellers moving along its various branches. The aim of this study is to look for ancient parasite eggs on personal hygiene sticks in a latrine at a large relay station on the Silk Road at Xuanquanzhi (111 BCE–CE 109), at the eastern margin of the Tarim Basin in north-western China. We isolated eggs of four species of parasitic intestinal worms: Chinese liver fluke (Clonorchis sinensis), Taenia sp. tapeworm (likely Taenia asiatica, Taenia solium or Taenia saginata), roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides) and whipworm (Trichuris trichiura). The Chinese liver fluke requires wet marshy areas to sustain its life cycle and could not have been endemic to this arid region. The presence of this species suggests that people from well-watered areas of eastern or southern China travelled with their parasites to this relay station along the Silk Road, either for trade or on government business. This appears to be the earliest archaeological evidence for travel with infectious diseases along the Silk Road.
Article
Full-text available
Parasites have been infecting humans throughout our evolution. However, not all people suffered with the same species or to the same intensity throughout this time. Our changing way of life has altered the suitability of humans to infection by each type of parasite. This analysis focuses upon the evidence for parasites from archaeological excavations at medieval sites across Europe. Comparison between the patterns of infection in the medieval period allows us to see how changes in sanitation, herding animals, growing and fertilizing crops, the fishing industry, food preparation, and migration all affected human susceptibility to different parasites. We go on to explore how ectoparasites may have spread infectious bacterial diseases, and also consider what medieval medical practitioners thought of parasites and how they tried to treat them. While modern research has shown the use of a toilet decreases the risk of contracting certain intestinal parasites, the evidence for past societies presented here suggests that the invention of latrines had no observable beneficial effects upon intestinal health. This may be because toilets were not sufficiently ubiquitous until the last century, or that the use of fresh human faeces for manuring crops still ensured those parasite species were easily able to re-infect the population.
Article
Full-text available
The Neolithic of Taiwan represents the first stage in the expansion of Austronesian-speaking peoples through the Pacific. Settlement and burial evidence from the Tapenkeng (TKP) or Dabenkeng culture demonstrates the development of the early Taiwanese Neolithic over a period of almost 2000 years, from its origin in the pre-TPK of the Pearl River Delta and south-eastern coastal China. The first TPK communities of Taiwan pursued a mixed coastal foraging and horticultural lifestyle, but by the late TPK rice and millet farming were practised with extensive villages and large settlements. The broad-spectrum subsistence diversity of the Taiwanese Neolithic was an important factor in facilitating the subsequent expansion of Austronesian-speaking peoples to the Philippines and beyond.
Book
Talking about all the diagnostic of general Parasites
Chapter
Parasites have been infecting humans throughout our evolution. However, not all people suffered with the same species or to the same intensity throughout this time. Our changing way of life has altered the suitability of humans to infection by each type of parasite. This analysis focuses upon the evidence for parasites from archaeological excavations at medieval sites across Europe. Comparison between the patterns of infection in the medieval period allows us to see how changes in sanitation, herding animals, growing and fertilizing crops, the fishing industry, food preparation and migration all affected human susceptibility to different parasites. We go on to explore how ectoparasites may have spread infectious bacterial diseases, and also consider what medieval medical practitioners thought of parasites and how they tried to treat them.
Article
Parasite finds in ancient material launched a new field of science: palaeoparasitology. Ever since the pioneering studies, parasites were identified in archaeological and palaeontological remains, some preserved for millions of years by fossilization. However, the palaeoparasitological record consists mainly of parasites found specifically in human archaeological material, preserved in ancient occupation sites, from prehistory until closer to 2015. The results include some helminth intestinal parasites still commonly found in 2015, such as Ascaris lumbricoides, Trichuris trichiura and hookworms, besides others such as Amoebidae and Giardia intestinalis, as well as viruses, bacteria, fungi and arthropods. These parasites as a whole provide important data on health, diet, climate and living conditions among ancient populations. This chapter describes the principal findings and their importance for knowledge on the origin and dispersal of infectious diseases.
Article
Numerous eggs of Ascaris cf. lumbricoides have been discovered in palaeolithic sediments of the pictorial sanctuary of the Grande Grotte at Arcy-sur-Cure. The presence of this parasite specifically human during the upper Pleistocene opens a new way of search about the knowledge of ancient populations.
Article
Coprolites were recovered from three burials near the Grand Place of Nivelles, Belgium. These remains yielded evidence of geohelminth parasitism. The evidence contributes to studies of differential parasite egg preservation related to the taphonomic conditions within the three burials. Using coprolite analysis techniques, parasite egg concentrations were quantified for each burial. Coprolites from the individual in Burial 122 were abnormally large and abundant, indicating an intestinal blockage. Additionally, this individual hosted an extremely high number of parasites evinced by the calculated parasite egg concentrations (Trichuris trichiura = 1,577,679 total eggs; Ascaris lumbricoides = 202,350 total eggs). Statistical analyses revealed a positive and significant correlation between A. lumbricoides egg and T. trichiura egg presence (eggs per gram [epg]: r2 = 0.583; eggs per coprolite [epc]: r2 = 0.71). Burial 122 coprolites show a statistically significant increase in egg concentration from the upper colon to the lower colon. Taking extreme parasitism into consideration, the possible causes of the intestinal blockage are discussed. We propose a synergy of high parasite burden and diet contributed to the intestinal blockage. Superior parasite egg preservation was observed in coprolites from Burial 122 compared to Burials 009 and 119. This is due to a variety of taphonomic factors, including a more limited percolation of fluid through the grave sediment.