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Friday, June 24, 2022

Petrified Poop Reveals What the Builders of Stonehenge Ate

by Katie Hunt | CNN

Ancient feces found at the site of a prehistoric village near Stonehenge showed that the inhabitants of the settlement – ​​who probably built the stone enclosure – feasted on the internal organs of cattle.

Just 1.7 miles (2.8 kilometers) from Stonehenge, a settlement known as the Durrington Walls, several fragments of fossil deposits, which scientists call coprolites, were unearthed. The village dates back to about 2500 BC, when most of the grand monuments in south-west England were built.

Eggs of parasitic worms were found in five pieces of feces from one human and four dogs.

Human feces and three coprolites of canines contain eggs of capillarid worms, which are recognized by their lemon shape. According to a new study on fossils, the presence of this type of worm indicated that the person had eaten raw or undercooked lungs or liver of a previously infected animal, which would result in the parasite’s eggs passing directly through the digestive tract.

The study authors said capillarid worms infect cattle and other ruminants, suggesting that cattle food was the most likely source of the parasite. The dogs may have been fed left over food.

However, bones excavated from the garbage dump suggested that cattle were not the most commonly eaten animals. Of the 38,000 bones discovered, some 90% were from pigs and 10% from cattle.

Ancient human feces were unearthed from Durrington Walls, a prehistoric village near Stonehenge. Lisa-Marie Shilito / University of Cambridge via CNN

A piece of dog’s feces contained eggs of fish tapeworms, indicating that he had become infected by eating raw freshwater fish. However, no other evidence of fish consumption, such as bones, has been found at the site. This lack of evidence is probably because the site was not used year-round, and fish containing tapeworms were eaten in an isolated settlement.

“The Durrington Walls were largely occupied on a seasonal basis, mainly in the winter period. The dog had probably already been infected with the parasite,” said a medical doctor and senior in the Department of Archeology, University of Cambridge, in a news release. Study co-author Dr. Pierce Mitchell said.

“Isotopic studies of cow bones at the site suggest that they came from areas of southern Britain, which was probably also true for the people who lived and worked there,” he said in the statement.

The research was published Thursday in the journal Parasitology.

Stonehenge is composed of two types of stone: the larger Saracen stone and the smaller Bluestone monolith of Wales, which was erected earlier. Archaeologists believe that Durrington Walls was inhabited by the people who built the second phase of the monument, when the immediately recognizable trilithon – two vertical stones with a third horizontal stone – were erected.

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