Intestinal parasites

Intestinal parasites occur in both animals and humans and are the cause of many diseases and health problems. Parasites are organisms that live on or in other organisms from which they obtain nutrients and cause harm in the process.

There are over a hundred different types of parasite worms that could potentially live in the human body. However, the most common types that occur in archaeological deposits include roundworm, hookworm, whipworm (all Nematodes); bladderworm, human and dog tapeworm (Cestodes) and flukes, including flatworm and intenstinal fluke (Trematodes). They generally survive best in waterlogged deposits but can survive in deposits with mineral concretions, for example, coprolites.

Intestinal parasites of both animals and humans can be used to provide indications of the health of individuals or entire populations, if faecal deposits survive in ditches, drains and cesspits. Their presence can also be used to identify contamination of other deposits by human and animal waste.