THE SECRET IN AN OLD CHINESE LATRINE

May 28, 2019

Researchers excavating latrines along the Silk Road in northwestern China found 2000-year-old feces containing eggs of the Chinese liver fluke, a parasitic worm that can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, jaundice, and even lead to liver cancer.  In particular, the eggs were found on personal hygiene sticks, the wood or bamboo rods wrapped with cloth at one end that people used in latrines to clean themselves. This finding is significant because it suggests how other infectious diseases could also have spread along the Silk Road. For example, while China and Europe possess similar strains of the bubonic plague, until now, there had been little evidence to suggest that the plague could have been spread along the Silk Road. (See my blogs on “The Silk Road” [December, 25, 2018] and one on the latrine, “Come on in. Join the Crowd” [January 24, 2017].)

   

So, maybe you’re wondering how I end up researching such weird topics. Well, aside from enchanting you with a light mystery, my goal is to provide you with authentic glimpses into first-century Alexandrian life. So, in these blogs, you can expect to encounter some fruits of my research. You can learn about the effects of the Judean economy, the cataloging of books in the Great Library, the working of ancient locks, and whether opposite personalities do indeed attract. To read what reviewers say about my books, click here.

 

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