2,700-year-old toilet reveals that the biblical elite were riddled with parasites

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Jerusalem was home to the great kings of the Biblical era, but new research shows that even the elite of this ancient metropolis were infested with parasitic worms. After examining sediment samples from a cesspool under a 2,700-year-old stone toilet, archaeologists discovered numerous types of intestinal parasite eggs, suggesting that sanitation and sanitation may not be up to date in the Holy City.

The authors describe their findings in the International Journal of Paleopathology, stating that “a toilet was a symbol of wealth, a private facility that only the rich could have afforded,” and that the users of this rudimentary toilet were likely people of status. Located in a lush complex at Armon Hanatziv in the south of Jerusalem, the biblical moor was appropriately surrounded by “extraordinary architectural elements” and offers a fascinating insight into the intestinal complaints of the privileged layers of the city during the late Iron Age.

Using a light microscope, the researchers identified eggs of roundworms, tapeworms, whipworms, and pinworms in the sediment samples, suggesting that the wealthy residents of Jerusalem likely suffered from a range of diseases.

Roundworms and whipworms – both carried through feces – were most common in the septic tank. According to the researchers, these worms likely spread due to “inadequate disposal of feces, contamination of food and water supplies with feces, and the use of human feces as fertilizer”.

Tapeworms, meanwhile, were the second most common parasite, and their presence suggested that people were eating undercooked or unclean beef or pork. Although less common than the other parasites, pinworm was also discovered, which is likely to have caused “intense itching of the feet” in affluent households.

Study author Dr. Dafna Langgut in a statement: “These are long-life eggs that have survived for almost 2,700 years under the special conditions of the septic tank.”

“Intestinal worms are parasites that cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea and itching. Some of them are particularly dangerous for children and can lead to malnutrition, developmental delays, damage to the nervous system and, in extreme cases, even death. “

In the absence of modern medicine, it is unlikely that those infected by these parasites would have had the means to eliminate them, meaning that many people in ancient Jerusalem likely carried these worms for life. As this research shows, even those fortunate enough to own their own toilet could not escape this disgusting fate.


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