The ancient toilets of Jerusalem showed what a serious illness its inhabitants suffered before
Iron Age residents who used two ancient toilets in Jerusalem were not a healthy group, according to an analysis of 2,500-year-old toilet excrement samples.
The researchers found traces of dysentery-causing parasites in material recovered from cesspools under two stone latrines that must have belonged to the city's elite households.
At the time, Jerusalem was the vibrant political and religious center of the Assyrian Empire, with a population of between 8,000 and 25,000 people. This is the earliest known evidence of a disease called Giardia duodenalis, although the infection that causes diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and weight loss has previously been found in Roman-era Turkey and medieval Israel.
“Dysentery is spread by feces contaminating drinking water or food, and we suspected it could be a big problem in the early cities of the ancient Near East due to overcrowding, heat and flies, and limited water in the summer,” Piers Mitchell said. lead author of the study, published Thursday in the scientific journal Parasitology, and an honorary member of the Department of Archeology at the University of Cambridge. Most of those who die today from giardia dysentery are children, and chronic infection in children can lead to stunted growth, cognitive impairment, and developmental delay.