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Ancient Parasites Laboratory

Our aim is to investigate how parasites have infected humans throughout evolution, and determine the impact of the change from hunter gatherer lifestyle, to early settled farmers, to complex civilisations, and industrialisation.

We use digital light microscopy and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to detect helminth eggs and protozoal cysts in past faecal material such as latrine sediment, coprolites, and the pelvic sediment from burials.

Current collaborations include archaeological teams and ancient DNA specialists from across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and North America.

Using these techniques, we can detect the change in parasite species that infect humans over time, how prevalence varied in different populations, and when new species of parasite became introduced into different regions of the world.

The Ancient Parasites Laboratory is directed by Dr Piers Mitchell


Microscopy for parasite eggs    Fish tapeworm egg from Must Farm

Microscopy for parasite eggs. Credit: Marissa Ledger                 Fish tapeworm egg from the Bronze Age marshland village at                                                                                                               Must Farm, Cambs (800-900 BC). Credit: Marissa Ledger