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Department of Archaeology


During the medieval and renaissance periods, the Low Countries were a key region for trade, international finance, and the arts. Cities such as Bruges, Ghent, Brussels, Amsterdam and Leiden developed large populations, and with high population comes the problems of sanitation. Medieval populations suffered with a broad range of infectious diseases such as parasitic worms and dysentery. The burden of such infections upon society must have been significant. But how infections varied over time and between people living different lifestyles is unclear.

The aim of this project is to determine to what degree behavioral changes, town planning, sanitation and wealth in the Low Countries of northern Europe had a measurable effect upon intestinal infectious diseases from the medieval to industrial periods. We will do this from the analysis of a large number of cesspits from Belgium and the Netherlands (11th-19th centuries). The parasites present will be determined using light microscopy and ELISA. Comparison of results between different archaeological contexts will enable us to determine how lifestyle, trade and wealth impacted the parasites infecting the people of the Low Countries, and how infection has changed in the region over the last thousand years.

Team Members

Matthew Collins

Tianyi Wang

Sophie Rabinow


No funder - own funds

Project Tags

Science, Technology and Innovation
Environment, Landscapes and Settlement
Periods of interest: 
Geographical areas: 
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Human Population Biology and Health
Human Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology
Biomolecular Archaeology
Biological Anthropology
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