Monks in medieval England were riddled with parasites, there may be more reasons | News

Monks in medieval England were riddled with parasites, there may be more reasons | News
Monks in medieval England were riddled with parasites, there may be more reasons | News

Monks in medieval England suffered from intestinal parasites almost twice as often as people from the poorer classes. At the same time, monasteries had better hygienic equipment than other buildings. According to the authors of the study from the Department of Archeology of the University of Cambridge, this may be related to the self-supply of the monasteries with crops fertilized by human feces.

Scientists from the University of Cambridge were the first to compare the presence of parasites in groups of people with different lifestyles from one place. They examined the remains of 19 monks recovered from the grounds of a former Augustinian monastery in Cambridge, where monks were buried from the 13th to the 16th century. They compared soil samples taken from around the basin with 25 samples taken from a cemetery where poorer people, such as peasants, who lived in the same place and around the same time were buried.

According to a study published in the journal International Journal of Paleopathologyscientists were able to compare the parasites that humans suffered from.

It turned out that in the group of monks, 11 of them, or 58 percent, had parasites, while in the group of other residents it was 32 percent. Infestation of the “ordinary” population corresponds to previous studies dealing with the Middle Ages, infection among monks being high.

“It appears that the monks of the medieval city of Cambridge were infected with parasites,” said Piers Mitchell, who led the study. Tianyi Wang, who conducted the microscopic research, specified that the most common parasites were roundworms. In the trail behind them were the thin-headed ones. Both are spread by poor hygiene.

For monks, the finding is surprising, because monasteries already had latrines and places where you could wash in the Middle Ages. The authors of the study believe that the different infestations are due to how the faeces were handled.

“It is possible that monks fertilized their vegetable gardens with human excrement, which was not unusual in the Middle Ages. And that then caused repeated infections,” Mitchell said.

Monks used luxurious latrines for the Middle Ages, while ordinary people defecated in waste pits dug into the ground. “History teaches us that just because you’re richer doesn’t mean you’re healthier,” Mitchell said.

Medieval history expert Dr Martin Heale, who was not involved in the research, said the monks grew food for themselves – sometimes hiring gardeners to do it, but they had to live off what they begged. “So a lot of their food came from charity and donations. Perhaps stingy citizens gave them cheaper or lower quality food than what they consumed themselves. In monasteries, infection was also easily spread, latrines were shared, which may be another factor in the infestation,” Heale said.


The article is in Czech

Tags: Monks medieval England riddled parasites reasons News

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