The Kingdom of Judah was rife with deadly DIARRHOEA, analysis of ancient poo reveals
Early toilets in modern-day Israel show that the kingdom of Judah was teeming with deadly diarrhea, a new study reveals.
Researchers have sampled ancient feces from two latrines in Jerusalem that date back about 1,500 years and were once part of “elite” living quarters.
They discovered traces of a single-celled microorganism Giardia duodenalis – today a common cause of debilitating dysentery in humans.
The intestinal inflammation can lead to severe diarrhea with mucus or blood in the stool and can cause stunted growth, impaired cognitive function, and death.
It follows the discovery of a mysterious handprint in Jerusalem’s Old City that has baffled investigators.
The toilet seat from the house of Ahiel, excavated in the Old City of Jerusalem. A residential building consisting of seven rooms, it would have housed an upper-class family at the time. The date of construction is difficult to determine, but some estimate it around the 8th century BCE
Giardia duodenalis, a unicellular microorganism, is a common cause of dysentery in humans. Pictured are stained Giardia trophozoites at 100x magnification. Even today, dysentery can be deadly, especially for young children, the elderly, and the dehydrated or malnourished
The new study, led by the University of Cambridge, is published today in the journal Parasitology.
The Kingdom of Judah
The Kingdom of Judah was a Semitic-speaking kingdom founded around 930 BC with Jerusalem as its capital, although the city goes back further.
The kingdom was formed from the territories of the tribes of Judah, Simon, and Benjamin after the United Kingdom of Israel was divided.
In 587 B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar II besieged and destroyed Jerusalem, ending the kingdom.
The authors say it is the oldest example we have of this diarrhea-causing parasite infecting people everywhere.
“This provides our first microbiological evidence for infectious diarrheal diseases that would have affected the populations of the ancient Near East,” they say.
It seems likely that outbreaks of dysentery due to giardiasis may have caused poor health in early towns across the region.
“Most people who die from giardia are children, and chronic infection in this group can lead to stunted growth, impaired cognitive function and stunted growth.”
The Kingdom of Judah was a Semitic-speaking kingdom founded around 930 BC with Jerusalem as its capital, although the city itself dates back further.
The Old City of Jerusalem, believed to have been continuously inhabited for nearly 5,000 years, forms a walled quadrangle about 3,000 feet long on each side in modern-day Israel.
The fecal samples came from the sediment under toilets in two building complexes in and around the ancient city, both dating back to the 7th century BC.
During this time, Judah was a vassal state under the control of the Assyrian Empire, which at its peak stretched from the Levant to the Persian Gulf and included much of modern-day Iran and Iraq.
The toilet seat of the Armon ha-Natziv estate. The site, excavated in 2019, likely dates from the time of King Manasseh, a client king to the Assyrians who reigned for fifty years in the mid-7th century
The fecal samples came from the sediment under toilets in two building complexes – House of Ahiel and Armon ha-Natziv
The first toilet is in the House of Ahiel, a typical Israelite dwelling with the old city walls, while the other, Armon ha-Natziv, is much further south.
The team examined all traces of stool by applying a bio-molecular technique called ELISA, in which antibodies bind to the proteins uniquely produced by certain types of single-celled organisms.
“Unlike the eggs of other intestinal parasites, the protozoa that cause dysentery are fragile and extremely difficult to detect in ancient samples by using microscopes without using antibodies,” said study co-author Tianyi Wang.
The researchers tested for Entamoeba, Giardia and Cryptosporidium – three parasitic microorganisms that are among the most common causes of diarrhea in humans and behind outbreaks of dysentery.
Results for Entamoeba and Cryptosporidium were negative, but those for Giardia were positive even after repeating the tests.
Giardia colonizes the small intestine, causing a diarrheal condition known as giardiasis.
Researchers say it is highly unlikely that the sediment sampled was contaminated by environmental conditions or by those who excavated the site.
Their results suggest that outbreaks of dysentery due to the giardiasis parasite “likely caused poor health in early towns across the region.”
“We conclude that the limited sanitation facilities available at the time, the shortage of fresh water for much of the year, the population density of these cities and widespread houseflies all had the potential to contribute to infection,” they say. in their paper.
Microtiter plate with positive results in columns 3 (sample taken from the House of Ahiel, black arrow) and 5, 7, 9 (taken from Armon ha-Natziv, white arrows)
The Old City of Jerusalem (pictured) is a 0.35 square mile walled area in East Jerusalem with great historical and biblical relevance
The Old City of Jerusalem, believed to have been continuously inhabited for nearly 5,000 years, forms a walled quadrangle about 900 meters long on each side in modern-day Israel
In addition, both toilets were probably only used by the elite, so the poorer populations of the Kingdom of Judah probably had the worst attacks.
Jerusalem is said to have been a thriving political and religious center with an estimated population of between 8,000 and 25,000.
House of Ahiel was a seven-room residential house, housing an upper-class family at the time, probably built around the 8th century BC.
Meanwhile, the other toilet was once part of a “richly decorated estate” in Armon ha-Natziv, surrounded by an ornamental garden.
The site, excavated in 2019, likely dates from the time of King Manasseh, a client king to the Assyrians who reigned for fifty years in the mid-7th century.
Both toilets had carved stone seats nearly identical in design – a shallow curved surface for sitting, with a large central hole for defecation and an adjoining hole in the front for male urination.
“Cesshole toilets from this era are relatively rare and were usually made only for the elite,” says lead study author Dr Piers Mitchell of Cambridge’s Department of Archaeology.
Researchers say their study provides “a fascinating insight” into the health and disease of the early population of Jerusalem in the biblical period.
Mysterious handprint found in 1,000-year-old moat used to defend Jerusalem’s Old City from crusaders stuns researchers who wonder if it was ‘a joke’
A mysterious handprint carved into an ancient dry moat that once surrounded Jerusalem’s Old City 1,000 years ago has been discovered — and its significance has baffled researchers.
Archaeologists spotted the imprint during excavations around an infrastructure project to expand a road near Herod’s Gate, initially exposing part of the moat.
While the function of the moat is clear, it kept the Crusaders from invading the holy city, the sculpted hand remains a mystery.
Does it symbolize something? Does it refer to a specific nearby element? Or is it just a local joke? Time will tell,” the researchers said.