Find is first firm evidence disease carried along ancient trade route
H.-Y. Yeh et al/Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 2016
Rare evidence has emerged that humanborne infectious diseases moved across Asia around 2,000 years ago via the famous Silk Road. Clues to this ancient illness spread come from cloth wrapped around the ends of sticks once used by travelers as the equivalent of toilet paper.
Preserved feces on cloth caps of sticks previously excavated from a latrine at a Silk Road way station in north central China contain microscopic eggs of intestinal worms, including a species found only far to China’s south and east. A traveler or government official must have carried the infectious parasite to the desert-bordering pit stop from at least 1,500 kilometers away, says a team led by archaeologists Hui-Yuan Yeh and Piers Mitchell of the University of Cambridge. The scientists report their findings online July 22 in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.