Anthropology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Homo (1986) Band 37, Heft 4: 217-239. Copyright 1986, Elsevier. Used by permission.


Standard techniques for the analysis of prehistoric soils have not been devised. It is unlikely that any single technique is applicable to all types of fecal remains. This is due to various environmental conditions which effect the preservation of helminth ova. In general, gravitational sedimentation is a useful technique for isolating helminth eggs and larvae from coprolites. Latrine soils pose greater problems for helminthological examination. Although various clinical techniques have been successfully utilized in soil study, it is important to remember that some latrine soils have not yielded helminth eggs to any clinical technique. Consequently the paleoparasitologist must be ready to innovate new techniques rather than depend on clinical techniques.

Beyond the problems of technique, what research done with identification of parasites is very encouraging. At this point it appears that the measurement and morphological characteristics used to identify modern parasites can also be applied to paleoparasites.

The trends of paleoparasitological research today emphasize experimentation and quantification as well as precise identification. In the future, these trends will lead to a more rigorous study of parasites in prehistory.