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Journal Articles (Data Paper) Korean Journal of Parasitology Year : 2019

Assessing the Parasitic Burden in a Late Antique Florentine Emergency Burial Site

Abstract

Excavation (2008-2014) carried out under the Uffizi Gallery (Florence, Italy) led to the discovery of 75 individuals, mostly buried in multiple graves. Based on Roman minted coins, the graves were preliminarily dated between the second half of the 4th and the beginning of the 5th centuries CE. Taphonomy showed that this was an emergency burial site associated with a catastrophic event, possibly an epidemic of unknown etiology with high mortality rates. In this perspective, paleoparasitological investigations were performed on 18 individuals exhumed from 9 multiple graves to assess the burden of gastrointestinal parasitism. Five out of eighteen individuals (27.7%) tested positive for ascarid-type remains; these are considered as “decorticated” Ascaris eggs, which have lost their outer mammillated coat. Roundworms (genus Ascaris) commonly infest human populations under dire sanitary conditions. Archaeological and historical evidence indicates that Florentia suffered a period of economic crisis between the end of 4th and the beginning of the 5th centuries CE, and that the aqueduct was severely damaged at the beginning of the 4th century CE, possibly during the siege of the Goths (406 CE). It is more than plausible that the epidemic, possibly coupled with the disruption of the aqueduct, deeply affected the living conditions of these individuals. A 27.7% frequency suggests that ascariasis was widespread in this population. This investigation exemplifies how paleoparasitological information can be retrieved from the analysis of sediments sampled in cemeteries, thus allowing a better assessment of the varying frequency of parasitic infections among ancient populations.
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Dates and versions

hal-04183026 , version 1 (18-08-2023)

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Kévin Roche, Elsa Pacciani, Raffaella Bianucci, Matthieu Le Bailly. Assessing the Parasitic Burden in a Late Antique Florentine Emergency Burial Site. Korean Journal of Parasitology, 2019, 57 (6), pp.587-593. ⟨10.3347/kjp.2019.57.6.587⟩. ⟨hal-04183026⟩
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