The Romans are well known for introducing sanitation technology to Europe around 2,000 years ago, including public multi-seat latrines with washing facilities, sewerage systems, piped drinking water from aqueducts, and heated public baths for washing. Romans also developed laws designed to keep their towns free of excrement and rubbish.
Roman latrines from Lepcis Magna in Libya [Credit: Craig Taylor]
However, new archaeological research has revealed that—for all their apparently hygienic innovations—intestinal parasites such as whipworm, roundworm and Entamoeba histolytica dysentery did not decrease as expected in Roman times compared with the preceding Iron Age, they gradually increased.
The latest research was conducted by Dr Piers Mitchell from Cambridge's Archaeology and Anthropology Department and is published today in the journal Parasitology. The study is the first to use the archaeological evidence for parasites in Roman times to assess "the health consequences of conquering an empire".
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