A team of experts have concluded that Richard III who was found buried in Leicester last year, suffered with a roundworm infection.
In a soil sample taken from the pelvis of the King, scientists found many roundworm eggs. Ever since King Richard’s skeleton was found under a carpark in Sepetember last year, scientists have been conducting careful analysis of the remains to give us more information about the extremely controversial King. In February this year, the University of Leicester confirmed the remains were those of King Richard III.
Dr Piers Mitchell led a team of researchers from the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. They conducted research using a powerful microscope that examined soil samples taken from the skull, pelvis and soil surrounding the grave. Multiple roundworm eggs were found in the pelvis sample where the intestines would have been situated. In a statement Dr Mitchell said “What we found was plenty of roundworm eggs in the sacral soil, where his intestines would have been. There were no parasite eggs of any kind in the skull soil and only very low levels around the grave”.
The roundworm eggs may have survived all this time due to the structure of the cell walls. Roundworm is a common parasite that is present in a quarter of the population. Speaking to BBC News, Jo Appleby from the University of Leicester who helped dig up the King’s remains said “It might seem surprising that Richard who had a very noble background was infected with roundworm, but this is something that you can pick up very easily through faecal contamination.”
photo credit: University of Leicester via photopin cc
I imagine that just about everyone in the 15th century, rich or poor, was followed around by much more wildlife, internal and external, than we really want to know. Lice, roundworms, tapeworms, liver flukes etc. were all very common across all walks of life. In the original Lancet article it was said that Richard III actually had fewer parasites than most people of his time. Even today, it is estimated that 25% of the world’s population has them – and not all of them live in third-world conditions.
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