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Seventeenth-Century Danish Latrines Analyzed

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK—Cosmos reports that two latrines made from partially buried wine barrels were found under a road that cut through the center of Copenhagen in the late seventeenth century. The latrines were originally placed in a garden. Mette Marie Hald of Denmark’s National Museum analyzed the excrement in the barrels, and found the residents enjoyed a diet of barley, oats, wild cherries, coriander, turnips, lettuce, hops, and mustard, in addition to herring, eels, and pork. Most of the recovered bone fragments were too degraded to identify, however. Some of the foods eaten by the Danes had been imported, such as figs, grapes, bitter orange, and lemons from the Mediterranean, buckwheat husks from the Netherlands, and cloves from Indonesia. Hald and her colleagues also detected the presence of roundworms, whipworms, and a tapeworm. The scientists concluded that Denmark’s Renaissance-era residents ate well, but poor hygienic conditions led to parasitic infestations. For more, go to “Vikings, Worms, and Emphysema.”

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