Karl Reinhard

Ancient pests. Shown here magnified 200 times are the outer shells of a tapeworm, recovered, like the pollen, from fecal remains below one of the City of David toilets. The presence of tapeworm eggs indicates the consumption of poorly cooked or raw beef or pork. These parasite eggs suggest that water for washing and fuel for cooking were in short supply during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in the early 6th century B.C.E.

Like pollen, the eggs of intestinal parasitic eggs are remarkably durable, with some known to be 10,000 years old. Parasites have made themselves at home within the human digestive tract since the earliest days of the species and are mentioned in Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets and in Papyrus Ebers, an ancient Egyptian medical text.