"Archaeoparasitology in Jerusalem"

A stone toilet seat was found at the site of Armon Hanatziv (southern Jerusalem) during a 2019-2020 salvage excavation directed by Ya’akov Billig of the Israel Antiquity Authority. The toilet installation was located in a garden adjacent to a monumental structure with extraordinary architectural elements dated to the mid-7th century BC. Sediment samples collected below the toilet seat revealed the presence of four intestinal parasite egg taxa: Trichuris trichiura (whipworm), Taenia sp. (beef/pork tapeworm), Ascaris lumbricoides (roundworm), and Enterobius vermicularis (pinworm, also known as threadworm). For the latter two taxa, this is their first appearance in the parasitological record of ancient Israel. The findings demonstrate that intestinal parasitic diseases caused most probably by poor sanitary conditions, were a human problem in the Late Iron Age of Israel, affecting even high-status groups. The existence of indoor toilets may have been more a matter of convenience than an attempt to improve personal hygiene. It is rare to find toilet installations in the Late Bronze and Iron Age Israeli record, and they are usually associated with elite groups who could afford such a luxury. This study demonstrates the potential of archaeoparasitological studies to prevent loss of critical data and to expand our knowledge of the origin and history of illness and epidemics in the region. Future excavations of ancient Israel should include micro-archaeological studies of those rare installations, in order to prevent information loss and to better understand their use (currently under debate in Israel) and implications (e.g., social status, health standards).