‘Poop’ as Historical Evidence

A new children’s book by Jacob Berkowitz examines the use of the not-so-tidy side of human and animal existence as historical and archaeological evidence.

The book, Jurassic Poop, is the “first comprehensive book on coprolites.” Coprolites are fossilized feces that provide better ancient DNA than bones or teeth, the author said in a press release (see link below).

Among other things, the book looks at fecal evidence dealing with the Mayflower.

The official Mayflower record says that the only animals on board were two dogs. But in the mid-1990s an archaeological excavation of a 17th century Boston privy revealed another story. The Mayflower was infested with at least 20 types of Old World beetles, stow-aways who quickly called America home — and do to this day.

Jurassic Poop also reveals that more than 1000 human coprolites have been collected from Hinds Cave in the Chihuahuan desert in southwest Texas, making the site the largest human coprolite cache ever found.

The fossilized specimens were deposited by ancient Americans over the course of about 8000 years. The book notes that these human remains are about 95-per cent fibre. That’s about 15 times the amount of fibre the average American eats today. Hendrik Poinar is now collaborating with Vaughn Bryant of Texas A&M University to extract genetic information from the Hinds Cave coprolites.

View the entire press release here or visit Berkowitz’s website here.

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