The Dung File consists of a list of references dealing with pollen, parasites, and plant remains in coprolites and latrine fills from archaeological and palaeoenvironmental sites. The focus is on studies in North America.

The Dung File is subdivided into eleven sections: four depend on the origin of the deposits being investigated (Part 1: Mostly Human, Part 2: Mainly Mammal, Part 3: Animal Middens, Part 4: Other Critters), there are two broader categories, Part 5: General and Review Articles, Part 6: Field and Laboratory Methods, one focussed on theses, Part 7: Theses, and two focussed on modern comparative studies, Part 8: Comparative Studies - Human and Part 9: Comparative Studies - Mammal. Finally, there are a number of articles from news magazines and the popular press (Part 10: Popular Press and Commentary) and some less readily available items listed in Part 11: Conference Abstracts and Grey Literature.

The call numbers are for the library system at the University of Alberta. The remarks in black are my comments.

Part 8: Comparative Studies - Human


Butler, V. L., and R. A. Schroeder 1998
Do Digestive Processes Leave Diagnostic Traces on Fish Bones?. Journal of Archaeological Science 25:957-971.
AEU HSS CC 1 J86 Discuss previous studies that have tried to establish whether fish bones in archaeological sites had been consumed, especially when coprolites are at the same site. Carried out an experimental study using human and canid. Modern human ate lightly boiled tui chub (Gila bicolor). Examined fish bones in coyote scat from lakeshore samples at Harney Lake, Oregon. Examined 10 human coprolites from archaeological site at Hidden Cave, Nevada. Looked for modification on bones including rounding, pitting, deformation, staining, and breakage. Unlike previous studies, found relatively high bone survivorship through the digestive tract, about 75% survival. may be related to the differing robustness of bones from different fish species. Degree of modification varied with surprisingly many bones showing no modification. About half the specimens showed pitting. Breakage was also low - about 80% bones were at least two-thirds complete. Bone were darker stained after spending longer time in gut. These modern comparisons show that it would be difficult to figure out if fish remains in archaeological sites were residue from consumption, unless they were actually found in coprolites. Individual fish bone specimens are not informative - have to look at entire assemblage. Used these data to examine fish remains from a site at Stillwater Marsh, Lahontan Basin. Many tui chub remains at the site - were these from a natural die-off or from consumption? Site dates between 600 - 1200 AD. Subsample showed features similar to those from test samples, suggesting some were used for consumption, but not sure if from consumption by humans or canids - evidence of both found at the site. (09/04/2009).

Calder, A. M. 1977
Survival Properties of Organic Residues Through the Human Digestive Tract. Journal of Archaeological Science 4:141-151.
AEU HSS CC 1 J86 After reviewing work done so far on coprolites from archaeological sites in New Zealand, which is limited, Calder describes an experimental study whereby foods known to have been used by the Maori were consumed and the residues in the resultant faeces examined. Plant foods consumed were: fern root (Pteridium esculentum), konini berries (Fuschia excorticata), fronds of mamaku fern (Cyathea medullaris). Marine diet components included resistant parts of fish and shellfish, including: scales of sole (Peltorhamphus novae-zeelandia) and flounder (Rhombosolea spp.), denticles of shark, radulae of limpet (Calyptraeidae) and opercula of periwinkle (Littorinidae), and byssus threads of mussel (Mytilus). Marker food used was sweetcorn. Digested specimens were compared with samples prepared by chemical maceration. All components appear to survive digestive processes in recognizable form, except for the fish scales, which were thought to have been dissolved in digestion. This was felt to be strange since fish scales have been found in some coprolite studies from New Zealand. Konini seeds showed etching, and shark denticles may also have been etched. Few other changes, apart from breakage, in the other materials. Research showed that it is possible to recover food remains from faecal material and hence demonstrates the possibilities for Maori diet reconstruction through coprolite analysis. (10/06/2006).

Crandell, B. D., and P. W. Stahl 1995
Human Digestive Effects on a Micromammalian Skeleton. Journal of Archaeological Science 22:789-797.
AEU PMC CC 1 J86 Study was promoted by interest in taphonomy of small mammal remains in archaeological sites. Trapped northern short-tailed shrews (Blarina brevicauda). One specimen was skinned, lightly boiled, and eaten in segments without chewing. Collected faeces and recovered bone remains from them. Most remains recovered within one day of ingestion. Remains examined for digestive damage. Many bone elements did not appear to survive digestion. More robust bone elements survived best. Teeth appear especially vulnerable to digestion. Long bones showed damage to articular ends and etching, presumably from digestive acids. Study extends the definition of participatory research!

Kelso, G. K., and A. M. Solomon 2006
Applying Modern Analogs to Understand the Pollen Content of Coprolites. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 237:80- 91.
AEU SCI QE 500 P15 DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2005.11.036 Summarizes results of an experiment carried out in 1976 but only hitherto reported in thesis and a conference abstract. Two men ingested different pollen types with three meals for four days. Measured the pollen (concentration and percentage) in fecal samples over ten days from beginning of experiment. Representation of pollen tends to follow a parabolic trend with a sharp rise to a peak, then a long tail-off. Pollen starts to appear less than 24 hours after ingestion. Remained detectable in samples for between 2 and 6 days after ingestion. Concluded that pollen percentages are "unreliable measures of pollen intake" (p. 87). Also noted differences between individuals, suggesting that there is more variability in this biological process than usually considered. Concluded that can't estimate the amount pollen ingested from these types of data. Study refutes the "conveyor belt" model of the consumption-to-coprolite system that has been normative in coprolite studies to date. (22/12/2007).

Number of citations: 4


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Comparative Studies - Human



This presentation has been compiled and is © 1998-2013 by
Alwynne B. Beaudoin (bluebulrush@gmail.com)
Last updated February 10, 2013
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