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 10: Popular Press and Commentary


Ackerman, Jennifer 1997
Parasites: Looking for a Free Lunch. National Geographic Magazine 192(4, October):74-91.
AEU PMC G 1 N277 Distant from dung, but the article has some interesting pictures of both endo- and ectoparasites of humans and other life forms. Starts by visiting the National Parasite Collection in Beltsville, Maryland, USA. Much of the article deals with intestinal parasites, such as helminths (parasitic worms), including tape worms, flatworms (trematodes), and pinworms. Also discusses the complexity of some parasite life cycles; some parasites requrine several hosts to complete their life cycle. Photographs by Darlyne A. Murawski. (22/Feb/2013)

Berkowitz, J. 2006
Jurassic Poop: What Dinosaurs (and Others) Left Behind. Illustrated by Steve Mack. Kids Can Press, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 40 pp.
Aimed at children aged 8 to 12, but packs a lot of information into a few pages. A quirky and amusing introduction to the subject, featuring a plethora of puns, of course, and including many illustrations. Dinosaurs are much in evidence, but the book also deals with human coprolites and discusses the diet and health information that can be obtained from them. (09/04/2007).

Bryant Jr, V. M. 1989
Pollen: Nature's Fingerprints of Plants. In 1990 Yearbook of Science and the Future, pp. 92-111. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., Chicago, Illinois, USA.
A review article about the history and development of palynology. It discusses modern applications including (pp. 107-108) the investigation of pollen assemblages from human coprolites found in caves to reveal information on diet.

Bryant Jr, V. M. 1993-94
What Was on the Primitive Plate? Slim, Trim, and Paleo-Indian: Why our diets are killing us. The UWP Newsletter No. 5(Winter 1993-94):3-5.
UWP = Useful Wild Plants. Reviews evidence about ancient diet obtained from coprolites, based on his own work in SW Texas. Notes that evidence shows a large proportion of diet from fibre-rich plant foods and small amount from animal sources. Notes these diets were low in fat and draws lessons for today. (30/11/2002).

Bryant Jr, V. M. 1994
The Paleolithic Health Club. In 1995 Yearbook of Science and the Future, pp. 114-133. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Contrasts diet eaten by Paleolithic people with fast-food grease-soaked diet of many present North Americans. Body physiology adapted to a hunter-gatherer lifeway. Cites evidence that shift to crop-based diet with agriculture led to harmful health effects, including malnutrition and developmental stress. Increased internal parasite load also associated with agricultural communities. Reviews coprolite studies and information they provide about ancient diet, which included large amount of fibre-rich plant foods and relatively small proportion of meat. Human body is very efficient at absorbing and storing fat (probably an adaptation to a scarce dietary resource in the past) but this causes problems with modern fat-rich diets. (30/11/2002).

Bryant Jr, V. M. 1995
Eating Rite is an Ancient Rite. The World & I (January 1995):216-221.
A plain-language review article. Analysis of ancient diets and lifestyles as revealed through, amongst other evidence, skeletal and coprolite analyses from human remains in North America. This evidence shows a decline in general health with abandonment of mobile lifeway and advent of agriculture (increased incidence of intestinal parasites, evidence of anaemia, evidence of tooth decay especially in modern times). Ancient populations had diet consisting of predominantly plant material, high in fibre and low in fats. Author advocates a change in modern diets to more closely approximate these ancient ones.

Bryant Jr, V. M. 2002
Don't Eat Like a Neanderthal, But Learn a Lesson from their Diets. CAP Newsletter 25(2):8-15.
Article mainly focuses on diet, but discusses evidence from coprolite and parasite studies for the diets of ancient people, especially hunter-gatherers.

Chadwick, Douglas H. 2008
Right Whales on the Brink on the Rebound. National Geographic Magazine 214(4, October 2008):100- 121.
AEU PMC G 1 N277 Describes researchers collecting floating blobs of whale dung in the Bay of Fundy. It's detected by Fargo, a sniffer dog! Dung is used to extract DNA to identify individual whales. Researchers also extract hormones to provide more information about health and reproductive status of the whale and they also examine the parasite load. A striking and remarkable image in this article is a three-page spread showing thumbnail images of all 359 North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) that are old enough to be identifiable and are found along the eastern North American coast between Nova Scotia and Florida. Whales of this species are recognized by their patterns of callosities (wartlike patches on their heads). Photographs by Brian Skerry. (09/11/08).

Derbyshire, D. 2000
Hyena Den is Peephole on Stone Age Britain. The Daily Telegraph (Friday October 6 2000):12.
Describes the finding of a hyaena den, dating perhaps to 40,000 yr BP, in Rutland, England. Faunal remains include woolly rhinoceros, mammoth, wolverine, and deer. Recovered 10 fossilized hyaena droppings. Evidence of human occupation also, including flint tool, perhaps a spear point.

Diamond, J. M. 2000
Talk of Cannibalism. Nature 407(7 September 2000):25-26.
AEU SCI Q 1 N28 Discusses reluctance of people to accept that cannibalism occurred as an accepted part of life in some societies. Discussion takes the form of a conversation between claimants and sceptics. Commentary accompanies the article by Marlar et al., pp. 74-78.

Ford, R. I. 1984
Volney Hurt Jones, 1903-1982. Economic Botany 38(1):137-138.
AEU SCI QK 1 E19 An obituary notice. Jones is noted for early archaeobotanical work in the US interior, especially at Newt Kash Hollow. (11/04/2009).

Holden, C. 2000
Molecule Shows Anasazi Ate Their Enemies. Science 289(Number 5485, 8 September 2000):1663.
AEU SCI Q1 S41 A news item based on the article by Marlar et al. (2000). Examines implications of the finding of human myoglobin in a human coprolite at an Anasazi site. Reports on the controversy likely to be aroused by these findings.

Lampe, D. 1990
Reader of the Invisible Dust. The World & I, November 1990, 316-323.
A profile article, basically an account of the career, achievements, and opinions of Vaughn M. Bryant Jr. Describes how he accidentally got involved in palynology. Recounts how he became interested in coprolite studies, as a component of archaeological work. Met E. O. Callen and began applying his methods to coprolites in SW Texas. After Callen's death, requested and obtained his collections and notebooks, which are now at Texas A&M University. Coprolite work provides evidence of diet, and also shows evidence of ancient diseases, and internal parasite infestations. Notes that coprolite evidence is a corrective to the prevailing view that people of the past (North American hunter gatherers) subsisted mainly on meat, especially that of large mammals obtained by hunting. Coprolites show that ingestion of such meat was probably a rare occurrence. Instead people ingested large amounts of plant foods (roots, berries, nuts, and seeds), together with meat from small mammals (rodents), fish, small birds etc. His interest in prehistoric diet led to an interest in trying to develop a modern analogue of that diet, which might be healthier (lots of fibre, low amounts of red meat, low amounts of fats and sweet foods, few dairy foods or eggs) than modern diet. More recently, Bryant has moved into forensic applications of palynology, including detection of adulterated honey, and application in criminal investigation, including drug production and trafficking. Notes that Bryant is also heavily involved in teaching and public education and outreach. (23/07/2005).

Lange, Karen E. 2007
Tales from the Bog. National Geographic Magazine 212(3):80-93.
A short survey of bog body finds, concentrating on more recent finds, including Clonycavan Man and Oldcroghan Man (Ireland) found in 2003. Focusses on other finds from Ireland, and compares them with other finds in northern Europe, principally those from Denmark, Germany, and The Netherlands. Describes the results from recent research techniques, including CT scans, which are showing errors in previous interpretations. For example, some damages occurred post-mortem as a result of compression by peat and are not necessarily indicative of brutality at time of death. Notes that gut contents of Oldcroghan Man showed his last meal was cereals and buttermilk. Despite the new analytical techniques, the overall interpretation of these finds, that most bodies relate to some kind of ritual or ceremonial activity, has not changed. Illustrated with photographs by Robert Clark. (22/Feb/2013)

Levy, S. 1999
Geneticists Go Wild: Fur, Feathers, Feces, and the Future of Wildlife Research. BioScience 49:5-8.
Gives some examples of how different kinds of samples, non-invasive samples, are being used in genetics research. One example deals with tracking black bears in Washington state, through DNA from scat. A second example describes a project to map the genetic variation in African elephants through DNA from their dung. The researchers hope to identify geographic differences in DNA. The hope is that this can also be used to trace tusks (ivory) that are recovered from poachers by matching the DNA signature from the ivory with a library of samples from dung. Even if an exact match cannot be made, it may be possible to identify the geographic area from which the poached ivory was obtained. Also mentions DNA study on scat from rare Pyrenean brown bears. (Other examples deal with DNA analysis of feathers from spectacled eider ducks, skin samples from humpback whales, and hair samples from chimpanzees.).

Marlar, J. E., and R. A. Marlar 2000
Cannibals at Cowboy Wash: Biomolecular Archaeology Solves a Controversial Puzzle. Discovering Archaeology 2(5, December 2000):30-36.
Covers the same material as the more technical article in Nature (Vol. 407, pp. 74-78, 2000). However, this article contains some colour images of the site and its locality, and more informative diagrams.

McCracken, Gary F., and John K. Westbrook 2002
Bat Patrol: Scientists Discover that High-flying Mammals are Bad News for Bugs. National Geographic 201(4, April):114-123.
AEU PMC G 1 N277 The article discusses new research on the feeding habits of Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis mexicana) in central Texas. Focusses on the bat community of Bracken Cave, near San Antonio, which is thought to be occupied by 20 million bats. Movement of bats from this and two nearby colonies (Ney and Frio caves, each housing 10 million bats) were tracked by Doppler radar (whose primary purpose is for weather monitoring) and by floating among the bats in a hot air balloon. Bats fly as high as 10,000 feet. Researchers suspected that the bats were feeding on insects (corn earworms and tobacco budworms) which are significant agricultural pests in the region. Estimated that the bats eat about 1,000 tons (2 million pounds) of insects each night. This was confirmed by analysis of bat dung which showed insect remains; further, DNA analysis of these remains confirmed the identification of the bats' prey. Photographs by Jay Dickman. (23/Feb/2013)

McIlroy, A. 2008
The Missing Stink is Oldest Evidence Yet of Human Presence in North America. The Globe and Mail, Friday April 4 2008, A3.
A short article, with picture, reporting on the dating of human coprolites from Paisley Caves in Oregon at 14,200 years old. DNA work confirms their origin as human. (06/04/2008).

Murawski, Darlyne A. 2000
Fungi. National Geographic Magazine 198(2, August):58-71.
AEU PMC G 1 N277 Article deals with many types of fungi and contains some great photographs. Many types of fungi grow on dung. Discusses different ways in which fungi disperse their spores, and notes the different substrates on which they live. Mentions the impact of some fungi (smuts and rusts) as agricultural problems and as causes of human illness, including the psychotropic actions of toxic fungus on rye. Contains an image (p. 61) and description (p. 60) of a shotgun fungus (Pilobus crystallinus) growing in rabbit dung. (23/Feb/2013)

Nash, S. 2004
Seeds of Time: How one woman's knack for extracting history from plant remains led to some startling conclusions about ancient people and the environments that sustained them. Archaeology 57(1, January/February 2004):24-29.
An article that features the life and times of Naomi Miller, archaeobotanist at the University of Pennsylvania's Museum Applied Science Centre for Archaeology (MASCA). Describes her work at Malyan, Iran, and Gorion, Turkey, especially the inferences she made about the use of animal dung as fuel (arguing from modern ethnographic analogy) and how that might appear in the seed record at an archaeological site. Not all carbonized seeds are human food residue, some might be dung residue. (24/07/2004).

Perren, S. 2006
Review of Jurassic Poop: What Dinosaurs (and Others) Left Behind by Jacob Berkowitz. The Globe and Mail, Saturday, November 4, 2006, D18- D19.
A positive review of this science book, which is written for children. (11/11/2006).

Stokstad, E. 1998
A Fruitful Scoop for Ancient DNA. Science 281(Number 5375, 17 July 1998):319-320.
AEU SCI Q 1 S41 A "News of the Week" summary that accompanies the article by Poinar et al. (pp. 402-406). Summarizes the work on extraction of DNA from extinct sloth dung.

Stokstad, E. 2000
Divining Diet and Disease from DNA. Science 289(Number 5479, 28 July 2000):530-531.
AEU SCI Q 1 S41 A report from the 5th International Ancient DNA Conference, held in UK in July 2000. First part of report describes new work on the extraction of ancient DNA from coprolites preserved in dry caves in western North America, a follow-up to the work reported by Poinar et al. (1998). Previous work had yielded DNA from animal coprolites. This conference presentation by Poinar reported the extraction of DNA from human coprolites from Hinds Cave. Human mitochondrial DNA sequences matched those known to be from Aboriginal North Americans. Chloroplast DNA sequences matched various plants (buckthorn, acorns, sunflower, ocotillo, and a member of the nightshade family, legumes, yuccas, elm). Also found animal DNA (sheep, pronghorn) indicating meat ingested. Research will continue on coprolites from other caves. Second part of report deals with attempts by another research team to extract viral DNA from mammoth cells. Research is intended to investigate whether pathogens may be implicated in the extinction of the megafauna at the end of the Pleistocene.

Stokstad, E. (editor) 2000
NetWatch. Science 289(11 August 2000):827.
AEU SCI Q 1 S41 Now here's a circular reference! The Dung File is selected, under the heading of "Pooper Scoopers", in the "Hot Picks" section.

Uberti, Oliver 2013
You can learn a lot about a species by what it leaves behind. National Geographic 223(1):20-21.
Profiles researcher Samuel Wasser, who has been collecting elephant dung from various regions across Africa and analyzing it for DNA and hormones. He uses this information to make a map, showing what elephants are where. Data are also useful for investigating where poached ivory is from. Article is accompanied by a images of eight types of dung, actually artworks, by Karen Comins. Dung from eight different animals is readily identifiable. (01/May/2013)

Wicander, R. 2007
Review of Jurassic Poop: What Dinosaurs (and Others) Left Behind by Jacob Berkowitz. AASP Newsletter 40(1):13.
A very positive review of this science book, which is written for children. (See http://www .palynology.org/content/nl/nl40-1.pdf ) (16/11/2007).

Williams, G. 2007
When Poop "Talks". Dig 9(1):10-13.
Dig is an archaeological magazine for children. Article describes the work of Vaughn Bryant, on deducing human diet from coprolite from US southwest, and Kristin Sobolik, working on coprolites from arctic areas. Accompanied by images showing some of the types of plant and animal material recovered from coprolites. (29/12/2007).

Zimmer, C. 2000
Do Parasites Rule the World? Discover 21(8, August):80-85.
Discusses role of parasites in population regulation, by a case study of a Californian coastal salt marsh. Also describes the life cycle of the lancet fluke (Dicrocoelium dendriticum), including the role of herbivores and their dung (p. 84).

Number of citations: 28


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Popular Press and Commentary


This presentation has been compiled and is © 1998-2013 by
Alwynne B. Beaudoin (bluebulrush@gmail.com)
Last updated May 2, 2013
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