Earliest evidence of infectious diseases carried on Silk Road
An ancient latrine near a desert in northwestern China has revealed the first archaeological evidence that travellers along the Silk Road were responsible for the spread of infectious diseases along huge distances of the route 2,000 years ago.
Cambridge researchers used microscopy to study preserved faeces on ancient ‘personal hygiene sticks’ in the latrine at what was a large Silk Road relay station on the eastern margins of the Tamrin Basin, a region that contains the Taklamakan desert. The latrine is thought to date from 111 BC (Han Dynasty) and was in use until 109 AD. They found that eggs from four species of parasitic worm were present, including Chinese Liverfluke which comes from a marshy environment, over 2,000 miles away. Its presence means travellers were taking infectious diseases with them over huge distances.
2,000-year-old personal hygiene sticks with remains of cloth, excavated from the latrine at Xuanquanzhi