Study of faeces reveals the gut environment of ancient Japan

Archaeologists have conducted a metagenomic analyses of coprolites excavated at the Torihama shell-mound site in Fukui Prefecture, Japan.

Excavations recovered over 400 individual coprolites, in which a sampling of 10 examples have dated the site to the Early Jōmon period. At the time, the Japanese archipelago was inhabited by the Jōmon culture, a hunter-gatherer population which reached a considerable degree of sedentism and cultural complexity.

The results of the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE by researchers from the National Institute of Genetics, the University of Tokyo, and the Wakasa History Museum, has revealed new insights into the lives and health of the Jōmon people living in Japan 7,000 to 5,500-years-ago.

Coprolites have the ability to preserve various genetic materials from the digestive tracts of ancient populations, including DNA from microbes and viruses. A metagenomic analysis of the sampled coprolites showed homology with known gut microbe, viruses, and food genomes typically found in the faeces of modern humans.

- Advertisement -

According to the study authors: “We detected reads derived from several types of phages and their host bacteria simultaneously, suggesting the coexistence of viruses and their hosts.”

Despite the age-related degradation of DNA in the coprolites, the researchers successfully identified genetic fragments of viruses, specifically homologous to human betaherpesvirus 5 and human adenovirus F.

“The study enables scientists to explore the co-evolution of bacteria and the viruses that infect them throughout history. This research enhances our understanding of the microbial and viral composition within the digestive systems of people from ancient times,” said the study authors.

Furthermore, the team discovered the reads of possible foods through genomic information, providing biological evidence for the dietary characteristics of the Jomon people.

- Advertisement -

Mobile Application


Related Articles

Geophysical study finds evidence of “labyrinth” buried beneath Mitla

A geophysical study has found underground structures and tunnels beneath Mitla – The Zapotec “Place of the Dead”

Discovery of a Romanesque religious structure rewrites history of Frauenchiemsee

Archaeologists from the Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation have announced the discovery of a Romanesque religious structure on the island of Frauenchiemsee, the second largest of the three islands in Chiemsee, Germany.

Ring discovery suggests a previously unknown princely family in Southwest Jutland

A ring discovered in Southwest Jutland, Denmark, suggests a previously unknown princely family who had strong connections with the rulers of France.

Submerged evidence of rice cultivation and slavery found in North Carolina

Researchers from the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) are using side-scan sonar and positioning systems to find evidence of rice cultivation and slavery beneath the depths of North Carolina’s lower Cape Fear and Brunswick rivers.

Study reveals oldest and longest example of Vasconic script

A new study of the 2100-year-old Hand of Irulegi has revealed the oldest and longest example of Vasconic script.

Archaeologists excavate the marginalised community of Vaakunakylä

Archaeologists have excavated the marginalised community of Vaakunakylä, a former Nazi barracks occupied by homeless Finns following the end of WW2.

Archaeologists find 4,000-year-old cobra-shaped ceramic handle

A team of archaeologists from National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan have uncovered a 4,000-year-old cobra-shaped ceramic handle in the Guanyin District of Taoyuan City.

Traces of Khan al-Tujjar caravanserais found at foot of Mount Tabor

During excavations near Beit Keshet in Lower Galilee, Israel, archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) have uncovered traces of a market within the historic Khan al-Tujjar caravanserais.