Coprolites and Paleofeces: The Importance of Knowing Your Shit

Coprolite cufflinks.

As research on microbial diversity – or as it’s now been rebranded, microbiomics – continues, microbiologists are studying more environments, often overlapping with other fields. One interesting tendril of this new expansion extends into archaeology, where biologists armed with the latest DNA sequencing tools are exploring the microbiomes of lost tribes and cultures. It’s fascinating work.

One of the most abundant and informative sources of new data is ancient feces. For most of human history, people crapped wherever it was convenient, dumping generous samples of their microbiomes in privvies, trash heaps, or communal piles. In many cases, these deposits got buried …read more

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