Int J Paleopathol 2019 Jun 12;25:30-38. Epub 2019 Apr 12.
Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, 100732, China.
This paper integrates our knowledge from traditional Chinese medical texts and archeological findings to discuss parasitic loads in early China. Many studies have documented that several different species of eukaryotic endoparasites were present in early human populations throughout China. Nevertheless, comprehensive paleoparasitological records from China are patchy, largely due to taphonomic and environmental factors. An examination of early Chinese medical texts allows us to fill in some of the gaps and counteract apparent biases in the current archeoparasitological records. By integrating the findings of paleoparasitology with historic textual sources, we show that parasites have been affecting the lives of humans in China since ancient times. We discuss the presence and prevalence of three groups of parasites in ancient China: roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides), Asian schistosoma (Schistosoma japonicum), and tapeworm (Taenia sp.). We also examine possible factors that favored the spread of these endoparasites among early humans. Therefore, this paper not only aims to reveal how humans have been affected by endoparasites, but also addresses how early medical knowledge developed to cope with the parasitic diseases.
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