Eleanor Joan Green

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

York, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9999

Approve Date

August 26, 2020

Project Title

Green, Eleanor (York, U. of) "Reconstructing the relationship between ancient microbiomes, urbanisation and diet: A bioarchaeological investigation of coprolites"

ELEANOR GREEN, then a graduate student at University of York, York, United Kingdom, was awarded funding in August 2020 to aid research on “Reconstructing the Relationship between Ancient Microbiomes, Urbanization and Diet: A Bioarchaeological Investigation of Coprolites,” supervised by Dr. Jessica Hendy. Fecal material can survive for thousands of years in the archaeological record in optimal conditions. One mechanism of preservation is partial mineralization which occurs in waterlogged environments. This can result in the formation of coprolites – distinct fecal deposits and fecal concretions – amorphous mineralized masses which accumulate in cesspits. The biomolecular potential of these two types of archaeological fecal material has been explored using multiple bioarchaeological techniques. The DNA, proteins, amino acids and lipids surviving in the fecal matrices have been extracted from the samples to investigate the depositing species, their diet and their associated species. DNA analysis has demonstrated that the distinct coprolites were deposited by dogs. The DNA profile of the fecal concretions does not suggest these samples have a single derivative species. This mixed signature is also reflected in the lipid biomarkers from the concretions. DNA and protein evidence for diet from the coprolites is meat-dominated whereas, the concretions show a more varied signature with evidence of plant materials and even parasites. Surprisingly, no fish consumption was detected. Ancient human DNA has been successfully enriched from the fecal concretions of Coppergate, York, UK, enabling a population-level genetic analysis without the destruction of human remains.