06/26/2013 04:49 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Medieval Feces, Seriously


Y'all might have missed this one. Per Reuters:

"Medieval feces discovered at an ancient castle in Cyprus has revealed that the Crusaders suffered from a bad case of the worms, and had poor hygiene habits."

Interesting historical note, that. More interesting to me, though, is the fact that there is someone whose job it is to dig up and inspect ancient doo-doo.

"Claude, I'd like you to meet my wife, Sharon. She an archaeopoopologist."

Cyprus, as you might know, is a country strangled by debt, struggling beneath the heel of the austere European boot. Cyprus can't pay its trash collectors, but someone has the funds to send researchers there to dig up the contents of a 12th Century latrine. I'll resist the urge to editorialize further.

The point is, well heck, the point is that Medieval feces is funny. It shouldn't be, I know. I'm full-grown. I should be decades beyond snickering at the mention of excreta. But I'm not and neither are you and don't pretend otherwise because I know better.

Being serious for a moment, it turns out that the dry facts of dry dung are kind of interesting in their own right. According to researchers Evilena Anastasiou and Piers Mitchell, whose report appears in the International Journal of Paleopathology, Crusader feces was chock full of worms and what-not, painting a not at all pretty picture of the Crusades. It kind of turns history on its head. Here we all thought the Crusades were a bang-up time, with carnival games and legs of mutton and tilt-a-whirls and healthy stool. But no.

"The discovery of these parasites highlights how medieval crusaders may have been at risk of malnutrition at times of siege and famine, as these worms competed with them for nutrients," say Anastasiou and Mitchell.

It seems as many as one in five Crusaders on long expeditions died from malnutrition or infectious disease. So the Crusades were even worse than a road trip to Tulsa with a toddler and a hangover, which is just a little bit worse than death.

Let's say it's 1191 and you're a Frankish hog farmer with some hand-me-down armor and a murderous streak to match your zealotry and a fella comes by the homestead and says, "Hey Theuderic, wanna come with us? We're fixin' to go whip some Moors!" Well of course you're going to go. Life as it is for you is muddy, cold, nasty, boring and bereft of human slaughter. But what that fella probably wouldn't have told you is that while you're off making the world safe for feudalism, there's a real good chance you're going to die from a case of the worms.

So the fact is, the Crusades sucked. I bet they used coconuts . . .