Excrement continues to truly astound the human race. Scientists in America have claimed that by analysing molecules in faecal matter that is over seven thousand years old, they are able to track the movements of sizes of populations. In turn, this could have a more significant impact on environmental science, as it is hoped that using the method will enable a more detailed and accurate look at how humans impacted on their environments, and distinguish this from natural effects.

In the past, scientists have used the remnants of charcoal and pollen to determine where and how earlier humans lived, but human faecal matter is said to be more reliable, if not a little unconventional. A by-product of the digestion of cholesterol, coprostanol, has been found in sediment rock in the Norwegian Lofoten Islands. One of the researchers, Robert D’Anjou, has noted that faeces from both humans and livestock washed into lakes, leaving scientists today with large concentrations of the molecule.

Amazingly, the team also assert that they can use the old poo to determine lulls in human habitation in the area, as well as the development of various agricultural methods and the use of fires. D’Anjou claims it is an example of how ‘good things can come from the most unexpected places’.
It’s a shame we civilised humans have to use toilets really; it would be quite nice to think that in 7000 years, some cyborg scientist could tell us where we got our food from and how we lived. Sort of like a classier version of Gillian McKeith, without the discerning stares and recommendations to eat prunes.

[Laura Thomas]

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