Mummified Dog contains Ancient Parasites

The first discovery of an Egyptian mummified dog that contains parasites, has been one of the most amazing finds for archaeologists within Egypt. The mummy dog seems to date back to the classical period when the Romans once ruled the Empire.

The parasites were discovered during a study that took place by a group of French archaeologists, whom were taking part in some research on mummified dogs. The research consisted of  400 dogs that came from an excavation site in Egypt, at El Deir. This research took place during 2010 and 2011 when the expedition was still operating at the site.

Picture courtesy of Parasitophilia webpage.

The parasites known as two different names, the louse fly and the brown tick, were found within the dog’s coat and inside the right ear lobe. The tick during this ancient period, was known to carrying quite a lot of diseases and has been considered an important find to learning more about Egypt’s diseases and health situation during the classical period.

Parasites were first mentioned by the ancient Romans and Greek writers such as, Aristotle, Homer and even Pliny the Elder during the early periods. Other sources, such as a depiction, of what is believed to be an illustration of a tick, was discovered in an Egyptian tomb, dating from the period of 15 Century B.C.

Picture courtesy of Parasitophilia webpage.

‘Although the presence of the parasites, as well as ecoparasite-bourne diseases, in ancient times was already suspected from the writings of the major Greek and Latin scholars, these facts were not archaeological proven until now’, stated by archeaocoentomologist Jean-Bernard Huchet from the National Museum of Natural History, in Paris.

As parasites were not really mentioned much during the ancient times, it has been very scarce in the historical and archaeological records. Only up until now, has this new find provided us with new light on these topics. According to our archaeological records, the only other source found about the tick’s history was in Arizona, when the parasite was discovered on a fossilised human feces.

Photo courtesy of Martine Fayein From Alpha Necropolis.

The mummified dog was discovered within the Roman tombs, which was near the fortress. The fortress was built in the later period of 3rd Century B.C. It is known that most of the tombs in this region date back from the 4th Century B.C.,  to the 4th Century A.D.

As such, this particular area is considered as an archeaologist’s treasure mine, regardless of the remaining conditions of the artefacts and mummies that have been discovered, and those that are yet to be found.

The following find on the dog mummy as well as the other finds, can be found on the online issue of ‘the International Journal of Paleopathology’.

Huchet along with his fellow crew, that was led by ‘Fracoise Dunand and Roger Litchenburg, from France’s University of Strasburg, were the ones that came across the parasitic pet, which was one of the 400 mummified dogs that they were researching on.

Huchet explained to LiveScience, that out of the mummies that were part of the research, most had been discovered and preserved still in tact skeletons, which consisted of wrapped bandages. Huchet continues, ‘Moreover, most of the dog remains were seriously damaged by looters’.

Out of all the mummified dogs, this particular pup contained up to 61 parasitic ticks, that were still attached to the dog’s fur coat, and nesting within the ear lobe. These ticks have been recognised worldwide as they have spread throughout the world by living and feeding as hosts on domestic dogs.

Picture courtesy of Parasitophilia webpage.

Copyright © 2013 Aleesha Csanki.


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