This log is many centuries years old. But it’s a log with a difference. The Lloyds Bank Coprolite has had an interesting journey through time, even if its origins are far from palatable.
Put simply, this is a fossilized human turd. Not only that, but the largest and – bizarrely – most valuable on record. It dates back to approximately the 9th century and the person responsible is believed to be a Viking. It currently rests at the Jórvík Viking Centre in the city of York, England.
Jórvík was the Viking name for York, with the Center part of an area that has yielded numerous treasures. Whether the Coprolite can be described as treasure is a question for the ages. That said, the details are fascinating.
The reason it’s named after Lloyds Bank isn’t some weird corporate branding exercise. The hefty deposit, measuring 8″ x 2″ (20 cm by 5 cm), was found beneath the site of the famous bank in 1972. And here’s a fun fact for the day – “Coprolite” means fossilized human feces! Paleofeces is also a term used to describe ancient human droppings found as part of archaeological expeditions.
This is one mighty archaeological achievement. The Australian Academy of Science observed in 2017, “Human coprolites are very rare, and tend to only be preserved in either very dry or frozen environments, however samples have been found that date back to the Late Paleolithic—around 22,000 years ago.”
For a complete specimen to last this long is awe-inspiring, if not exactly need-to-know information. How do they know it came from a Viking? The ingredients that went into the epic production provide some clues.
“He was not a great vegetable eater,” wrote the Guardian in 2003, “instead living on large amounts of meat and grains such as bran, despite fruit stones, nutshells and other stools containing matter from vegetables such as leeks being found on the same site.”
That all sounds normal enough, however the Viking’s bowels were also packed with creepy crawlies. In 2016, the website Spangenhelm referred to “the presence of several hundred parasitic eggs (whipworm)”, which “suggests he or she was riddled with intestinal parasite worms (maw-worm).”
These unwanted invaders can cause serious health problems. The BBC describes conditions such as “stomach aches, diarrhea and inflammation of the bowel.” Get enough worms and things get worse, as “symptoms may simulate those of gastric and duodenal ulcers.”
Parasites aren’t known for standing still either. Adults “can migrate from the intestine and enter other organs where they can cause serious damage, even moving into such places as the ear and the nose of unfortunate suffers.”