This log is several centuries old. However, it’s a log with a twist. Even if its origins are unsavory, the Lloyds Bank Coprolite has had an unusual trip through time. Simply put, this is a fossilized human turd. Not only that, but it’s also the world’s most significant and – perhaps thankfully – most valuable.
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 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 used to describe ancient human droppings found as part of archaeological expeditions.
This is a unique archaeological find. According to the Australian Academy of Science observed in 2017, “Human coprolites are quite rare, and they survive best in extremely dry or frozen conditions.”. However, samples have been found that date back to the Late Paleolithic—around 22,000 years ago.”
“He was not a great vegetable eater,” wrote the Guardian in 2003, “instead of 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.”
Everything appears to be standard, but the Vikings’ bowels were also chock-full of 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.” On a more agreeable note, the malodorous museum piece has been valued at an extraordinary $39,000. No less a publication than the Wall Street Journal reported on the Coprolite in 1991, with one source claiming it was “as valuable as the Crown Jewels.”
In 2003, British TV station Channel 4 explored the desiccated dropping further, providing audiences a look at what an old turd might reveal about the past.
According to them, “if we ever succeed in extracting and analyzing DNA from the excrement, it could be possible to determine the kind of flora that this Viking had in his intestines.” 2003 is a significant year for the Lloyd’s Bank Coprolite, as it had a brush with destruction courtesy of an unsuspecting educator. A Guardian report from the time writes that “all was well until two weeks ago when its display stand collapsed in the hands of an unfortunate teacher and, crashing to the floor, the rock-like lump broke into three pieces.”