New Publication: Parasitism, cesspits and sanitation in East Asian countries prior to modernization
As a research tool for tracing sanitary practices and conditions in the past, archaeoparasitological study has a long history. Even though the studies have explored common questions on the biogeography and endemicity of parasite infections that have a relevance to public health, each continent and country has developed independent academic traditions. Among these, we have summarized the history of archaeoparasitological studies on sanitation and parasitism in East Asian contexts. Even if archaeoparasitology in East Asian countries remains in its relative infancy, the findings so far represent a great start in efforts to answer questions as to how the pre-modern peoples in the region derived community-managed sanitation schemes to live better and healthier lives in such densely populated towns and cities.
Despite the encouraging achievements of East Asian archaeoparasitologists, we should note that most previous reports have concentrated on agrarian societies in Korea, Japan and China. Therefore, to acquire broader knowledge for archaeoparasitology regarding this area in the past, new studies should be extended to the nomadic and hunter-gatherer peoples in other sub-regions of the area. For example, studies of archaeological samples from North Asia (e.g. Siberia) might demonstrate differences in parasitological infection patterns compared with East Asian (agrarian) counterparts, thereby enriching our knowledge of sanitation and parasitism in human society as a whole. While there is clearly a long way to go, archaeoparasitology in East Asia is a quickly developing science nowadays, promising a bright future for research in each country.