An exploration of archaeological parasites at the 18th century fortress of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia
University of New Brunswick
The bioarchaeological sub-discipline of archaeoparasitology explores the impacts of ancient parasites on their human hosts. This thesis research examines the parasite loads of individuals excavated from the 18th century Rochefort Point cemetery at the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Soil samples were collected from within the pelvic region of seven excavated burials, with long-surviving intestinal parasite eggs (Ascaris spp. and Diphyllobothrium spp.) identified, quantified, and examined. Results indicate that four of the seven individuals likely died with a true parasite infection. Overcrowded living conditions, association with various animals (terrestrial and aquatic), differential access to foodstuffs, and poor sanitation practices at the Fortress likely all contributed to the increased spread of intestinal parasites across this community. As the first parasite study of its kind in Canada, this research not only provides a strong methodological foundation for future archaeoparasitological research using pelvic soil samples, but also contributes to our understanding of parasite-host interactions in 18th century Atlantic Canada.