Sunday, October 18, 2015

Review of Mitchell (ed.), Sanitation, Latrines and Intestinal Parasites in Past Populations

Piers D. Mitchell (ed.), Sanitation, Latrines and Intestinal Parasites in Past Populations. Farnham; Burlington VT: Ashgate, 2015. Pp. 278. ISBN 9781472449078. $124.95.

Reviewed by Cornelis van Tilburg, Leiden University (


This volume contains twelve articles discussing sanitation, toilets and pathogenic parasites in the past, when hygiene—as we understand the word—did not come close to meeting modern western standards. Of these twelve papers two authors, Piers D. Mitchell and Evilena Anastasiou, have contributed six (four and two respectively).

A striking element in this scholarly volume is the variety of disciplines: archaeology, medicine, biology, parasitology (including paleoparasitology and/or archaeoparasitology), sociology and history. Some articles give a meticulous description of toilets, their archaeology, construction, history and development, while others focus on biology and parasitology. In some articles, numerous tables are included (especially in chapter nine). Overall the number of illustrations is low, and some chapters have few or no illustrations.

This book might have included something about the latrine area discovered near Qumran some years ago, but evidently it did not. For that discovery see here, here, here, and here. But I'm sure the book would be useful background reading for the Qumran latrine, if this is one of your interests.