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6 December 2012
Our poo can reveal more than you thought!

It has long been believed that the analysis of charcoal from fires and pollen from cultivated plants was the most accurate way of tracking ancient human life and development. But scientists from the University of Massachusetts (USA) are using a much more unusual method, the analysis of ancient human faeces, more specifically, the levels of coprostanol found in the faeces. Coprostanol is formed when cholesterol is digested and can be found not only in 'solid' deposits but also washed through sediment.
     Their area of research has centred around the Norwegian Lofoten Islands, where they have been the ebb and flow of human activity from over 7,300 years ago. A member of the research team, Robert D'Anjou, explained: "This area is at the northern limit of agricultural possibility and minor variations in the growing season temperature would greatly affect their ability to farm and populate that area. We compare it (the poo) to the tree ring temperature record from the area and it was shocking how well the coprostanol followed the temperature reconstruction".

Edited from BBC News (27 November 2012)

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