Recent research has shown pathogens to be a main selective pressure through human evolutionary history, leading to rapid reciprocal adaptation. Paleoparasitology identifies parasitic remains (usually eggs), passed from human-to-human or animal-to-human, from a variety of archaeological contexts.
These contexts include coprolites, dental calculus, latrines/cesspits, and burial/occupation sediment, including soil micromorphological thin sections. Paleoparasitology has multiple applications; it can be used to directly infer health and disease in ancient human and animal populations and, indirectly, to explore human migration patterns, dietary shifts, and interactions with animals and the environment using parasites as proxies. This field of study can also help to explore the relationship between parasite occurrence and regions, the seasons, and in relation to climatic and environmental changes.
Paleoparasitology research at MPI-EVA focuses on the development of advanced techniques to recover intestinal parasites from prehistoric archaeological sites and the analysis of those parasites to better understand the everyday lives and health of prehistoric peoples.