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科学美国人60秒: 保存下来的粪便是一件考古珍品

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Preserved Poop Is an Archaeological Treasure

保存下来的粪便是一件考古珍品

For a long time, archaeologists have dug for the shiny stuff, the sorts of artifacts that belong in museums. "They like pots and jewelry and gold and stuff like that." Piers Mitchell, a biological anthropologist at the University of Cambridge. Mitchell spends his time looking for something decidedly different from such handmade relics. The thing he seeks? "A preserved piece of human feces."

很长一段时间以来,考古学家们一直在挖掘那些闪亮的东西,那些属于博物馆的手工艺品。“他们喜欢陶罐、珠宝、黄金之类的东西。”皮尔斯·米切尔是剑桥大学的生物人类学家。米切尔花时间寻找一些与手工制作的文物截然不同的东西。他在寻找什么?“一块保存完好的人类粪便。”

Coprolites, as they're called, are dried or mineralized pieces of poop. And Mitchell and his team found some prime specimens in a trash heap at the ancient settlement of Çatalhöyük, in modern-day Turkey, which dates from 6000 to 7000 B.C.Mitchell's team ground up the poop samples with a mortar and pestle, then dissolved them, and used microsieves to filter out particles of various sizes. The presence of certain molecules tipped them off that it was, indeed, human poop.

粪化石,他们被称为,是干燥或矿化的粪便块。米切尔和他的团队在卡塔霍裕克古定居点的垃圾堆中发现了一些主要的标本,卡塔霍裕克位于今天的土耳其,可以追溯到公元前6000年到公元前7000年米切尔的研究小组用研钵和杵研磨粪便样本,然后将它们溶解,并用微过滤器过滤出各种大小的颗粒。某些分子的存在提示他们这确实是人类的粪便。

And in two of the samples, they found the intact eggs of whipworm, an intestinal parasite that is far more likely to flourish in settlements than among people who poop and then move along to a new location. The discovery gives us a glimpse of how human health may have changed as hunter gatherers started to adopt a stationary, agricultural lifestyle.

在其中的两个样本中,他们发现了鞭虫完整的卵。鞭虫是一种肠道寄生虫,它更有可能在定居地繁衍生息,而不是在人们排便后搬到新地方的时候繁衍生息。这一发现让我们得以一窥,随着狩猎采集者开始采用一种固定的农业生活方式,人类健康可能发生了怎样的变化。

"It's only by looking at these earliest villages and towns that were set up in the Middle East that we can really start to understand that when humans change their lifestyle to a different way of getting food, how it can increase or decrease their risk of getting different kinds of diseases."

The results are in the journal Antiquity. [Marissa L. Ledger et al, Parasite infection at the early farming community of Çatalhöyük]The findings prove that ancient poop is flush…with details about past civilizations.

“只有通过观察这些早期的乡镇,在中东地区,我们可以建立真正开始理解,当人类改变他们的生活方式,不同的方式获得食物,如何增加或减少的风险得到不同种类的疾病。”研究结果发表在《古物》杂志上。研究结果证明,古代粪便中充满了过去文明的细节。

Preserved Poop Is an Archaeological Treasure

For a long time, archaeologists have dug for the shiny stuff, the sorts of artifacts that belong in museums. "They like pots and jewelry and gold and stuff like that." Piers Mitchell, a biological anthropologist at the University of Cambridge. Mitchell spends his time looking for something decidedly different from such handmade relics. The thing he seeks? "A preserved piece of human feces."

Coprolites, as they're called, are dried or mineralized pieces of poop. And Mitchell and his team found some prime specimens in a trash heap at the ancient settlement of Çatalhöyük, in modern-day Turkey, which dates from 6000 to 7000 B.C.Mitchell's team ground up the poop samples with a mortar and pestle, then dissolved them, and used microsieves to filter out particles of various sizes. The presence of certain molecules tipped them off that it was, indeed, human poop.

And in two of the samples, they found the intact eggs of whipworm, an intestinal parasite that is far more likely to flourish in settlements than among people who poop and then move along to a new location. The discovery gives us a glimpse of how human health may have changed as hunter gatherers started to adopt a stationary, agricultural lifestyle.

"It's only by looking at these earliest villages and towns that were set up in the Middle East that we can really start to understand that when humans change their lifestyle to a different way of getting food, how it can increase or decrease their risk of getting different kinds of diseases."

The results are in the journal Antiquity. [Marissa L. Ledger et al, Parasite infection at the early farming community of Çatalhöyük]The findings prove that ancient poop is flush…with details about past civilizations.


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