Analyze fossilized poop in search of clues to ancient people's lifestyles.
What does a Pathoecologist do?
Bones aren’t the only fossilized remains our primordial ancestors left behind. Fossilized fecal matter (yes, poop), examined and analyzed by Pathoecologists, writes more history pages on the day-to-day life of past people than bones ever could.
Sure, the profession is a gold mine for potty humor, but poop jokes aside, Pathoecologists actually spend the majority of their time in a sanitized lab, cleaner than most workplaces. Fresh from digs, Archaeologists bring you – the Pathoecologist – samples to analyze. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about getting your hands dirty, as the remains you work with resemble rocks more than sewer contents.
While a full skeleton is needed to get a substantial amount of information from one bone, just one waste specimen dredged up from underground can tell you volumes about the life of the people you’re studying. Through grain and pollen content, you’re able to tell what type of plants someone consumed, recreating an entire diet. You can also detect diseases, such as anemia, in a well-preserved sample; even the area where the waste was discovered sheds light on ancient sanitation systems.
Often, you’re tasked with more than just random sampling; you’re also given a problem to solve. Like a Paleopathologist, you might find yourself studying the old diseases left behind in your samples. Perhaps you’re researching the history of a particular parasite that was transferred through human waste, or even trying to learn why a certain civilization met it’s demise through a deadly epidemic.
Who would have thought so much knowledge could come from something we flush down the toilet every day? In reality, each piece of evidence left behind by ancient people is a useful facet in discovering what their lives were like. Your job is to take the most unassuming piece, the one most people forget about completely (if not joke about), and show how useful it can be in writing history.