Vocabulary • Chitin – a derivative of glucose that forms the hard exoskeleton of bugs. • Synanthropic – bugs that are adapted to live with humans, often as parasites.
Norse GreenlandThomas McGovern – CUNY New York Five liter samples were taken from all major contexts, including room floors and sand deposits adjacent to the site. They used a 300 mm mesh sieve and paraffin (kerosene) flotation to disaggregate the samples, and a binocular microscope to sort the remains . • Pedicularis humanus (body louse) and P. humanus/capitis (either body or head louse).
Melophagus ovinus (the ked, found on sheep) and Damalinia ovis (the sheep louse) • Human body louse and the human flea, Pulex irritans. • Goat louse (Damalinia caprae). These allowed a structure to be identified as a byre.
Coleoptera (beetles) • X. concinnus and Quedius mesomelinus. Other beetles include Boreophilia islandica, Hydroporus morio, and Colymbetes dolabratus, all of which were probably introduced with peat cuttings littered over the twig, moss, and woodchip covered floor. These species are not normally synanthropic, but seemed to have found a niche in this indoor habitat anyway.
Lathridius beetle also occurs in house floor samples. This beetle prefers to live in moldy environments, such as old hay, which also provides warmth for it to maintain breeding populations. In addition to beetles, Diptera (flies) are also abundant and prefer the same warmth given off my rotting plant material. The presence of these insects indoors indicates the presence of rotting plant material inside the farmhouses.
One particularly interesting find was a vessel containing “Viking house fly” remains and charred seaweed. Norse literature explains that seaweed was commonly used as a source of salt (for preservation), and the vessel likely contained seaweed treated meat or cheese, which attracted the flies.
A fireplace sample contained 22 human lice and 18 human fleas, some of them charred. This is the aftermath of nights spent by the fire picking off ectoparasites and flicking them towards the flames. Thus, the picture painted from these interpretations is not a pretty one.