A Case for Lice


Proxy data
Lice remedies
Delousing combs

How to Cite

Reesor, A. (2021). A Case for Lice: Using Lice from Archaeological Sites as Proxy Data to Further Understand Human Behaviour. Pathways, 2(1), 36–46. https://doi.org/10.29173/pathways18


Hair, body, and pubic lice plagued past populations just as much as they do today. These types of lice require a human host to survive, and they thrive in contact-rich and sedentary groups. Lice, especially head lice, are difficult to get rid of without constant attention, which makes them suita­ble as proxy data for studying human behaviours of the past. By studying lice in the archaeological record, archaeologists can further understand the human experience. For instance, lice, eggs, and delousing combs have been found with human remains in the archaeological record and have been collected, cleaned, and studied, to better understand the lives of past humans. Additionally, body lice can spread diseases and can indicate stressors people endured during life and prior to death, such as overcrowding and illness. Lice studies have also been used to evaluate human cultural behaviours, how people interacted with others, how people lived with lice (if and where delousing activities took place), and how people dealt with ongoing infestations in the past. This article serves to provide a comprehensive overview of the archaeological analysis of lice, the important insights that lice can bring to current understanding of the past, the importance of proper collection, clean­ing, and studying of lice, and the ways in which lice in the archaeological record have informed archaeologists about the past.



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