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J Med Entomol. 2003 Jul;40(4):585-7.

Body louse remains found in textiles excavated at Masada, Israel.

Author information

Department of Parasitology, The S. F. Kuvin Center for the Study of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel.


A leg of the body louse, Pediculus humanus humanus L. (Phthiraptera: Pediculidae), was found in a storeroom at Masada build during the reign of King Herod the Great. The unearthed culture material clearly indicates that the room was occupied by the rebels during the first Jewish revolt against the Romans (AD 66-73/4). The context of the textiles associated with the louse and their nature suggest a rebel origin. An exuvium of a leg of the third nymphal stage of body louse was found. The first three parts of the leg (tarsus, including the tarsal claw, tibia and femur) were preserved entirely, while the fourth segment of the leg, the trochanter, was only partially conserved. The comparison of the tarsus of this specimen with the legs of present day third instar nymphs of body and head lice revealed that the leg found within the archaeological debris belongs to a body louse.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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