A piece or recently analyzed fossilized human poop was found to contain the remains of an entire rattlesnake including its fangs. The human waste was collected in the 1960s by Archaeologists at the Conejo Shelter site in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of southwest Texas.
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The poop, known scientifically as coprolites is thought to be about 1500 years old. A team of archeologist led by Elanor Sonderman from Texas A&M University recently reexamined the samples and were surprised by what they found. Some of the samples included evidence of eating course vegetation and even whole uncooked rodents.
Snake eating ceremony
But what really shook the researchers was the discovery of entire rattlesnakes including skin bone and even its fangs.
The archeologist suggests that the snake wasn’t eaten like a juicy snack but was likely consumed as part of a religious or spiritual ritual. A report about the unusual find has been published in the Journal of Archeological Science.
The collection site of the fang-containing poo was a well-known area for indigenous hunter-gatherers during the region’s Archaic period.
The sample collection took place from 1967 to 1968. More than 1000 samples of human coprolites, among other artifacts and fossils, were collected. The density of human pop made the researchers think the area had been designed as a communal latrine.
Fossilized human poop is an important way for a scientist to begin to understand what ancient humans ate and even how good their digestive systems were.
1000 years before colonization
Another sample of poo taken from the same layers as the fang-containing poo has been dated to between 1,529 to 1,597 years ago which puts the snake eating ceremony at about 1000 years before colonization.
Indigenous hunters-gathers in the area likely to have foraged on small rodents such as rabbits and rodents as well as fish and other reptiles. The harsh desert conditions would have ruled out any large game from their diet.
Vegetation such as grasses, roots and different types of cacti would have provided nutrition, medicine, and materials for a living.
The people from this area are also very famous for creating exquisite rock art that often depicted snakes. Finding the snake was a surprise for the researchers though who did not expect to see such well-preserved evidence.
While snakes were a common food source in the area as well as in northern Mexico usually the head, scales and fangs are removed prior to being roasted over the fire.
The snake discovered in the coprolite is thought to be a viperous, venomous snake, either a western diamondback rattlesnake or copperhead, which makes the practice not only uncomfortable but also really dangerous.
However snakes were important symbols to the people of the area and “considered to hold power to act upon certain elements of the earth,” the authors wrote, and because “of their power and role in various mythologies, many cultures around the world include snakes as a feature of ceremonies and rituals.”