A brief history of the presence of head lice

Where on earth did these little critters come from? Are head lice a modern affliction or can they be traced back through history? Here we explore a brief history of evidence of the presence of head lice throughout human history showing that they do date back to time immemorial.

  • c 105,000 BC - Kittler et al (2004) found evidence of head lice similar to those found on human head today. This was deduced using molecular clock analysis.
  • c 8,000 BC - In northeast Brazil, Araujo et al (2000) found a nit attached to human hair at a 10,000 year old archeological site.
  • c 7,000 BC - A skull found in a Neolithic cave in Israels Northern Negev showed head louse eggs attached to it's matted hair.
  • c 3,000 BC - Nit combs , nits and head louse eggs have been found in the tombs of ancient Egypt.
  • c 350 BC - Aristotle wrote on the subject of head lice and their profusion writing " There is also a specied of louse called the "wild louse " and this is harder than the ordinary louse and there is exceptional difficulty in getting rid of it. Boy's heads are apt to be lousy but men's in a less degree; and women are more subject to lice than men" Some things don't change much do they?
  • c 72 AD - A excavation at a Roman Fort just outside Carlisle Castle in Cumbria (U.K) revealed an intact head louse .
  • c 1399 AD lice rushed out of the Kings hair at the (coronation) ceremony for Henry IV. [Hilliam, 2001]. If you're suffering from head lice now, you're in good company!
  • c1650 AD The precursor to the magnifying glass was invented. Known as a "flea glass" it magnified by approximately 10 times.
  • c1700s - popular belief was that head lice we're spontaneously generated from body secretions. This belief streches back to Aristotle's times.
  • 1652 - Nicholas Culpepper devised an approved remedy to " kill head lice (and) cure the itch ".


Posted in Other Home Post Date 07/23/2016






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