The Incas' downfall, interpreted via poop

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Though they left few written records and began to disappear in the 15th century, scientists have found an unlikely new way to chart the downfall of the once-mighty Incas: by studying the mites which thrived in their llamas' dung. Turns out the mites, fossilized in mud cores, can reveal details about animal-based societies' size, patterns of movement and -- when the mites disappear suddenly, as they did in once Incan-only areas after Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 1400s -- a society's collapse. Researchers hope to use their new dung-reading skills to learn more about the animal-loving Vikings' occupation of Greenland, among other upcoming projects. (Pictured above: a fossilized mite, courtesy the BBC.)

March 28, 2007 - 10:24am
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