A fossilized poop left unstudied for almost 60 years reveals the unusual meal of ancient hunters during the ritualistic ceremony.

A study published in the Journal of Archeological Science revealed that an intact fang of rattlesnake was recovered from a coprolite that was excavated in the late 1960s but left unstudied until now.

Coprolite is a trace fossil of feces which provides evidence for the animal’s diet behavior instead of its physical structure.

Research findings reported direct evidence of consumption of the head, scales, fangs and bones of a viperous snake. Archaeologists said that this is the first-ever study to provide proof of whole-snake consumption as indicated by the fossil record.

“Zooarchaeological analysis found the remains of a small rodent, evidently eaten whole, with no indication of preparation or cooking,” researchers wrote on their paper. “Notably, the bones, scales and a fang of a snake in the Viperidae family were also recovered from the coprolite, which is the first direct archaeological evidence of venomous snake consumption known to the researchers.”

Based on the analysis, researchers believed that it is potential evidence of an ancient ritual or other shamanistic practice.

“Given the dangers associated with dining on such a poisonous reptile, the team posits that the human who provided the feces specimen wasn’t enjoying a local delicacy, or even acting out of sheer hunger,” Smithsonian magazine said. “Instead, it’s more likely the individual ate the snake during a ceremonial or ritualistic event.”

Except for the traces of rattlesnake, the fossilized poop is consistent with the previous findings at Conejo Shelter and the Lower Pecos region. Radioactive dating analysis revealed that the age of the fossil is around 1,460 to 1,528.

“Gateway or barrier between earth and supernatural realms,” the authors explained. “Snakes [were] considered to hold power to act upon certain elements of the earth.”

This supports the previous theory that ancient gatherers eat animals for distinct ceremonial events.

Archaeologists recommend to use the method of analysis fossilized feces to understand eating behavior and better situate diet patterns and environmental adaptations during ancient times in Lower Pecos.

“The fact that the research relies on a ‘sample size of one’ makes it difficult to determine the exact nature of the unexpected discovery,” Andrew Masterson, a reporter from cosmosmagazine.com, said. “Further complicating the find are the possibilities that one individual’s feces became intermixed with surrounding material such as fur and bones, or even with other humans’ fecal matter.”

“There is simply no way of knowing whether the long-distant residents of the Conejo Shelter opted to devour whole, raw venomous snakes, let alone whether they did so for cultural, religious or simply nutritional purposes,” Masterson wrote in an article. “The single piece of ancient feces may, in fact, represent nothing more than the after-effects of a lone resident who decided on a whim to see what snake tasted like and then decided never to repeat the experiment again.”

Elanor M. Sonderman, the primary author of the study from Texas A&M University, said that their research team believes they have enough evidence to rule out both of the potential complications stipulated by Masterson.

Representational image of a snake. Getty Images/ David McNew