Cleaning your bottom Roman fashion

The archaeological world is mildly agog today over the suggestion that the Romans used bits of pottery to clean their bottoms.

Now we know about the infamous sponge sticks and we have remains from the cesspit at Bearsden fort that suggests that Roman soldiers may well have used sphagnum moss to clean themselves, but pottery?

It’s not as unlikely as it seems. The Anglo Saxons and the Vikings used leaves (leading to a joke about the only leaf not to be found in a toilet being the holly leaf) or scraps of cloth, but what do you do if you live in a dry climate without access to water?  If there’s no leaves and no water and you need to scrape yourself clean after a difficult moment you need to be inventive and use something as a scraper – and a stone would do the job.

Bedouin tribesmen are reputed to do exactly this. And I found this youtube video about some people in Peru that did the same thing. After all toilet paper was a Chinese invention and unknown to he Romans and while we might feel that a sponge was a more acceptable and comfortable alternative, if you can’t wash it out you’re left having to carry something fairly disgusting round with you after you’ve been – after all sponges were expensive and most people were nowhere near rich enough to afford to throw them away.

Personally, sphagnum seems a hell of a lot more comfortable, but there are times when needs must …

About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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3 Responses to Cleaning your bottom Roman fashion

  1. Pingback: Language learning, cultural awareness, and toilets | stuff 'n other stuff

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  3. Pingback: Wiping your bottom in bygone times | stuff 'n other stuff

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