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Identify portable toilets in the ancient Roman world

A 5th century AD toilet bowl from a Roman villa in Gerace, Sicily (Italy). Scale: 10 cm. Credit: Roger Wilson

New research announced today Journal of Archeaological Science Reports Archaeologists will find out how to determine when the Romans used the pot as a portable toilet. This is known as a chamber pot.


“This type of conical pot was very widely recognized in the Roman Empire and was often referred to as a storage bottle in the absence of other evidence. They were found in or near public toilets. Could have been used as a chamber pot, but so far lacked evidence, “says Roger Wilson, a professor of the UBC’s Faculty of Classics. theology The person who directs the Gerace archeology project in Sicily where the pot was found.

Archaeologists at the University of Cambridge have analyzed the unfriendly material formed on the inside of ceramic pots dating back to the 5th century from Roman villas in Sicily.Identify using a microscope Intestinal parasiteA team at the Institute of Ancient Parasites identified whipworm eggs and confirmed that the container once contained human dung.

“It was very exciting to discover these parasite eggs 1500 years after they were deposited,” said Tianyi Wang, co-author of the University of Cambridge, who participated in the microscopic study.

Whipworm is a human parasite that is about 5 centimeters long and inhabits the inner wall of the intestine. The eggs they lay mix with human feces and are placed in the pot during use. With repeated use, minerals in urine and feces accumulated in layers on the inner surface of the pot, forming stones.

“We found that parasite eggs were trapped in a layer of minerals formed on the surface of the pot and preserved them for centuries,” also co-author of the Cambridge team. Sophie Rabino says.

This is the first time a parasite egg has been identified from a stone in a Roman pottery container, confirming that the Gerace pot must have been used to contain human feces.

Identify portable toilets in the ancient Roman world

Microscopic egg of Trichuriasis from the toilet bowl. The black scale bar represents 20 micrometers. Credit: Sophie Rabinow

Gerace toilet bowl measurements (height 31.8 cm, edge diameter 34 cm) indicate that it could have been used to sit, but in combination with a wicker or wooden chair underneath the toilet bowl. It is likely that it was used. It has been set.

Pottery is one of the most common forms of relics recovered from Roman ruins. This technology provides an important tool that allows researchers to identify pots with the special purpose of being chamber pots and distinguish them from those used as storage bottles for food and other materials. (Although the alternative use of such vessels is occasionally documented).

“The findings show that parasite analysis can provide important clues to ceramic research,” says Rabinou.

This technique works only if at least one person who uses the toilet bowl is infected with an intestinal parasite. Where such parasites are endemic in developing countries today, more than half of people are infected with at least one type of intestinal parasite. If the Romans are commonly infected, this approach is more likely to identify most such vessels as toilet bowls if the covered sediments are preserved.

Pears Mitchell, Parasite The expert who led the research in the laboratory said, “This pottery came from the bathroom of a Roman villa. People who go to the bath used this pottery as a bath when they wanted to go to the toilet. It seems. They didn’t have their own bathroom. Obviously, convenience was important to them. “

Mitchell said, “Where it is known that the Roman vases of the museum have these mineralized concrete in the base, I to see if they were also used as chamber vases. We are now able to sample using our technology. “

Identification of intestinal parasite eggs Chamber Pots have the potential to provide a better understanding of people’s hygiene, diet and intestinal health in the past.


Ancient feces reveal parasites in the village of Chatalhuk 8000 years ago


For more information:
Identifying ancient toilet bowls using parasite analysis: 5th century AD example of Gerace, Sicily, Italy Journal of Archaeological Science Report, DOI: 10.1016 / j.jasrep.2022.103349

Quote: Https: //phys.org/news/2022-02-portable-toilets-ancient-roman-world.html Portable of the Ancient Roman World (February 10, 2022) acquired on February 10, 2022 Identifying toilets

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Identify portable toilets in the ancient Roman world

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