Anthropologists Uncover All the Ways We’ve Wiped

Mentions of toilet paper don't appear in historical archives until the 16th century. However, cleaning one's posterior is a custom that goes back …no one knows how far. And there is documentation of the different ways they did it in different eras. According to French anthropologist and forensic medicine researcher Philippe Charlier, in ancient Greece, they sometimes used pessoi, or pieces of broken ceramic.

Some pessoi may have originated as ostraca, pieces of broken ceramic on which the Greeks of old inscribed the names of enemies. The ostraca were used to vote for some pain-in-the-well-you-know to be thrown out of town—hence, “ostracized.” The creative employment of ostraca as pessoi allowed for “literally putting faecal matter on the name of hated individuals,” Charlier and company suggest. Ostraca have been found bearing the name of Socrates, which is not surprising considering they hemlocked him up and threw away the key. (Technically, he hemlocked himself, but we could spend hours in Socratic debate about who took ultimate responsibility.)

Putting shards of a hard substance, however polished, in one's delicate places has some obvious medical risks. “The abrasive characteristics of ceramic,” the authors write, “suggest that long term use of pessoi could have resulted in local irritation, skin or mucosal damage, or complications of external haemorrhoids.”  

Scientific American gets to the bottom of things in an article from their March magazine tissue, I mean, issue. Link -via Digg

(Image credit: Matt Collins)

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