24 July 2016

"Ancient bottom wipers"

After writing posts about politics, it seems appropriate to consider the topic of "bottom wipers."
Some bamboo sticks with scraps of grimy cloth wound around them have been identified as bottom wipers from a latrine pit in a 2,000-year-old Chinese relay station on the Silk Road. They have also preserved the first solid evidence of disease spread from east to west by travellers. Samples of ancient faeces scraped off the fabric and brought back to a laboratory in Cambridge have revealed eggs from four species of parasites, including Chinese liver fluke. The fluke needs marshy conditions to complete its life cycle, so could not have come from the desert area around the ancient Xuanquanzhi relay station.
I'm not sure why the cloth was attached to sticks for use.  I know the Romans used (and reused!) sponges on sticks, and similar contraptions are marketed nowadays for the severely obese or physically handicapped. 

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