Archaeologists discover Roman toilet ‘paper’

4th of February 2013
Archaeologists discover Roman toilet ‘paper’

Roman ceramic discs discovered by archaeologists in 1960 are now believed to be early examples of toilet 'paper'.

The flat discs, which range in diameter from 2.5cm to 10cm, were originally thought to be ceramic gaming pieces used for board games such as draughts. But according to an article in the British Medical Journal they are now believed to be 'pessoi', an alternative to the sponges on sticks that Romans used for personal hygiene.

The BMJ article was written by Professor Philippe Charlier, assistant professor in forensic medicine at the Raymond Poincaré University Hospital in Paris. His claims are based on other archaeological discoveries of pessoi inside the pits of Greek and Roman latrines across the Mediterranean.

Some of these digs have revealed ceramics that have been re-cut with smooth angles or painted with representations of figures using pessoi to clean their buttocks.

Professor Charlier claims that the Romans even inscribed some of their pessoi with the names of enemies or people to whom they had taken a dislike. And he suggests that the hard surface of the discs could have led to medical problems such as haemorrhoids.

The finds were excavated in 1960 and have since been kept with a collection of Roman finds at Fishbourne Roman Palace in West Sussex, England.

According to the museum's curator Dr Rob Symmons: "They would have probably been quite scratchy to use. But I love the idea that we've had these in the museum for 50 years being largely ignored, and now they are suddenly engaging items you can relate to."





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