A number of Medieval wooden barrels have been uncovered in Denmark, revealing their less- than-glamorous contents.
Originally built to transport goods and store fish, the barrels were converted into latrines — still filled with their original contents.
“We are talking about 700-year-old latrines. And yes, they still smell bad,” Maria Elisabeth Lauridsen, the archaeologist in charge of the excavation, told Discovery News.
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Unearthed in the center of the Medieval town of Odense, the birthplace of the fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen, the barrels are believed to have served a toilet area.
“The excavation is characterized by great conditions for preservation and is located on a Medieval site that has been found to contain brick houses, half-timbered houses and stables,” Lauridsen said.
Described as being in “excellent condition,” the human excrement can give scientists unique insight into what people ate in Denmark in the Middle Ages.
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“Preliminary results of analysis show that raspberries were popular in Odense in the 1300s. The contents also contain small pieces of moss, leather and fabric which were used as toilet paper,” Lauridsen said.
It appears that barrels were recycled for various use in Medieval Odense. The excavation unearthed three barrels stacked on top of one another and tied together that served as a basic well.
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A system of pipes at the bottom of the structure led water to the well. To prevent mud from getting into the well, the lowest barrel was covered with reeds.
“This well has probably been a part of beer brewing. We have excavated nearby a stock of partially germinated barley which is commonly used in the brewing process,” Lauridsen said.
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Visitors can go on a free tour of the excavation every Tuesday and Thursday at 1:00 pm and can visit the archaeologists’ workshop every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 3:00.
“We are finding new and exciting information about the life that was lived in Odense during the 14th century,” Lauridsen said.
Image: Human excrement still smelling bad has been found in these 700 year old barrel latrines. Credit: Odense City Museum.