In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, America was plunged into crisis. The crisis was not only measured by the number of masks sold, but also reflected in empty toilet paper stalls in supermarkets. All seem to be wiped clean. Americans stockpiled toilet paper as a survival tool during the pandemic.
In fact, toilet paper has only been available in the West since the 16th century. In China, where paper is one of their four defining ancient inventions, toilet paper has been around since the 16th century. 2 BC.
At this point, many people may ask: So before the toilet paper, what did people living in civilized societies use to replace them?
Answering this question is a challenge, says Susan Morrison, a professor of medieval literature at the University of Texas. It will be difficult for us today to find archaeological evidence of an object or tool that was used by ancient people to clean the toilet.
That’s because human feces are organic matter, and cleaning tools can also be easily broken down. Most evidence of them can only be found in literature and art, where cleaning tools are documented with descriptions and drawings.
According to what Morrison collected, throughout history, humans have used everything from their own hands, corncob to snow, to clean after having a bowel movement.
A 2016 study in the journal Archaeological Science: Reports revealed one of the oldest recorded tools for this purpose. These are toilet sticks dating from 2,000 years ago in China.
A Chinese sanitary cane was found in the epidemic station ruins on the Silk Road
These sticks are usually made of bamboo or flat wood, wrapped in a cloth. After the toilet is finished, the Chinese will use it to swab the anus and clean it. Research on Archaeological Science found 7 cleaning sticks that still had organic matter on the cloth.
They were discovered in a stationary relic called Huyen Tuyen on the Silk Road, dating back about 2,000 years from the Han Dynasty. Testing the organic matter on these cleaning sticks, the scientists found traces of parasites such as whip worms and tapeworms in the feces – a claim that ancient Chinese people used them for cleaning after going to the toilet.
Interestingly, it was also evidence that parasitic diseases had spread from China to the Middle East and Europe via the Silk Road.
Ancient Greek and Roman tersorium sticks.
Like China, people in Europe during the Greco-Roman period (from 332 BC to AD 642) also have their own toilet sticks. They are called “tersorium“.
A study in the British Medical Journal described it as a stick with a sponge at the top placed in public restrooms, and shared by people.
However, some scholars have suggested that tersorium may not have been used by the Greeks and Romans to clean toilets rather than to wipe their anus. People clean the toilet by pouring a bucket of salt water or vinegar in it and rubbing it back and forth with a tersorium stick.
Ancient texts describe the tersorium as a dirty stick, but there is no specific evidence for what purpose it was used.
Ancient Greek and Roman pessoi pebbles.
Even so, there is fairly clear evidence that the ancient Greeks and Romans had another tool for cleaning. These are small pebbles called pessoi. A 2,700-year-old carving shows images of men squatting and using pessoi for cleaning.
Pessoi are described as pebbles of round or oval shape. It is often found in latrine ruins of ancient Rome and Greece. Archaeologists also found traces of feces on pessoi, claiming that it was an ancient tool instead of toilet paper.
Ostraka ceramic pieces engraved with the name of the enemy of the Greeks.
In addition to the pebbles, the ancient Greeks also seemed to use pieces of pottery to scrape excess waste out of themselves. They are called ostraka, and even the culture of using it has a very interesting trait.
Pottery can be crafted. And thus, ostraka fragments are personalized as a separate device rather than shared. The ancient Greeks often engraved the names of their enemies on ostraka. And they thought that by using it for cleaning, I would smear the enemy’s name and feel good.
Unfortunately, ostraka pottery fragments sometimes injure their own owners. Research in the British Medical Journal shows that many Greeks may have torn their buttocks while taking them. Pottery can also irritate the skin and cause them to develop external hemorrhoids.
These are the wooden Chuugi bars of the Japanese people.
In Japan in the 8th century, people used another type of wooden stick called chuugi to clean both the outside and inside the anus. “Chuugi“literally also means”put the stick on the butt “.
And although sticks were popular for anal cleaning throughout history, the ancients wiped with a variety of other materials, such as water, leaves, grass, stones, cobblestones, fur and seashells.
In the Middle Ages, people also used moss, sedge, hay, straw and decorative carpet pieces to clean after defecation, Morrison added. The documents show that some people even used the necks of geese to do so.
Before toilet paper, corn cobs were commonly used.
The first evidence of toilet paper found in China, in the Han Wu Emperor’s tomb makes it believed to have been invented in the 2nd century BC. It was impossible to write hemp paper, so it is possible that the Chinese used it in the bathroom.
However, it was not until 1393 that toilet paper in China was mass produced and looked quite similar to modern toilet paper. They are made from rice, thin and soft.
The Chinese started to produce toilet paper in the 14th century.
In the West, it was not until 1857 that toilet paper became popular and produced on a large scale. Silk soft and white scrolls have won their hearts ever since.
Returning to the East, however, countries here seem to have evolved one step faster in the matter of sanitation. Now, billions of people in China and countries in Asia and the Middle East have turned to nozzles for cleaning. Toilet paper is no longer a vital tool for them.
Refer Livescience, Nationalgeographic, Archaeological Science