An extremely rare 2,000 year old wooden toilet seat, believed to be the last one remaining from the Roman Empire, has been unearthed at Vindolanda fort in Northumberland, northern England.
While many stone and marble toilet seat benches from across the Roman Empire still survive, most wooden seats would have quickly perished. This artefact was almost perfectly preserved in an anaerobic environment in the fort’s latrine trenches and actually predates the construction of Hadrian’s Wall in the early 2nd century AD.
Vindolanda archaeologist Dr Andrew Birley said that Roman toilets were plumbed with running water, but in this chilly northern outpost of the Empire a wooden seat would have been much more welcome than stone or marble. He told the Journal:
“We are absolutely delighted with the find. The seat has survived because of the fantastic preservation conditions on site. The Romans brought this toilet technology to Britain 2,000 years ago. It was cleanliness to the max compared with what had gone on before.
“We know a lot about Roman toilets from previous excavations at the site and from the wider Roman world which have included many fabulous Roman latrines, but never before have we had the pleasure of seeing a surviving and perfectly preserved wooden seat. It is made from a very well worked piece of wood and looks pretty comfortable.
“Now we need to find the toilet that went with it as Roman loos are fascinating places to excavate as their drains often contain astonishing artefacts. Let’s face it, if you drop something down a Roman latrine you are unlikely to attempt to fish it out unless you are pretty brave or foolhardy.”
Other finds from the Vindolanda latrines include a baby boot, coins, a betrothal medallion, and a bronze lamp. The site also revealed the famous Vindolanda writing tablets, considered the most important examples of military and private correspondence found anywhere in the Roman Empire.