Julius Caesar is said to have wept at the tomb of Alexander the Great — “Do you think I have not just cause to weep, when I consider that Alexander at my age had conquered so many nations, and I have all this time done nothing that is memorable?,” he said. Well, now I have learned of the Lloyd’s Bank Turd, and I am disconsolate. 1200 years ago, Vikings had conquered the city of York in England, held it for a century, and left behind a clutter of buried debris, including old cesspits. In one of them, archaeologists excavated an amazing relic: a single massive bowel movement, left behind by some heroic citizen who passed it alone into a hole in the ground, where it rested in solitary glory and was somehow preserved for posterity.
So what do we know about the anonymous Viking who made the most famous deposit that Lloyds Bank is ever likely to see? His or her diet consisted largely of meat and grains, but not much in the way of fruits or vegetables, which may help explain why the sample is nine inches long and weighs half a pound. “Whoever passed it probably hadn’t ‘performed’ for a few days,” says student conservator Gill Snape. Considering the large number of fruit pits and vegetable seeds found at the site but not in this particular Viking’s stool, this was likely not the healthiest or the most regular person in the village.
Like a lot of Vikings, this one suffered from at least two types of intestinal parasites: The remains of hundreds of whipworm and maw-worm eggs were found in the stool. The presence of worms in the stool is indicative of the filthy conditions and poor hygiene in Viking settlements. Wells were dug too close to latrines, making the availability of clean, uncontaminated water a hit-or-miss (usually miss) proposition. The dirt floors of the Viking dwellings teemed with fly larvae (maggots) and mouse and rat droppings, with plenty of dog, pig, cow, and horse droppings just outside the door. It was virtually inevitable that residents of such settlements would be infested with intestinal parasites.
Not only do I fail to produce such impressive output in the first place, what I do excrete gets swirled around in a watery sewer system, demolished in a frothy slurry at a sewage treatment plant, and encouraged to degrade. What legacy will I leave to my descendants? I’m tempted to start digging many holes in my backyard and create a bank of excrement. I hope the neighbors don’t mind.
Oh, wait! I have a blog! Perhaps some fragment of it will survive the inevitable bit rot, get archived somewhere somewhat permanent, and someday get enshrined in a museum somewhere, for the enlightened people of the future to grimace over.
One can hope.