Weird Histories 3: The Viking Poo!
Archaeologists Discover a 1,000 year old POO!
About this Weird Histories series of articles
It is possible to teach the most unimpressed child or student with a little imagination and lots of comedy. Many children (and some adults) find stories from history about toilets and related articles immediately interesting. Test out this theory when you recount this story to your children or friends.
A Bit about the Vikings in York
The Vikings took over York on 2nd January 867 AD and Viking occupation and influence wasn’t ended in England until just before 1066 and all that. What Viking remains are left following their 200 year occupation? There’s this and that, building remains, jewellery, glass but there’s still no evidence of pottery manufacture. There is, however, the Viking pooh. This is the biggest pooh in the world on display.
The Archaeology of the Viking Poo
The poo was excavated from among the contents of a Viking rubbish tip. (Archaeologists adore excavating rubbish tips...) The archaeologists responsible managed to remove the poo from its dump in one whole piece – an exercise that called for great skill. Imagine that, a poo that had survived in one piece for over a thousand years!
What the Poo told us about the person who did it
The poo revealed that historians (people who read things to discover history) had got it wrong about the diet of Vikings. Until a piece was sliced off the miraculous find and analysed it was thought that the Vikings ate a greater proportion of carbohydrates (bread mainly) than protein (meat). The archaeologists (people who discover remains of people to discover things about history) found that the opposite was the case.
The sheer size of the poo suggested that its doer was a man. Other evidence found in the pooh makes it very certain that this man had a very itchy bum!
How do we know that the Doer of the Pooh had an Itchy Bottom?
Very good question! The fact of the itchy bum was revealed by analysing the slither of pooh under a microscope. Doing this revealed thousands of worms and as you know, anyone who itches their bottom is likely to have worms. (Always seek medical advice for a constantly itchy bum...)
Can We See the Poo Now?
The poo is displayed on a specially designed plinth. It is plastic and transparent and therefore allows the poo’s viewers to see it from all angles and, in so doing, understand the enormity of this archaeological find. You can see it at the Viking Museum (The Jorvik Centre) in York, England.
Is the Poo still in one piece after all this time?
Good question! The poo appears to be whole but unfortunately it is actually nowadays in three separate portions. This is because a few years ago, someone who had permission to study the poo and handle it, dropped it onto the floor where the, now brittle, dry, poo, broke up. The poo was however repaired by inserting a rod of steel through the three pieces – very much like you might thread food onto a kebab stick.
- Google the Viking Museum in York.
- Look at the BBC website and find their Viking timeline.
- With adult supervision, cut a tomato or a piece of meat into three and thread in onto a kebab stick. Attempt to get the tomato or piece of meat to look whole again – while you are doing this consider the expert skills the person who designed the repair of the Viking Pooh must have had.
TIP: Substitute the word “poo” with “turd”, “stool” or another technical or vernacular word you are more comfortable with when recounting this tale to children.
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