So you think your day stinks? For this week’s Finds Friday, we’re showcasing a medieval barrel latrine from our ongoing archaeological excavations at Berwick Royal Infirmary. Site Supervisor, Holly Drinkwater blogs.
The barrel was made of wooden planks bound together with twisted hazel, and was likely originally used to store foodstuffs before being repurposed as a latrine. It had been installed atop a circular stone footing within the base of a large cess pit.
The waterlogged conditions of the site meant that the wooden structure of the barrel (and it’s rather ripe contents) had remained well preserved over the intervening centuries.
Our intrepid archaeologists excavated the barrel over several days, carefully removing the surrounding deposits with plastic tools so as not to damage the wood. The barrel was then packed and wrapped in clingfilm and removed from the pit.
The next stage of the barrel’s journey was a 140 mile drive south to York, where it was received by Steve Allen, Wood Technologist with York Archaeological Trust. It is hoped the wood can be preserved and the barrel restored to its former glory.
"The contents of the latrine will be subject to environmental analysis to assess the presence of seeds, grains and intestinal parasites. These environmental remains are a goldmine for archaeologists for reconstructing past diets, and will be able to tell us a great deal about the eating habits and hygiene of the residents of medieval Berwick."
Holly DrinkwaterSite Supervisor