London: Archaeologists have unearthed a perfectly preserved 2,000-year-old wooden toilet seat at a Roman fort in northern England.
The wooden latrine (toilet) seat was discovered by Dr Andrew Birley, Director of Excavations, in the deep pre-hadrianic trenches at the Roman fort of Vindolanda, which was a key military post on the northern frontier of Britain before the building of Hadrian’s Wall.
According to the Vindolanda Charitable Trust, there are many examples of stone and marble seat benches from across the Roman Empire but this is believed to be the only surviving wooden seat, almost perfectly preserved in the anaerobic, oxygen free, conditions which exist at Vindolanda.
Although this wooden seat is not as grand as a marble or stone toilet bench, it would be far more comfortable to sit on in the cool climate of Britannia, the trust said.
The seat has clearly been well used and was decommissioned from its original purpose and discarded amongst the rubbish left behind in the final fort at the site before the construction of Hadrian’s Wall started in the early second century.
“There is always great excitement when you find something that has never been seen before and this discovery is wonderful,” Birley said.
“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.
“As soon as we started to uncover it there was no doubt at all on what we had found. It is made from a very well worked piece of wood and looks pretty comfortable,” Birley said.
“Now we need to find the toilet that went with it as Roman loos are fascinating places to excavate – their drains often contain astonishing artifacts,” he said.
According to the trust, discoveries at Vindolanda from latrines have included a baby boot, coins, a betrothal medallion, and a bronze lamp.
The wooden seat will take up to 18 months to conserve and once this process is complete the artifact will be put on display at the Roman Army Museum.