(Photograph: ©York Archaeological Trust)

 

Sometimes a find turns out to be something quite different from what was first thought. Excavation of Viking Age levels during construction of bank vaults at Lloyd's Bank, Pavement, York, in 1972 produced what was thought to be a piece of metal-working slag. Closer examination told us otherwise — and gave a whole new meaning to the term making a deposit...

The hard brittle object almost 20cm long and 5cm wide was revealed to be mineralised Viking Age human faeces, a stool or coprolite.

Disgusting! Or was it?

A team of scientists rolled up their sleeves and prepared to see what this most direct human by-product had to tell us. After all 'we are what we eat' and there was a lot we could learn.

For more information see: The Archaeology of York 14/4 Environment and Living Conditions at Two Anglo-Scandinavian Sites by A.R. Hall, H.K. Kenwood, D. Williams and J.R.A Greig with a note on the coprolite by A.K.G. Jones pp. 225–9.

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