Researchers have long questioned whether our ancestors had bowel movements. Did they have to waddle out into the woods in the middle of the night after eating a hearty meal? There was, after all, no proof provided anywhere in their writings.
None of the classic ancient writers, neither Plato or Socrates or anyone else for that matter, wrote of the lifting of togas. Nor was there even one scintilla of evidence to be found in the Torah or the Bible about the expulsion of bodily excess. The central themes in classic Greek plays were never centered on sewers or outhouses. And so the mystery remained.
But now archaeologists, after centuries of trying, have discovered how Romans lived 2,000 years ago, by studying what they left behind in their sewers. The team of esteemed experts assigned their inferiors, mostly unpaid college interns, to sift through hundreds of sacks of human excrement. The interns, in turn, found a variety of details about their diet and their illnesses.
This unconventional journey into the past took the interns down into an ancient sewer below the town of Herculaneum. Along with neighboring Pompeii, it was one of the settlements buried by the Vesuvius volcanic explosion of 79AD.
In one tunnel 86 meters long they found seven hundred and fifty sacks of the highly sought after evidence of excrement. The sacks contained a wealth of information, although one intern said he wouldn't have used the term "wealth" to describe the discovery. In the end the scientists have been able to study what foods people ate and what jobs they did, by matching the material to the buildings above, like shops and homes.
This unprecedented insight into the diet and health of ancient Romans showed that they ate a lot of vegetables. Many samples also contained high white blood cell count, indicating, say researchers, the presence of a bacterial infection. As one researcher postulated, the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius sealed in for all time this evidence of human intestinal eruptions.
The sewer also offered up items of pottery, a lamp, 60 coins, necklace beads and even a gold ring with a decorative gemstone. Scientist offered up no theories why the Romans choose to eat pottery, lamps, coins, beads or jewelry. However one intern speculated that perhaps the Romans ate those items because the vegetables were rotten.
But in the end it was the human excrement that most astounded the archaeologists, settling once and for all the fiercely debated subject of whether or not our ancestors actually did have bowel movements. Indeed, one researcher said he believes that the excrement remains proves all humans of that era, not just Romans, had bowel movements.