Sometimes, I like to pretend the ancient world fascinates me because I’m intellectually curious. The truth? I like learning about things that make me laugh or that gross me out. Yes, I have the emotional maturity of an 11-year old boy.
So, in the spirit of celebrating my true nature, let’s get to the fun stuff! Here are some disgusting…I mean, interesting facts I’ve come across about the ancient world:
* Women dyed their hair in ancient times, with red or blonde the most popular choices in Rome. For the latter, “beauticians” mixed pigeon poop with ashes and slathered it all over the hair. Then they either pee-ed directly on the hair or dunked the head in a pot of urine. Why? The ammonia from human urine acted as a bleach, stripping the hair of it’s natural color. It appears that in ancient times, if women couldn’t achieve that sun-kissed look, they settled for a pee-bath!
* One Egyptologist believes that workmen building the pyramids bonded with/domesticated wild dogs by regurgitating food for puppies being weaned, just like doggie mothers did in the wild. The proof? Three artifacts dating from the Old Kingdom have been uncovered showing mouth to muzzle contact between human and dog. (To be fair, the art could be just showing the human and dog greeting each other with a nose kiss, but this particular Egyptologist decided to go for the grosser interpretation. As a result, this person is my hero.)
* Ancient Greeks and Romans cooked almost all their food in a sauce called garum. The Romans made garum by throwing fish intestines and other fish guts into a giant vat and leaving it in the sun to putrefy. Salt and other spices may have been added. This liquifying, putrefying stew of fish goo was used to flavor just about everything the Romans ate.
* Ancient Romans did not use toilet paper to wipe their bottoms. They used either leaves or, worse, their left hand (which was why the left hand never touched food at a Roman dinner). In public latrines, Romans used sea sponges affixed to long twigs to clean themselves. If they were nice, they rinsed the sponge afterward. (For some reason, I feel the unnatural urge to rush into my bathroom and hug a roll of toilet paper!).
More to come. Meanwhile, do you have any gross facts to share? I would love to hear them.
PS: Irene Hahn reminded me that ROMAN MYSTERIES writer Caroline Lawrence also has a ton of interesting gross details to share. Check out her latest brilliant post on Roman poo and pee: http://bit.ly/fhu3j4