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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  History and Archeology (Moderator: David Atherton)  |  Topic: Playtime! Guess the Artefact! 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Playtime! Guess the Artefact!  (Read 1460 times)
Will Hooton
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« on: November 14, 2010, 02:47:41 pm »

Brownie points and bragging rights to anyone who can correctly guess the function of this late Hellenistic/early Roman vessel. Smiley

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mwilson603
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« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2010, 04:27:46 pm »

OK, I will be the first to make an outrageous fool of myself.  Earlier today my children were watching a TV show titled "Horrible Histories", and one of the topics the programme discussed had an actor carrying a pot that looked similar to this.  He was playing a roman "poo" seller, and after cleaning out the sewage from the communal toilets he was selling the contents to roman farmers to spread on their crops. 
So whilst I am sure this will be so far from the reality that I will have to crawl away and hide for a while, I am saying a container to carry human excrement for sales purposes.
regards
Mark
P.S. Now for Pete's sake would someone guess the right answer so that my answer on this thread can drop off of the front page Smiley
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Bud Stewart
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« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2010, 04:58:52 pm »

OK, I will be the first to make an outrageous fool of myself.  Earlier today my children were watching a TV show titled "Horrible Histories", and one of the topics the programme discussed had an actor carrying a pot that looked similar to this.  He was playing a roman "poo" seller, and after cleaning out the sewage from the communal toilets he was selling the contents to roman farmers to spread on their crops. 
So whilst I am sure this will be so far from the reality that I will have to crawl away and hide for a while, I am saying a container to carry human excrement for sales purposes.
regards
Mark
P.S. Now for Pete's sake would someone guess the right answer so that my answer on this thread can drop off of the front page Smiley

Mark, I don't think you're too far off.  The slightly 'misaligned' handles appear to be designed so the vessel can be easily tipped for pouring.  Grip both handles for carrying and hold only one handle for emptying the contents.
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Bud Stewart
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« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2010, 05:26:44 pm »

Mark, I don't think you're too far off.  The slightly 'misaligned' handles appear to be designed so the vessel can be easily tipped for pouring.  Grip both handles for carrying and hold only one handle for emptying the contents.

Silly me.  All two handled vessels can be poured by gripping just one the handles, but offsetting the handles should allow the contents to be poured out without coming into contact with the other handle.  This makes sense if the contents are something you would rather not touch like body fluids (animal or human).
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Lloyd Taylor
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« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2010, 07:06:25 pm »

Certainly not a container for holy water! My guess a Roman "chamber" pot for collecting urine (the ancient source of ammonia) to be used in the processing of hides, bleaching of cotton etc! Depending on size (no scale present on the photo) it may have been positioned in a public place for urine collection purposes, if of the larger variety.  If smaller, it may have served the same purpose in a domestic context. To my eye and based on the two handle design (that is a lot of piss to haul about) it looks like the former...a public collection piss pot!...the function of which was to collect urine as a feedstock for industrial processing purposes.


Plinius has described how there were large receptacles in the streets of cities such as Rome and Pompeii into which chamber pots of urine were emptied. The urine was then collected by fullers. The fermentation of the urine produced ammonia, and this was then used to bleach linen. This continued to be done right up to the late Middle Ages in Europe.
From an article in the World Journal of Urology  (downlaod available here :http://www.springerlink.com/content/k2twwb7c1x3g8b83/)
Some historical aspects of urinals and urine receptacles
J. J. Mattelaer World J Urology (1999) 17: 145±150
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Enodia
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« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2010, 08:45:34 pm »

... a roman "poo" seller...

plenty of those on eBayShocked

Quote
The fermentation of the urine produced ammonia, and this was then used to bleach linen.
uric acid is also used to set natural dyes, so the contents of this pot (if that's actually what it is) may have even ended up in the emperor's purple!

~ Peter
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Lloyd Taylor
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« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2010, 09:50:07 pm »

....uric acid is also used to set natural dyes, so the contents of this pot (if that's actually what it is) may have even ended up in the emperor's purple!


No... I am told that fittingly donkey urine was reserved for such purpose! Smiley.... or is this a 2,000 year old urban myth?
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Maffeo
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« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2010, 12:23:32 am »

 Wild guess here: a pot in which to make garum sauce? I'll concede it might be a bit small for that, since garum sauce was made quite often in large quantities.
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Lloyd Taylor
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« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2010, 03:39:10 am »

garum sauce

Yum....
Do you not realize that garum sociorum, that expensive bloody mass of decayed fish, consumes the stomach with its salted putrefaction?
    —Seneca, Epistle 95.

Interesting aside from Wikipedia...
In 2008, archaeologists used the residue of the last batch of garum in Pompeii to confirm the August date of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, by detecting that the last, unfinished batch of garum was made entirely of bogues, a fish that congregates in the summer months.
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Will Hooton
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« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2010, 03:47:32 am »

Lloyd is correct!! The function of the vessel was described as being a "chamberpot". It was quite a sizeable thing, so Lloyd is correct again for stating it was probably used for collecting urine at public places.

Mark has nothing to be ashamed of! You set everybody down the right track! Well done! Smiley
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Lloyd Taylor
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« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2010, 03:48:51 am »

Lloyd is correct!! The function of the vessel was described as being a "chamberpot". It was quite a sizeable thing, so Lloyd is probably correct again for stating it was probably used for collecting urine at public places.

Mark has nothing to be ashamed of! You set everybody down the right track! Well done! Smiley

I've a reputation for recognizing a piss-pot when I met one! Cool

I also think a few dead fish thrown in might have made a delectable variant garum sauce...the rich Romans were apparently suckers for some very odd delicacies!
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Lloyd Taylor
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« Reply #11 on: November 15, 2010, 03:54:31 am »

By the way where did you locate this artifact and what is its context?
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Will Hooton
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« Reply #12 on: November 15, 2010, 04:06:29 am »

Lloyd, the vessel (I think it's called a lasanon) resides at the Antalya Archeological Museum. I am unsure of the context. Probably one of the Pamphylian cities.
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Lloyd Taylor
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« Reply #13 on: November 15, 2010, 04:13:25 am »

Thanks. I'd read about the process and purpose of collecting the urine, but never seen such a vessel. That said it bears an uncanny resemblance in earthenware to the metal "night soil" cans that were used in the early twentieth century in districts that were not serviced by sewerage. Now that was one dirty job, collecting the "night soil".
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Lloyd Taylor
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« Reply #14 on: November 15, 2010, 04:58:40 am »

Lloyd, the vessel (I think it's called a lasanon) resides at the Antalya Archeological Museum. I am unsure of the context. Probably one of the Pamphylian cities.

The terminology lasanon  appears to be correct, although one of several names given to the item.  From the article quoted earlier...  However, the Romans were the first to use chamber pots, most of which were made of earthenware. They were called matula, matella, matellio, and, sometimes, lasanum.
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