bunnyjadwiga: (Senses)
8. Katherine Ashenburg. The Dirt on Clean: an Unsanitized History (New York: North Point Press, 2007)

This popular history of cleanliness and its pursuit is high on my lists of books I must buy soon. I raced through it at a breakneck speed while preparing my CA, and it nearly broke my spirit. The section on medieval hygiene was so good that I truly wondered whether there were any point in continuing my writing!

However, this is a general popular history, and it does leave room for more scholarly and semi-scholarly work. In general, the text lacks footnotes, though there are references listed for the quotations in the back of the book. In addition, the sources for the marginalia are listed at the back, and the bibliography is extensive. The index is also excellent.

Ashenburg does a good job with the Greek and Roman baths, as well as the early Christian conflict between standards of self-denial and reasonable cleanliness. She has the best general section on the mikveh in any of the books I consulted, though it is nowhere near the coverage in Judaism in Practice: From the Middle Ages Through the Early Modern edited by Lawrence Fine. Ashenburg does good work with the medieval, renaissance, and baroque periods, though her chronology is not always clear-- however, she's quite solid on the history of the bidet.

The Dirt on Clean includes a goodly section on the modern development of cleaning standards, though I would say "Clean: A History" is better on some of the 19th c. Philosophy. Ashenburg's focus, however, is more American-- the Beecher sisters' The American Woman's Home is a key text for her. She also gives great attention to the post 1900 and especially post 1950 waves of demonization of the body and its smells. She makes great hay with Horace Miner's 1956 article "Body Ritual among the Nacirema," American Anthropologist, which in anthropological humor satirized our American grooming habits.

Unfortunately, this may be the only flaw I see in the book. Ashenburg is clearly pushing a cause here, similar to that of the Hygiene Hypothesis: the idea that we'd all be healthier and more liberated if we worried less about dirt, germs and cleanliness than we do now. Not that I disagree with her, but she pushes her agenda hard enough that it will cast doubts on this work.

The text is readable, full of useful snippets, and a lot of fun as well as educational. There's definitely a sense of "things you never knew, or thought you knew that were wrong" here. Lots of useful illustrations, as well as the marginalia, spice things up. I'd consider it a good purchase for libraries, too, though I think the reading level is at least high school.
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
From The Dirt on Clean by Katherine Ashenburg (North Point Press, 2007), p. 119.

Quick-acting Spa Water
"After drinking, you go for a walk in the countryside. Ladies of elegance walk leaning on the arms of their servants, or of their gallants; and as the water acts promptly, and causes abundant stools, it is a curious spectacle to see everyone firing off in full view, and even vying with each other; for there is no bush or tree to give cover." -- Thomas Platter, Balaruc, near Montpellier, 1595.
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
John G. Bourke, Scatalogic Rites of all Nations (Washington, DC: W.H. Lowdermilk & Co, 1891) includes, among other things, a interesting survey of "Ordure and Urine in Medicine" concentrating largely on the pre-modern age which also covers human sweat, milk, ear-wax, etc. The chapter on Latrines is not very helpful for our period.
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
Wolfgang Braunfels, Monasteries of Western Europe: The Architecture of the Orders (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1972)
talks about 'a description of a model Cluniac monastery, dating from about 1042...' which '...dwelled lovingly on the depiction of the large latrines, mentioning their forty-five seats, each ventilated by a finistrella above" (p 55-56) and that running water was laid-on throughout.
The latrine is 70 feet long, and 23 feet wide. 45 seats are arranged there, and for each seat there is a little window in the wall two feet high and half a foot wide; above the arrangement of the seats [one sees] a layer [?] of timbers, and 17 windows, three feet high and one and half feet wide, have been made above this timber construction...
Outside the monks' refectory and 60 feet from the end of the latrines, twelve sunken chambers with as many tubs are to be organized, where baths may be prepared for the brethren at the appointed times.(p.238-9)

(The guesthouse for visitors also is supposed to have 40 latrines for men and 30 for women.)

In the same book, an early 13th-century description of Clairvaux explains how the river is diverted through the entire settlement, serving to run mills, etc, then for cooking/washing/etc, and finally 'bearing away the refuse, it leaves everything spick and span behind it.' (p. 245)
The author also discusses latrines in other types of monastic foundations, including the individual ones attached to Carthusian monks' cells (p. 114)
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
The Porcelain God: The Social History of the Toilet by Julie Horan (NY: Carol Publishing, 1996) is not my favorite of the various books I've been reading-- a lot of the material is poorly referenced not to mention anedoctal. But I was completely charmed by the story that the Manniquin Pis fountain of Brussels has a counterpart. (Peeing male cherubs or little boys are endemic in Renaissance and Baroque fountainry; less common but known are nymphs or goddesses squirting water from their breasts in fountains of the same period. I'm unsure why the people of Brussels have taken this particular fountain/statue so to heart -- it even has over 400 costumes-- but there you are.) Anyway, in 1987, a counterpart to the Manniquin was added in a nearby dead-end street: the Jeanneke Pis, a statue of a pigtailed young girl squatting to pee. Though it is plumbed as a fountain, apparently it isn't often left running. If you want to see a picture, you can look up the term... I don't want to link one here lest I offend.
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
David Eveleigh on close-stools:Read more... )
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
This is from the beginning of the first chapter, on the privy and its names: Cut for length )
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
(I'm going to probably take some time away from the pursuit of hygenic history soon, as I promised a class on Food Preservation for Pennsic, so expect a sudden turn of subject soon.)

Bogs, Baths and Basins: The Story of Domestic Sanitation, David J. Eveleigh (Thrupp, Great Britain: Sutton, 2002) has only a limited amount of material on medieval hygiene, but as a source for the 19th and 20th century development of what is now called the toilet or the water closet, it's pretty much unparalleled. In particular, I was fascinated to learn about the great variety of water closet designs (and I do mean engineering designs, not merely decorative) that flourished in the late 19th century-- such that the city and country houses of the gentry might involve 4 or more types installed at the same time! The Earth Closet, especially that designed by Moule (where earth was used to deodorize, dry out and compost excrement, to be used for fertilizer later) and its facinating variations and failures (such as the 'pail closet') were a surprise to me. While Clean and Decent does a better job on the types of basins and baths and their development, the question of plumbing is here much better explicated. There is a clear explanation of the terrifying 'geyser' for heating bath water, which explains the need to have one's servants draw a bath for one in early 20th century literature. In particular, the various expedients used to save water (such as the tipper closet, which used greywater for flushing) may be of interest to modern reductionists. There are also interesting sidelights into the history of the 'sanitaryware' industry and its designers and magnates.

One quick quote from Bogs, Baths and Basins:
Hampton Court, for example, begun by Cardinal Wolsey (c. 1473-1530) in 1515 , and subsequently occupied by Henry VIII (b. 1491 r. 1509-1547), contained bathrooms supplied with piped water. The French architect, Savot, included designs for bathrooms in plans for large houses published in 1624. (p. 84).


Also, Eveleigh claims "Bidets- for 'baths of a special nature' -- had appeared in France by the early eighteenth century" possibly putting it out of our time period, though the sitz bath may not be. He does cite Clean and Decent for this fact however.
A frew more useful quotes will follow soon.
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
In addition to washing upon rising and before meals, period Jews also washed before praying and thus before going to bed. This practice was so universal as to be used by the Inquisition to identify converso Jews still practicing Judaism (see A Drizzle of Honey). The rules of kashrut (kosher) laid down in the Torah for ritual cleanliness enforced other specific kinds of hygiene as well.

In particular, the mikveh, the ritual cleansing bath, was (and is) an important part of Jewish life. Women of childbearing age needed to visit the mikveh at the end of their menstrual cycle in for ritual purification in order to consort with their husbands; the mikveh was also used to purify people and things on other occasions.
Mikvot from the classical period have been found in archaeological digs at multiple sites, including Masada. Hanan Eshel summarized the rules for the construction of mikvot:
"A mikveh must hold at least 40 seahs of water (approximately 60 gallons). The whole body of the person or vessel to be purified must be totally immersed. And, most significant for our purposes, the water must be "living" water. That is, it must come directly from a river or a spring or from rainwater that flows into the pool; it may not be drawn. To meet this latter requirement, the rabbis permitted the use of an otter, a pool of living water that was connected by a plugged pipe to the main immersion pool. The main pool could be filled with drawn water (not qualified for use in ritual immersion), and when needed, the pipe between the otter and the main pool was unplugged, allowing the qualified, living water from the otter to come into contact with the water in the main pool, rendering it fit for immersions."(p. 43)

The distinctive nature of mikveh structures causes them to be regarded as archaeological markers of Jewish communities at classical and medieval sites. A mikveh dating from around 1150 has been uncovered by archaeologists in Bristol, England (Aldous, p. 27), and another in Cologne, Germany dates from around 1170 (http://www.thetravelzine.com/ejht3.htm).

Jewish privies

We know that the Jewish scriptures (Deuteronomy 23:12-13), requires men in military camp to have a separate latrine and to bury their excrement:

"You shall also have a place outside the camp and go out there, and you shall have a spade among your tools, and it shall be when you sit down* outside, you shall dig with it and shall turn to cover up your excrement.

* also translated "squat
Information from anti-Semitic stories and saint's lives (such as the story of St. Hugh of Lincoln recounted by Matthew Paris) as well as archaeological research suggests that Jewish families and communities had privies and/or cesspools.

Various sources suggest that the approved wiping method among Jews in period was scraping with a rock, and there are Jewish scriptural commentaries discussing what size of rocks are acceptable to carry for this purpose on the Sabbath, so it may be that people carried personal wiping rocks with them.
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
From A Sociological History of Excretory Experience, by David Inglis, p. 105:
A story from the collection of tales known as the Heptameron (c. 1558), and usually attributed to the authorship of Marguerite, Queen of Navarre . . . A certain lady, on a visit to a Franciscan monastery, wished to go to the privy. 'For company she asked a girl called La Mothe to go with her, but for the sake of privacy and modesty she left her in a room nearby, and went on her own to the privy' (Navarre, 1984:156)
... The story goes on to relate that the lady gets covered in excrement due to the privy being covered in the stuff. Her shame at being discovered in such a besmirched state is related partly as being a function of being covered in that particular material, and partly because male members of her party discover her thus . . .
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
Shanks, Hershel. "The Puzzling Channels in Ancient Latrines." Biblical Archaeology Review. September/October 2002, p. 49-51, 70.

Shanks gives us some helpful information here, in discussing a narrow channel that runs in front of the seats in Roman latrines.

For example, A. Trevor Hodge ... noted in a 1992 book that Roman latrines often contained rows of 10 or 20 or even 40 toilet seats, "allowing the occupants to consort in happy camaraderie." The toilet seat, usually made of wood but sometimes of stone or marble, was mounted above a continuously flowing stream of water "and thus obviated the need for flushing." . . . But then he adds: "This highly hygenic procedure was reinforced by arranging for a small gutter or runnel [what we have been calling the flushing channel] again carrying a continous stream of water, to run along the floor just in front of the seats [emphasis added], in which patrons could bend forward and dip their hands; no doubt it also conveniently carried away spillage, and generally helped in keeping the place clean."


Shanks here disagrees with Hodge, feeling that this requires some bodily contortions which seem unlikely, and some peculiarity of the spillage so far from the mark. However,
Koloski-Ostrow offered the same spillage argument as Hodge in an article she published in 1996-- but then as an alternative explanation added that the channel on the floor in front of the toilet seats may have been "for rinsing out soiled sponges tied to the ends of sticks," which Romans apparently used instead of toilet paper. In a later article, she again says that the sponge, "served as communal toilet paper."


Apparently, the evidence for this comes from Epistle 70 in Seneca's Moral Epistles, where a slave, being trained to fight animals in the arena and never left alone save in the privy, commits suicide instead. The slave "siezed the stick of wood, tipped with a spong which was devoted to the vilest uses, and stuffed it, just as it was, down his throught; thus, he blocked up his windpipe and choked the breath from his body. That was truly to insult death...."

So, my first thought, he choked to death on a toilet-brush?!

Martial also mentions the results of a sumptous dinner, "nought that the luckless sponge at the end of a degraded mop-stick would discover..."

Shanks also notes that: "Ancient toilet seats have a smaller opening on top than most modern toilet seats and also have an opening in the vertical face..."
The Jerusalem latrine he is discussing also has periodical round basin sections in the flushing runnel in front of the seats, perhaps for rinsing one's sponge.
Shanks also suggests that some Romans may merely have scooped water with the hand from the flushing channel through the vertical face of the toilet in order to clean the affected parts after relieving oneself. (Apparently cleaning with water, or if water is not available, clean dry soil, after evacuation is also suggested by the Quran.
bunnyjadwiga: (no)
How and whether people 'wiped' in the middle ages after defecating and/or urinating is an obscure topic. There are a number of allegations about how it was done and/or what supplies were provided, but I have found little solid primary source documentation.
It is generally alleged (citations?) that the Romans used a sponge on a stick, with no details as to any care and washing of said sponge between users or uses.
Frank Muir uses a post-1600 text to support his allegation that 3 mussel shells were used for scraping.
Holmes (Daily Living in the 12th century), suggests that 'torche-culs' made of straw, or a small curved stick, called a gomphus, gomph-stick or gomf, were used.
Another text (citation) suggests that in monasteries, part of the necessarium supplies were cabbage-like leaves for the same purpose.

The question of whether babies and infants had diapers once they progressed beyond the swaddling clothes stage (as alleged in a TI article -- citation) is not clear. No instructions for toilet-training the child show up in the 14th-16th century manuals (or excerpts thereof) I have found, though other instructions to the mother or wetnurse for care of the infant (including instructions to wash the child regularly), do.
bunnyjadwiga: (Bartleby)
From Daily Living in the 12th century which is partly based on the works of Alexander Neckham:

In a larger donjon . . . there would be several small rooms on each floor in addition to the principal hall. On the main floor one of these would be a room for storing garments or other equipment; another would be a treasure room; stil another would be a longaigne or toilet. . . The longaigne, or latrine, might open directly into the ditch, wet or dry, if a donjon were built against the outer curtain wall, and not in the center of the courtyard. Such an opening was dangerous in time of siege, as it could be shot at or used as an entrance by the opposing forces. The men of Philip Augustus got into Richard's Chasteau-Gaillard by this route. A basket of torche-culs made of straw would always be at hand in a longaigne. For those who desired it, a curved stick (gomphus) was provided for the same purpose.


The note says, "Sor re rebe li atacoient Torques d'estrain que il faisoient Por cou ke on se gabast de lui. -- Life of Saint Dominic vv. 2161-63. The gomph stick is discussed in histories of sanitation." (I need to get a translation of the statement which seems to confirm 'wiping' with wisps of straw or hay. I wonder whether there's any evidence in the latrine digs.

"Gomph" or "gomphus" doesn't appear in the OED. I've also seen it spelled "Gompf" but I'm really begining to doubt its documentability. I'm wondering where this item was first described.

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