Europe

Danes identify Aalborg bishop's 300-year-old poo

  • 17 November 2016
  • From the section Europe
Bishop Jens Bircherod and faeces Image copyright Royal Library/Moesgaard Museum
Image caption Bishop Jens Bircherod and the faeces identified as his

A lump of faeces stored in the back of a Danish museum has been traced back to a bishop who lived in the city of Aalborg at the end of the 17th Century.

Researchers discovered the lump in a broken bottle. Analysis revealed remnants of an exotic diet of fig, grapes, pepper and buckwheat.

The faeces were found when the old bishop's manor was excavated in 1937.

The team then decided it had belonged to Bishop Jens Bircherod, from an island whose residents ate buckwheat.

"It all fits nicely with the bishop who lived in that house from 1694 to 1708," says Jette Linaa, from Moesgaard Museum in the Danish city of Aarhus.

The general diet for the people of Aalborg at that time was gruel, cabbage, pork and beef but buckwheat was particular to the island of Funen, some 200km (125 miles) away.

"He had a typical upper-class diet, he was part of the upper class," she told the BBC.

Digging up the bishop's toilet

Ms Linaa described how she and colleague Christian Vraengmose had found a box in a storage area of the museum while investigating the movement of people into Danish cities from the 15th to 17th centuries.

Image copyright Nordjyllands Historiske Museum/Moesgaard Museum
Image caption The faeces were found in the latrine excavated in 1937

Archaeologists had stored what they found when they tore down buildings in the centre of Aalborg to make way for a square. The items found recently by the museum archaeologists were from the latrine in the bishop's palace.

Inside the box was the broken bottle and its unusual contents. "Our archaeobotanist analysed it and found various seeds, nuts and berries," Jette Linaa said.

Quite apart from the faeces, the archaeologists also uncovered porcelain tableware from the Dutch city of Delft, including a jar, a bowl and a glass flask.

The next task for the researchers is to find out exactly who lived in the bishop's manor.

"We know, of course it was the bishop, his wife and his children, and then a few servants, but not at this point how many," Ms Linaa said.

And there will be further work on faeces from two other latrines in Aalborg.

Image copyright Moesgaard Museum
Image caption Among the pieces found in the latrine were a Delft jar and a Delft medicinal jug

Related Topics

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites