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Toilet paper back in demand? History of TP - rolling along.

18 October - Hi and welcome to my blog. Relax have a read and rake leaves later...

I keep adding new posts every week (or sooner) and also invite you if you have some interesting interpretive stories, resources or links to share - send me the information and I will post it here for you.

If there's a post you like I suggest you
copy and save (or print) it as I will remove older posts to make way for new ones.

You may want to check this blog often as I may make daily additions of cool interpretive finds!

Prof. John Veverka (in Columbia, SA)

(You'll need to copy and paste the links)
The Soft Option: in celebration of the toilet roll
Gladstone Pottery Museum’s

Recently toilet paper has become a national obsession but what did people use before it was invented?

Well, you could wash or you could wipe, and in many parts of the world washing is still the preferred method. For wiping, depending on what was available where you lived leaves, grasses, moss, sticks or even stones were probably most commonly used.

The Romans, well-known for their civilized society, used a sponge on a stick, called a tersorium. In theory this was a hygienic method and the sponge was washed in water with salt or vinegar. But, although some people insisted on their own personal sponge, in public latrines they were shared.

The Vikings were a hardy bunch and are known to have used scrapers such as oyster or mussel shells, animal bones or even shards of broken pottery. All you had to do was find a suitable shape and check for sharp edges before proceeding.

Elsewhere people used what was to hand, for example this extract from an American poem of around 1900 describes the outhouse toilet and the availability of a corn cob:

The torture of that icy seat could make a Spartan sob
For needs must scrape the gooseflesh with a lacerating cob
That from a frost-encrusted nail hung pendant by a string
My father was a frugal man and wasted not a thing

American poem, c.1900

During the medieval and Tudor periods people often used rags that could be washed and re-used. Although archaeological excavations have discovered remnants of cloth in cesspits showing that everyone didn’t recycle. The type of fabric used would depend on your wealth rough wool for a lowly monk, fine linen for nobility.

In ancient China they used sticks and spatulas and the writings of a 6th century Chinese scholar contain the earliest known reference to using paper. Ahead of the game the Chinese imperial family were using rice-based toilet paper from the late 14th century.

In the West if paper was used it had to be recycled from old books and newspapers. As paper fell in price, so its use in the toilet increased. Specially made toilet paper was available from 1857. Created by an American, Joseph C. Gayetty, Gayetty’s Medicated Paper came in a pack of loose, flat sheets.

During the summer of 1858, described at the time as the Great Stink, the Thames was so contaminated with human waste that Queen Victoria was forced to abandon a river cruise because of the overpowering smell. Rumour has it that when she saw sheets of toilet paper floating in the water and asked what they were she was told they were ‘notices’ warning people not to bathe.

The invention of a machine capable of making a perforated roll of paper in 1871 led to the toilet roll as we know it. Soft, absorbent crepe paper, the forerunner of tissue, became popular in the USA from 1907 but in conservative Britain this luxury was slow to catch on and the preference for hard paper continued into the 1950s. One of the best known brands was Izal, hard, shiny, non-absorbent and medicated with disinfectant its distinctive smell permeated school and public toilets for generations and was enough to strike fear into the heart of anyone needing to answer a call of nature.

You can learn lots more about the history of the toilet by visiting Gladstone Pottery Museum’s Flushed With Pride gallery when the museum re-opens


Ways We've Wiped: The History of Toilet Paper and What Came Before

Among tools people used in the past were moss, sponge on a stick, ceramic pieces and bamboo 'spatulas.'

Who Invented Toilet Paper-and What Came Before - HISTORY
Crystal Ponti

At the onset of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, store shelves were quickly emptied of toilet paper, revealing the commodity's prominent, yet unspoken role in modern-day society. Although humans have cleaned their bottoms for as long as they have walked the Earth, "three-ply" and "extra-soft" didn't always describe toilet hygiene. Before the introduction of mass-produced, commercially available toilet paper in the mid-1800s and the continued improvements made into the early 20 century, people relied on less luxurious ways to wipe their bums.

From Seashells to Communal Sponges

Through history, local customs and climate often dictated how anal hygiene was carried out. Social hierarchy also had in impact on toilet habits. What's clear is that humans in all time periods have used a variety of natural tools and materials to clean themselves. In very ancient times, wiping with stones and other natural materials and rinsing with water or snow was common. Some cultures opted for seashells and animal furs.

The Introduction of Paper as a Wipe

Although paper originated in China in the second century B.C., the first recorded use of paper for cleansing is from the 6th century in medieval China, discovered in the texts of scholar Yen Chih-Thui. In 589 A.D, he wrote, "Paper on which there are quotations or commentaries from the Five Classics or the names of sages, I dare not use for toilet purposes."

By the early 14th century, the Chinese were manufacturing toilet paper at the rate of 10 million packages of 1,000 to 10,000 sheets annually. In 1393, thousands of perfumed paper sheets were also produced for the Hongwu Emperor's imperial family.
Paper became widely available in the 15th century, but in the Western world, modern commercially available toilet paper didn't originate until 1857, when Joseph Gayetty of New York marketed a "Medicated Paper, for the Water-Closet," sold in packages of 500 sheets for 50 cents. Before his product hit the market, Americans improvised in clever ways.


2,700-Year-Old Toilet Found in Jerusalem Was a Rare Luxury

Israel says archaeologists have found a rare ancient toilet in Jerusalem dating back more than 2,700 years, when private bathrooms were a luxury in the holy city. Associated Press

In this photo provided by Israel Antiquities Authority shows a rare ancient toilet in Jerusalem dating back more than 2,700 years Jerusalem, when private bathrooms were a luxury in the holy city, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. The Israeli Antiquities Authority said on Tuesday that the smooth, carved limestone toilet was found in a rectangular cabin that was part of a sprawling mansion overlooking what is now the Old City. (Yoli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority via AP)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli archaeologists have found a rare ancient toilet in Jerusalem dating back more than 2,700 years, when private bathrooms were a luxury in the holy city, authorities said Tuesday.

The Israeli Antiquities Authority said the smooth, carved limestone toilet was found in a rectangular cabin that was part of a sprawling mansion overlooking what is now the Old City. It was designed for comfortable sitting, with a deep septic tank dug underneath.
“A private toilet cubicle was very rare in antiquity, and only a few were found to date," said Yaakov Billig, the director of the excavation.

“Only the rich could afford toilets," he said, adding that a famed rabbi once suggested that to be wealthy is “to have a toilet next to his table.”

Animal bones and pottery found in the septic tank could shed light on the lifestyle and diet of people living at that time, as well as ancient diseases, the antiquities authority said.

Roman community "flush" toilets.


1st intact evidence of Incas' underwater ritual offerings found in a lake in the Andes
By Mindy Weisberger

A small stone box contained a bracelet and a carved llama, and may have once held human blood.

(Image credit: Teddy Seguin, Université libre de Bruxelles/Antiquity Publications Ltd.)

For the first time, archaeologists have described an intact underwater offering made by the Inca people, deposited into Lake Titicaca in the Andes about 500 years ago.

The discovery hints that evidence of other important Incan rituals, such as human sacrifices, may also lurk underwater.

The Spanish recorded the Incan practice of placing offerings in water in the 16th century, and this offering — a stone box — is the first such object to be discovered in one piece. It holds a small gold bracelet and a shell carved to resemble an alpaca or llama. The box may have also contained human blood, according to a new study.

Inside, they identified a rolled sheet of gold measuring 0.98 inches (25 millimeters) long that looked like a miniature version of a bracelet commonly worn by Incan noblemen. Next to the bracelet was an alpaca-like animal figurine carved from a mollusk shell, measuring 1.1 inches (28 mm) long. Such carved figures are found alongside similar gold bracelets at other Incan ritual sites; together, these symbols of animals and wealth may represent an offering of thanks for prosperity and good fortune, the scientists wrote.


Rich medieval hipster was buried with his fancy beard comb
Mindy Weisberger

Two graves in an ancient impact crater held luxury goods that were unusual for burials in the Middle Ages.

Ornate carvings on the ivory comb depict scenes with animals. (Image credit: BLfD)

A wealthy medieval man who died over 1,500 years ago in what is now Bavaria, Germany, may have been a fierce warrior who also cared deeply about his personal appearance.

The man, who was about 40 to 50 years old when he died, was buried with fine weapons and a horse. But his grave also included luxurious toiletries, including a pair of scissors and an intricately carved ivory comb that may have been used to style his hair and beard, archaeologists recently reported.

They also discovered a second, equally lavish grave holding a woman who was about 30 to 40 years old when she died. It contained jewelry, food and a high-quality red ceramic bowl that likely came from northern Africa, representatives of the Bavarian State Office for Monument Protection (BLfD), the agency supervising the excavation, said in a German-language statement.

Combs are often found in graves from the Middle Ages, but they are usually simpler tools that aren't made of such fine material. Ivory carvings are rare in sixth-century burials, and very few ornately carved ivory combs are known from this period at all; the previously described combs from this period are all carved with Christian motifs rather than hunting scenes, the statement said.

Near the man's skeleton lay the remains of a horse, along with spurs and pieces of a bridle. There were also weapons in the grave, including a battle ax, lance, shield and longsword, hinting that their owner was wealthy and important, BLfD representatives said.


Which came first: Snake fangs or venom?
By Jennifer Welsh

Snakes have specialized teeth to inject toxins into prey.

A snake's lightning-quick bite is the perfect way to inject venom into prey. Aiding and abetting this violent attack are the long, curved fangs snakes have evolved to dose their next meal with venom — toxins that hurt, disable or even kill their victim. But which came first: the venom or the fangs?

Palci and his team published their recent research into snake fangs in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences in August 2021. The research team teased apart how snakes' specialized venom-delivery teeth evolved.

Venomous fangs first developed as grooves at the base of snakes' teeth. These grooves most likely evolved to keep teeth firmly attached to the jaw, as snake teeth typically have very shallow roots, the researchers found. These wrinkly grooves, called plicidentine, give the jaws more surface area to adhere to, Palci said.

Fangs developed from these wrinkles in the teeth, according to Palci's team, who studied 3D microCT images of the fangs of 19 snake species and three lizard species, as well as thinly made slides from a few of the specimens. In every species the scientists studied — those that were and were not venomous, and those with and without fangs — they found these grooves, which indicates they likely developed in a non-venomous ancestral snake species. Venomous snakes co-opted these pre-existing grooves to deliver venom into their prey, the researchers found.


‘Tree farts’ contribute about a fifth of greenhouse gases from ghost forests.
By Maria Temming

The findings are helping researchers get a detailed accounting of the planet’s carbon budget.

Ghost forests (one pictured in North Carolina) are coastal woodlands drowned by sea level rise. These arboreal cemeteries emit greenhouse gases from their soils and dead trees. M.Ardon

If a tree farts in the forest, does it make a sound? No, but it does add a smidge of greenhouse gas to the atmosphere.

Gases released by dead trees — dubbed “tree farts” — account for roughly one-fifth of the greenhouse gases emitted by skeletal, marshy forests along the coast of North Carolina, researchers report online May 10 in Biogeochemistry. While these emissions pale in comparison with other sources, an accurate accounting is necessary to get a full picture of where climate-warming gases come from.

A team of ecologists went sniffing for tree farts in ghost forests, which form when saltwater from rising sea levels poisons a woodland, leaving behind a marsh full of standing dead trees. These phantom ecosystems are expected to expand with climate change, but it’s unclear exactly how they contribute to the world’s carbon budget.

To better understand how ghost forests pass gas into the atmosphere, the researchers measured greenhouse gases wafting off dead trees and soil in five ghost forests on the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula in North Carolina. “It’s kind of eerie” out there, says Melinda Martinez, a wetland ecologist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

Wetland ecologist Melinda Martinez totes a portable gas analyzer on her back to measure the “tree farts” emitted by a ghost forest tree. A tube connects the gas analyzer to an airtight seal around the trunk of the tree.

But Martinez ain’t afraid of no ghost forest. In 2018 and 2019, she measured CO2, methane and nitrous oxide emissions from dead trees using a portable gas analyzer she toted on her back. “I definitely looked like a ghostbuster,” she says.

Check out the web site for more on this story - JV


Barnacles are famed for not budging. But one species roams its sea turtle hosts

By Jake Buehler

Being mobile may help the barnacles access better feeding spots on their turtle taxis

These turtle barnacles (Chelonibia testudinaria) have taken up residence on the carapace of a crab. Here, they extend their feeding legs to capture a meal.. B.K.K. CHAN

Barnacles aren’t exactly renowned for their athleticism, staying glued in place for much of their lives. But turtle-riding barnacles are fidgety travelers.

As adults, the turtle barnacles (Chelonibia testudinaria) can move about 1.4 millimeters a week across turtle shells, researchers report October 6 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Previous observations of barnacles stuck on green sea turtles suggested that the creatures were somehow mobile, propelled by either outside forces or their own actions. But this is the first experimental confirmation that they embark on self-directed treks.

Barnacles start life as free-swimming larvae, eventually settling and adhering to rocks, ship hulls or even the skin of marine mammals (SN: 9/27/16). Some species have been known to rotate on their base or even scooch a smidge when nudged by a -close neighbor. But once settled in, they live and grow, eating particles of food drifting by what was long considered their permanent address.

A barnacle (Chelonibia testudinaria) on the head of a green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) (left) moves forward over the course of several months (right), ending up near the turtle’s eyes, possibly positioning itself in a better location for feeding.

Turtle-riding barnacles moved as much as 54 millimeters — a little less than the length of an adult human’s thumb — during this time. Laboratory barnacles moved too, leaving trails of pale cement in layered, crescent-shaped patterns. “We were amazed,” says Chan.


Octopuses can ‘see’ with their skin
Detecting light away from eyes can trigger animals’ color changes

SKIN THAT SEES The California two-spot octopus (hatchling shown) can detect light with just its skin — no eyes or brain necessary — and respond with a color change display. MARKOS ALEXANDROU

Octopus skin can detect light and respond to it — no eyes or brain required.

Tests of fresh skin samples from California two-spot octopuses (Octopus bimaculoides) show this ability clearly for the first time in any cephalopod, says Todd Oakley of the University of California, Santa Barbara. White or blue light prompts the pale skin’s tiny quick-change color organs, or chromatophores, to expand, creating waves of yellows and browns.

The octopus tests, along with another research team’s new studies of two kinds of cuttlefishes and a squid, feed discussion about whether light detection in places other than eyes plays some role in cephalopods’ changing color displays. All four species studied have light-sensing compounds in tissues beyond their eyes, the two teams report May 15 in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Go to the link for the full story. JV


Why climate change is making it harder to chase fall foliage

PATRICK WHITTLE Associated Press
Sep. 30, 2021, Updated: Oct. 1, 2021

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Droughts that cause leaves to turn brown and wither before they can reach peak color. Heat waves prompting leaves to fall before autumn even arrives. Extreme weather events like hurricanes that strip trees of their leaves altogether.

For a cheery autumnal activity, leaf peeping is facing some serious threats from the era of climate change.

Leaf peeping, the practice of traveling to watch nature display its fall colors, is a beloved annual activity in many corners of the country, especially New England and New York. But recent seasons have been disrupted by weather conditions there and elsewhere, and the trend is likely to continue as the planet warms, said arborists, conservationists and ecologists.

Typically, by the end of September, leaves cascade into warmer hues throughout the U.S. This year, many areas have yet to even pivot from their summer green shades. In northern Maine, where peak conditions typically arrive in late September, forest rangers had reported less than 70% color change and moderate leaf drop on Wednesday.


John Veverka - 17 October. Based on the recent hurricane (extreme weather) and the extreme flooding occurring (1-3 September), you may be interested in two of our InterpNEWS special climate publications on the Climate Crisis. One resource issue on Extreme Weather and one issue on Climate and Flooding. These two publications are available as PDF' for FREE. Visit our Climate Change Resource Center for more climate issues. If you want these two issues just send me an e-mail with your e-mail and I will send them to you (


Veverka -25 September - Interpretive Planning Textbooks at the Heritage Interpretation Bookstore.

I have a library of Interpretive Planning e-Textbook that I use as texts for my interpretive training courses. Subjects include: Interpretive Master Planning, Advanced Interpretive Planning, The Interpretive Trails Book, Interpretive Writing Text Book and others. You can visit the Book Store Web Site to check them out.


9 September - New InterpTALK Free Interpretive Seminars for October.

f you'd like to participate in any InterpTalk Seminar for October just send me an e-mail with which seminar(s) you wish to attend and I will add you to the participant list and send you the zoom seminar link. All seminars include free teaching aides and handout materials to help you build your interpretive reference library.

Prof. John Veverka (John)


InterpTalk Seminars for Wednesdays, October 2021

October 20, 2021, Wednesday, 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm Eastern Time
Introduction to Storytelling (Myths, Legends and Fables).

Sometimes great interpretation is best offered in the form of a story with analogies, metaphors and active language to help engage the visitor's visual imagination. This session is an introduction to our new course that on storytelling. Handouts on "Interpreting the Rest of the Story" hidden and sleeping in artifacts or landscapes will be provided.


October 27, 2021, Wednesday, 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm Eastern Time
Interpreting Edible Insects - If It Bugs you - Eat It!

Did you know that a majority of people in the world eat insects as their main protein intake (no cows, pigs or livestock to eat for most of the world)? This seminar will introduce my new course on interpreting edible insects and on how you can create an interpretive program (with edibles for visitors to try) at your site. A copy of my IN special publication with a huge collection of articles on edible insects will be provided. Visit the web site page for full course details.


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