Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Roman ceramic game pieces were actually… toilet paper?


In keeping with PAXsims’ enduring commitment to bring you the most important gaming-related news from around the planet, we offer this recent item from the Daily Mail:

‘They would have been a bit scratchy’:
The ceramic ‘gaming pieces’ that new research claims were a Roman equivalent  to loo roll

  • The flat, disc-shaped relics were unearthed in West Sussex in 1960
  • British Medical Journal article proposed their personal hygiene function
  • Museum curator says he doubts they would have been comfortable to use

Ancient artefacts thought to be early gaming pieces will have to be reclassified after new research which claims they were actually used to wipe bottoms.

The flat, disc-shaped Roman relics have been in the collection at Fishbourne Roman Palace in Chichester, West Sussex, since the Sixties.

Up until now museum experts thought the items were used for early games like draughts, but an article in the British Medical Journal has now proposed that they have a very different function.

It had been thought that they were chips used to play an ancient game, also known as ‘pessoi’,  but research published last month in the BMJ drew from classical sources to present evidence that they were also used to clean up after going to the toilet.

Noting the ancient Greek proverb ‘three stones are enough to wipe one’s a***’, Philippe Charlier, assistant professor in forensic medicine at the Raymond Poincaré University Hospital in Paris, points to archaeological excavations which have uncovered pessoi inside the pits of Greek and Roman latrines across the Mediterranean.

In one such dig in Athens, American archaeologists found a range of such pessoi 1.2-4in in diameter and 0.2-0.8in thick which, Professor Charlier wrote, were ‘re-cut from old broken ceramics to give smooth angles that would minimise anal trauma’….

The discovery could spark an entire “what game would you be most likely to use as toilet paper” thread at BoardGameGeek. Or, for that matter, it might suggest a whole new etymology for the gaming term “chit.”

2 responses to “Roman ceramic game pieces were actually… toilet paper?

  1. Rex Brynen 25/01/2013 at 2:06 pm

    Well, we’re always looking for further “not so serious” suggestions!

  2. Robert 25/01/2013 at 11:42 am

    This is one of those times we can be glad there were limits to Rome’s cultural legacy on the present day.

    On another note, the PAXsims “not-so-serious” category archive turns out to be a goldmine of reading material. There goes my Friday morning.

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