This log is dating back several years. But with one difference, it’s a log. Even though its origins are far from palatable, the Lloyds Bank Coprolite has had an interesting journey through time.
Simply put, this is a human turd that is fossilised. Not only that, but the biggest and, oddly enough, the most valuable recorded. It dates back to around the 9th century and it is believed that the person responsible was a Viking. It currently rests in York City, England, at Jórvík Viking Centre.
Of York, Jórvík was the Viking name, with the Center part of a region that has yielded many treasures. Whether the Coprolite can be described as a treasure is an age-old question. That having been said, the details are fascinating.
The reason it’s named after Lloyds Bank isn’t some strange exercise on corporate branding. The heavy deposit of 8′′x 2′′ (20 cm by 5 cm) was found under the famous bank’s site in 1972. And here is a fun fact for the day-” Coprolite “means human fossilized feces! Paleofeces is also a term used in archaeological expeditions to describe ancient human droppings discovered as part of.
This is one mighty achievement in archaeology. “Human coprolites are very rare and tend to be preserved only in either very dry or frozen environments,” the Australian Academy of Science observed in 2017, “but samples that date back to the Late Paleolithic— around 22,000 years ago..”
Coprolite from the Lloyds Bank: fossilized human feces excavated from a Viking site in York, England. It contains large quantities of meat, pollen, cereal bran and many whipworm and maw-worm (intestinal parasites) eggs. It is on display in York’s Jorvik Center. Image by Linda Spashett CC by 2.5 This is awe-inspiring, if not necessarily need-to-know knowledge, for a complete specimen to last it long. How do they know this was coming from a Viking? Some clues are provided by the ingredients which entered the epic production.
“He wasn’t a decent vegetable eater,” the Guardian wrote in 2003, “instead of relying on large quantities of meat and grains like bran, including fruit stones, nutshells… and other stools containing matter from vegetables such as leeks being found on the same site.”
That all sounds normal enough but also the bowels of the Vikings were packed with creepy crawls. In 2016, the Spangenhelm website referred to “the presence of several hundred parasitic eggs (whipworm)” which “suggests that he or she has been riddled with intestinal parasite worms (maw-worm).” These unwanted invaders can cause serious health problems. The BBC describes conditions like “stomach aches, diarrhea, and bowel inflammation.” Get enough worms, and things get worse, as “symptoms can simulate those of gastric and duodenal ulcers.”
Neither are species known for standing still. Adults “will move from the stomach to invade other organs where they can cause severe damage, even going into areas like the ear and nose of the unfortunate sufferer.” The malodorous museum piece was priced at an exceptional $39,000, on a more pleasant subject. No less a publication than the 1991 Wall Street Journal, with one source claiming it was “as valuable as the Crown Jewels.”
British TV company Channel 4 delved deeper into 2003’s desiccated drop, giving viewers a glimpse of what an ancient turd can reveal about the past. According to them, “if we ever succeed in extracting and analyzing DNA from the excrement, it may be possible to determine what kind of flora this Viking had in his intestines.” It is wrong to think that the excrement-based exhibit could lead to a boring existence. Actually it faces potential disaster. 2003 is a significant year for the Coprolite Lloyd’s Bank, as it had a brush of destruction courtesy of an unsuspecting educator.
A Guardian report from the time writes that “everything went well until two weeks ago when its display stand collapsed in the hands of an unfortunate teacher and, crashing to the floor, the rock-like lump broke into three pieces.” What happens on damage to fossilized feces? For course it has been gently glued back together! This saw the turd restored as if it were a Roman vase or plate from the Aztec region.
It’s hoped that with careful maintenance, the Lloyds Bank Coprolite will continue for many years to come. It was simply a bodily function for the individual whose historic diet resulted in the artefact. Centuries on, experts are flushed with their success in discovering it.