School of Music

Why Archaeologists Love Digging Up Privies

by Anson Kritsch, University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist

So what is a privy?

You may know it by a different name: head, john, latrine, lavatory, outhouse, potty, restroom, the can, throne, washroom, water closet... Simply, a privy is an outdoor toilet. Before you hurl back in disgust, let me explain why privies are so interesting to archaeologists. You may already be privy, wink wink, to the fact that archaeologist are interested in people’s trash. But, a person’s toilet is an entirely different kind of trash. This is precisely why we love privies.

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