The 6 Most Embarrassing Historical Artifacts Ever Discovered
How would you feel if you knew that, thousands of years in the future, archaeologists will carefully examine your browser history, decrypt that external hard drive you labeled "not porn," and even find that sticky Penthouse magazine you hid behind the lockers in middle school? Would you be embarrassed? Well, if ghosts exist, that's exactly how old-timey people are feeling right now that we've discovered sexy and/or disgusting items like ...
King Tut's Very Flammable 3,300-Year-Old Erection
WARNING: This entry contains a centuries-old mummy dick. So, y'know, bookmark away.
When most of us think of mummies, there are two things that come to mind: Tutankhamun's classic golden burial mask and that time Arnold Vosloo puke-screamed all of those bugs at us way back in 1999. What we don't usually consider is the fact that King Tut himself was mummified with a 90-degree boner for all eternity, because when you die you're surrounded by slamming goddesses with confusing lion and cow heads.
Yes, King Tut was sporting a morning woody when his tomb was opened in 1924 -- he was a teenager when he died, you know. One theory suggests that the embalmers back in ancient Egypt took the time to stuff their dead king's junk as a response to the catastrophic religious movement his father started during his reign. In a way, Tutankhamun's erect penis could almost be called a declaration of holy war, a return to the old ways that made Egypt prosperous before Tut's dad turned everything upside-down. And, after all, what better way to make a political statement than through a penis encased in a tomb for thousands of years?
This postmortem intervention was all a way to make Tut look like -- and in theory, become -- Osiris, the god of the underworld. You know, this guy:
Osiris is most often depicted as a man with jet-black skin, a tall white crown, cocked-out elbows, and, of course, an erect phallus. Tut's embalmers coated his skin with black resins and oils in homage to Osiris, but it appears to have been a very shitty rush job, because brown patches on his tomb from microbial activity indicate that the place was sealed while the paint on the walls was still wet. To top everything off, scorch marks on the walls of the tomb and charring on the body indicate that the boy-king ended up catching fire sometime after that. Just remember that the next time you complain about a handjob: At least your penis didn't explode.
Continuing this calamity of errors, when Tut's body was first examined by Howard Carter and anatomist Douglas Derry, his dong immediately broke off (Tut's, not Derry's) and was not seen again until decades later, when scientists conducting a CT scan believe they found it lying in the sand beneath his body. No wonder so many people involved in the dig died mysteriously: They didn't just mess with a mummy; they messed with his dick.
Blackbeard's Syphilis-Fighting Urethral Syringe
Should you come into possession of King Tut's ancient penis, here's something to display right next to it in your collection: the six-inch syringe that Blackbeard inserted into his dickhole.
When Blackbeard's lost flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, was rediscovered in North Carolina in 1996, scientists and historians immediately began cataloging every single thing they could find among the wreckage. These items have revealed the terrifying tactics Blackbeard employed to combat his enemies ... and the even more terrifying ones he used to keep a healthy penis. The purpose of the syringe above was to treat syphilis by shooting mercury directly into the urethra. Mercury eased the symptoms, but you were just as likely to kill yourself turning your dick into a thermometer as you were to die of the actual disease.
The urethral syringe was part of a store of medical instruments found in the ship, including other delightful items like a clyster pump used for absorbing fluids through the rectum. Blackbeard clearly cared about the welfare of his crew, most of whom probably had STDs, because no one knows how to party like a gang of pirates. Or he just liked putting metal things into his orifices. We're not judging.
Historians can't technically say definitively whether Blackbeard himself had the syph, but at least 36 million people around the world are infected today, with 12 million new cases being reported each year. Considering that we're talking about the most famous pirate in the world, we'll take those odds. More importantly: Can we clone the guy using these things? If we can, someone please introduce him to condoms.
A 200-Year-Old Douche Buried Beneath New York City Hall
Last year, a team of archaeologists examining a pile of garbage buried under Manhattan's City Hall Park came across a mysterious object carved from bone (that wasn't a person). For a while, no one could figure out what it was; some believed it could be a spice grinder, which no doubt excited the one ancient-spice-grinder specialist on the team. Hopefully no one got around to using the object to prepare lunch, though, because they eventually realized they'd been holding a feminine hygiene product the whole time. More specifically, a 200-year-old douche.
Yes, that's what a 19th-century vaginal cleanser looks like. These things were pretty popular among all sectors of society back then: Women used to give them to each other as wedding gifts. And if you already had one, well, you could always use the other for self-defense.
So what was it doing buried there? Well, along with the douche, they found booze bottles, some really nice pottery, smoking pipes, and the bones of four different animals, including turtles, which were a delicacy at the time. Experts concluded that because of the lack of layers in the garbage, it was the refuse from a single event. In short, someone threw one hell of a party while City Hall was under construction, and for whatever reason, someone decided she'd better slip a douche into her purse before she left home, just in case she got lucky. And, apparently, she did.
So remember: Just because you threw it in the trash doesn't mean it's gone forever. Centuries later, people are going to find out that someone really knew how to get down. And maybe prepare food with your most personal devices.
A Really Nice 18th-Century Dildo Someone Dropped In A Toilet
And, after that breather, we're back to dicks. Fifty years before the party-douche incident, in the late 1700s, someone attending (or teaching at) a fencing school in Gdansk, Poland, went to the latrine, pulled out a dildo, went to town, and accidentally dropped it in the toilet. We know this because of the intrepid archaeologists who dug through the latrine and found themselves confronted with a big ol' dong.
The dildo is insanely nice for the times. The Regional Office For The Protection Of Monuments in Gdansk sent out a press release about it, giving it a description worthy of the trashiest catalog: It's "large, thick, made of leather filled with bristles, and has a wooden tip." In short, whoever dropped it was probably really pissed off, because that shit's expensive. The leather was very high quality, and the entire thing has been carted off for ... "maintenance" by the ROPM.
The presence of the sex toy tells us a few things. First, the toilet, which at that time was little more than a stool pit, was so foul that the person who dropped the pricey dildo had no intentions of reaching in and getting it back. Second, the school's gong farmer might have been asleep at the wheel as far as his job was concerned, because it was his job to clean out the toilets. It's true that the term "gong farmer" wasn't used in Poland -- it's a term originating from Tudor-era England -- but we just really like that phrase. Gong farmer.
A Well-Used Roman Toilet Seat, Plus Wiping Utensils
Considering what the passage of time does to even the toughest ancient structures, this one is a real miracle. A wooden toilet seat dating back to the Roman Empire was found intact by the director of excavations in Vindolanda, a fort not far south of Hadrian's Wall in Northern England. It was well-used and well-loved (because no one wants to sit on porcelain in an unheated bathroom in Northern England), thrown away, and then it just stayed there forever.
The toilet seat predates Hadrian's Wall and is the only known survivor of its kind. The only reason it didn't decompose and crumble into dust is that Vindolanda has an oxygen-free environment, which really drives home the fact that we'd all live forever if only we didn't have to breathe. The toilets of Vindolanda are apparently a very good place to look if you want to find some really weird shit ... uh, figuratively. The teams there have found coins (who hasn't dropped pennies into the john?), a lamp (ditto!), and a betrothal medallion (thus leading unaccredited archaeologists everywhere to speculate our ancestors married toilets).
Another butt-related Roman discovery, while we're at it: We've found a painful alternative to spongia, the sponge on a stick that Romans used to wipe themselves. In the '60s, archaeologists found what they assumed were ceramic board game pieces; only recently did they come to theorize that they're actually pessoi, discs that those who weren't into spongia used to wipe their asses.
Pessoi weren't just functional; they were also decorative and even symbolic. Some pessoi have been painted with pictures of people wiping themselves (in case you forget how?). Others were inscribed with the names of the folks their owners hated the most. Subtlety was never a Roman virtue.
Related: A Brief Timeline Of The Toilet
A Bottle Filled With Urine, Fingernail Clippings, Belly Button Lint, And Other Bizarre Things
What do you get when you combine a jar, some pins, nails, lint, fingernail clippings, hair, and your own pee? Today, the answer would be "ejected from society," but in the 17th century, your neighbor would be too busy making his own horrifying piss-jar to pay attention to yours. The finished product was called a "witch bottle" ... and yes, there are still some around.
The best example of a witch bottle, unearthed upside-down in Greenwich, England, was analyzed and found to contain "human urine, brimstone, 12 iron nails, eight brass pins, hair, possible navel fluff, a piece of heart-shaped leather pierced by a bent nail, and 10 fingernail clippings." The purpose of a witch bottle was to protect oneself from evil by literally trapping it within the jar. People also put little angry faces on the bottle, because branding is important.
Documents from the Old Bailey in 1682 tell of a Spitalfields apothecary who suggested that a husband who believed his wife to be a victim of black magic "take a quart of your Wive's urine, the paring of her Nails, some of her Hair, and such like, and boyl them well in a Pipkin." One of the things that makes the Greenwich witch bottle so special is that, without it, experts would have looked at that report and laughed, because it's just too ridiculous. But once again, we've been shown that our great-great-great-great-grandparents, whoever and wherever they may have been, were some freaky wife-urine-hoarding motherfuckers. (Or some type of ancestor-fuckers, anyway.)
While we're on the topic, check out 5 Famous Historical Figures You Didn't Know Were Perverts and 5 Ridiculous Sex Myths From History (You Probably Believe).