Encyclopedia of Geoarchaeology

2017 Edition
| Editors: Allan S. Gilbert

Privies and Latrines

  • Richard I. MacphailEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-4409-0_138


Cesspits, garderobes; Human waste and coprolites


Privies and latrines are associated with the generation, disposal, and storage of human waste, often in pits and soakaways termed cesspits.


Wherever humans congregate there is the need to manage their fecal waste, and such waste can therefore serve as evidence of human occupation, usually preserved as a coprolite, coprolite fragments, or as totally or partially mineralized accumulations in cesspits and drains from latrines (Figures 1 and 2). Cesspit deposits have more commonly been studied through their biological remains, insects, parasite eggs, and food residues. These fills, however, can also be regarded as a specific anthropogenic sediment type, and they have been investigated by soil micromorphology (Macphail and Goldberg, 2010) and associated microprobe and bulk chemical analyses. The key chemical is phosphorus, which with H, C, N, and O is a primary element in the biosphere and is concentrated in...
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Archaeology, University College LondonLondonUK