Roman toilet seat unearthed near Hadrian's Wall

The toilet seat has been unearthed at the Vindolanda site in Northumberland. Credit: Vindolanda

The only surviving wooden Roman Empire toilet seat has been unearthed near Hadrian's Wall.

The seat was discovered intact and well preserved due to the preservation conditions at the Vindolanda site in Northumberland.

"We are absolutely delighted with the find," said Vindolanda director of excavations Dr Andrew Birley: "There are many examples of stone and marble toilet seat benches from across the Roman Empire but this is believed to be the only surviving wooden seat, almost perfectly preserved in the anaerobic, oxygen free, conditions which exist at Vindolanda."

In the chilly conditions of what was the northernmost limits of the Empire, a wooden seat would have been preferable to stone.

Dr Birley says the Roman toilets would have been serviced by running water: "The Romans brought this toilet technology to Britain 2,000 years ago. It was cleanliness to the max compared with what had gone on before."

The seat has been well used and was decommissioned from its original location and discarded among the rubbish left behind in the fort before the construction of Hadrian's Wall started in the early Second Century.

The wooden seat will be put on display once conserved. Credit: Vindolanda

Dr Birley says the next step is to try and find the toilet the seat belongs to: "Now we need to find the toilet that went with it as Roman loos are fascinating places to excavate as their drains often contain astonishing artefacts."

Discoveries at Vindolanda from latrines have included a baby boot, coins, a betrothal medallion, and a bronze lamp.

The wooden seat will take up to 18 months to conserve and once this process is complete the artefact will be put on display.