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  • Originally published 03/13/2013

    A brief history of toilet hygiene

    The last time I visited Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts was in 2004 to see a Rembrandt exhibition. But I might have wandered away from the works of the Dutch master in search of an ancient Greek artifact, had I known at the time that the object in question, a wine vessel, was in the museum’s collection. According to the 2012 Christmas issue of the BMJ (preacronymically known as the British Medical Journal), the 2,500-year-old cup, created by one of the anonymous artisans who helped to shape Western culture, is adorned with the image of a man wiping his butt.That revelation appears in an article entitled “Toilet Hygiene in the Classical Era,” by French anthropologist and forensic medicine researcher Philippe Charlier and his colleagues. Their report examines tidying techniques used way back—and the resultant medical issues. Such a study is in keeping with the BMJ‘s tradition of offbeat subject matter for its late December issue—as noted in this space five years ago: “Had the Puritans never left Britain for New England, they might later have fled the British Medical Journal to found the New England Journal of Medicine.”

  • Originally published 02/04/2013

    Hitler’s Toilet Is in New Jersey

    Florence, N.J., isn’t too different from other small towns in the Garden State, one marked, if anything, by a slew of very ordinary sights—chain flower shops at every major intersection, decidedly lower gas prices, and a few cozy diners. But it is also home to something else, acquired by Greg Kohfeldt when he bought Sam Carlani’s auto-repair shop here almost 20 years ago: Adolf Hitler’s toilet.

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