Because inquiring minds want to know:
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, toilet paper was nearly as hard to come by as personal protective equipment. Though toilet paper has existed in the Western world since at least the 16th century A.D. and in China since the second century B.C., billions of people don’t use toilet paper even today. In earlier times, toilet paper was even more scarce.
So what did ancient humans use to wipe after going to the bathroom?
It can be difficult to tell using the archaeological record, said Susan Morrison, a medieval literature professor at Texas State University and author of the book “Excrement in the Middle Ages; Sacred Filth and Chaucer’s Fecopoetics” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008). “Most of the material we don’t have because it’s organic and just disappeared,” Morrison told Live Science. However, experts have been able to recover some samples — including some with traces of feces — and depictions of toilet paper’s precursors in art and literature.
Throughout history, people have used everything from their own hands to corn cobs to snow to clean up after bowel movements. One of the oldest materials on record for this purpose is the hygiene stick, dating back to China 2,000 years ago, according to a 2016 study in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. Hygiene sticks, also called bamboo slips, were wooden or bamboo sticks wrapped in cloth.