972 AD, Jorvik, England - A light rain falls as Olaf walks down a narrow street. On either side he passes narrow houses made of wattle (woven twigs) and posts. Woodsmoke swirls out of special openings in the thatched roofs. Over the rooftops to the north can be seen one of the few stone buildings -- a mysterious people known as "Romans" had built various amazing stone buildings across the land that were still standing nearly 500 years after the Romans left. In this case the tower had once been part of the gatehouse of a Roman fort. What had been a gatehouse tower to the Romans had been the royal palace of the Kingdom of Jorvik more recently, but even that was nearly twenty years ago. Now Jorvik belongs to the kingdom of the Anglish and Earl Oslac rules from Jorvik's tower.
But the former glory of Jorvik isn't much on Olaf's mind as he traverses the smelly trash-filled streets. He's a large grizzly fellow with a huge red beard. He ducks into the dimly-lit interior of a tavern.
"Ah there you are you old rogue!" his friend Knut jovially greats him, standing up from behind a table. Knut has trouble standing completely straight in the low room due to his immense height. He's not merely tall, and he's not fat, but he's big. Proportionately big. If you were to see him by himself you might not realize it, but when there's something at hand to scale him by one notices he's simply huge. His huge blonde beard does nothing to diminish his eternally good natured countenance however.
Olaf smiles kind of sheepishly and then lets out a grumble as he seats himself. He waves over the serving girl and orders some mutton, bread, and ale.
"So how's that chair coming along anyway?" asks Knut, taking a guess at the source of his friend's groans.
"Oh, I've almost got it I think." says Olaf with determination. He's not a carpenter, but once beginning the project the goal oriented fellow will not let a simple stool get the better of him.
"I'm going to make a stool that will last a thousand years!" he proclaims so loudly it startles a nearby man with a grey beard, one eye, and a broad brimmed hat, and then takes a large swig of his pine ale (hops would not be used in beer making in the country for more than another 400 years).
Various finer points of viking stool making are discussed as the mutton and bread arrive. Knut, with stew dripping down his beard and a wooden spoon in one hand comments
"You know, Olaf, you might feel better if you ate a vegetable now and then."
"Bah!" scoffs Olaf "rabbit food never did a man any good! ... besides I have a better solution."
"Whatsh that?" asks Knut with a leek hanging from his mouth
Olaf produces a small round smooth stone. "It's a bezoar stone I bought at the market today. These things are supposed to cure any poison." Grizzly though he may look, Olaf has enough discretion not to go into detail at the dinner table about the intestinal discomfort he's been having lately. He plunks it proudly into his ale tankard and toasts with it.
"They find those things in the guts of cows and other beasts don't they?" inquires Knut curiously, peering into Olaf's wooden tankard.
"But how does it get there?" asks Olaf knowingly, "cows don't eat stones! It's the very embodiment of the spirits of digestion... or something!" he cavalierly declines to deeply study the theology behind it.
"So.. you're going to swallow that??" asks Knut incredulously.
"No, no, no, you just put it in your drink and its powers are absorbed by the ale," says Olaf, absently examining the joints on a nearby chair.
A few hours and several tankards of ale later Olaf is stumbling home, when he feels the call of nature. He quickly ducks down an alley and squats over a muddy pool by the bank as his bowels begin to rumble. Maybe the magic stone is starting to work, he wonders. I don't mean to alarm you dear reader, but it's been a few days since he was last able to make a bowel movement. A noise erupts from his posterior that is so rude Olaf feels a little embarrassed, and somewhere nearby a small child begins to cry. His leaving quickly disappears into the muddy water. Olaf hurriedly pulls a handful of straw off the nearby roof thatch and wipes his rump with it, and then hurries into the night.
1972 AD, York - Startled archeologists excavating the future site of one "Lloyd's Bank," discover the oldest preserved human excrement, a nine inch long specimen that becomes known as the Lloyd's Bank Coprolite.
Analysis reveals that the author of the famous turd ate primarily meat and grains with very little vegetable matter, and had a raging case of intestinal worms.
It is now on display at the Jorvik Viking Center museum, where it "has delighted generations of school children"
See Also: A video about the man who studied the turd, with much better images of it than I seem to be able to find floating about on the intertrons.
See Also: bezoars
Boring Historical Notes:
In 954 the last king of Jorvik, Erik Bloodaxe, was betrayed by his high reeve (chief sheriff) Osulf and murdered "in a lonely mountain pass." Osulf proceeded to administer the former kingdom on behalf of the King of Wessex, who by now controlled all of what would become England.
At this time Jorvik was the second most populous city of Britain, having more than a 1000 residents, and the accumulation of trash on the streets caused the ground level in the city to increase by an inch a year!