I am assembling a small group of nomads that will soon begin developing into a civilization. However, there are a couple small details that I have to work out first. The first little intricacy that I have to iron out is what my people use when they have to wipe their behinds. I want their method of backside cleaning to be as accurate/similar to what early nomads (think nomads before settling in Mesopotamia) would have done. Would they use a leaf, just let it sit there, bathe it out with water, or use some form of toilet paper if any of these? If they did use some kind of toilet paper, then what would it be made of?

Thanks a lot for any insights into ancient derrière cleaning!

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ What about three sea shells? $\endgroup$ Oct 31, 2015 at 1:44
  • $\begingroup$ It depends on where you are. Bedouin nomads use round rocks because leafs and water are not available. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Oct 31, 2015 at 2:36
  • $\begingroup$ Just a piece of info: papyrus was expensive back then. In the ballpark of a meal, in a time when to never starve was a privilege of the rich. $\endgroup$ Sep 30, 2020 at 12:38

3 Answers 3


You would use what you had available.

For any number of biological reasons it would not be ignored by the populace at large. The common use of paper was surprisingly a more recent development than people might assume (paper was rather valuable elsewhere for quite a while). In its absence, all manner of clever thinking seems to have been employed from corn cobs in the revolutionary war to sponges on a stick in ancient Greece. Biological functions don't much care about the convenience of the occasion and as one famous lawyer discovered: "when you gotta go, you gotta go."

Ultimately, as far back as you go, nothing quite beats the utility of the human hand and a "bucket" of water (assuming you even care about sanitation!).


Wipe with your left, eat with your right.


In India, as all across Asia, the left hand is for wiping your bottom, cleaning your feet and other unsavory functions (you also put on and take off your shoes with the left hand), while the right hand is for eating, shaking hands and so on. (makes sense for Hygiene!)


I agree strongly with the thought that they used what was available. But I'm also pretty sure people just used their hands. In fact, I think there are cultures that don't wave because it's insulting to show someone the hand you wipe with, but I can't find it in a brief search.


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