This mystery artifact unearthed during a rehabilitation project at New York City Hall had archaeologists puzzled. Was it a spice grinder? Maybe a needle case? Nope. It’s a 19th-century feminine hygiene product: that’s right, a 200-year-old douche.
Chrysalis Archaeology, an intrepid team of NYC archaeologists we spoke with last year, discovered the hygiene device in late 2010 on the north side of City Hall. But the hollow cylinder with small holes at the top made of some kind of animal bone wasn’t immediately recognised. It was only recently that archaeologist Lisa Geiger discovered the device’s actual intended use, as she told DNAinfo:
“I was working as a docent at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, and came across a back archive of what they called vaginal syringes,” said Geiger, 28. “These were glass or brass, and from later in the 1800s, but all of a sudden, I made the connection.”
Chrysalis Archaeology’s got a phenomenal blog post discussing the discovery and its place in feminine hygiene history. It’s a fascinating, if slightly squirm-inducing read: for example, did you know that Lysol was originally sold as a feminine hygiene product? Here I’ve been worrying about getting it in my eyes.
The device, which dates back to somewhere between 1803 and 1815, would have been used as a treatment for venereal disease and a rudimentary contraceptive. As Lisa Geiger told DNAinfo, “Those solutions they were injecting with these vaginal syringes did affect their reproductive systems, but in a negative way, and that may possibly have helped decrease pregnancy.” It was discovered, perhaps not coincidentally, in a buried garbage pile filled with liquor bottles and food waste that was probably the aftermath of a big celebration, Chrysalis president Alyssa Loorya said.
Picture: Chrysalis Archaeology