Scientists Recreate Inuit Knife Out of Their Own Frozen Poop
Recent hands-on experiments determined human feces cannot be made into frozen knives to dismember dogs.
A new scientific paper opens with a story from the 1998 book Shadows in the Sun: Travels to Landscapes of Spirit and Desire, which according to the researchers, has become one of the most popular ethnographic accounts of all time. In a nutshell, an old Inuit man was caught in a winter storm and to escape he fashioned his own feces into a frozen blade, which he sharpened with a spray of saliva and used to dismember a dog.
Frozen Feces Tool Specialists
Historically, human feces has been used as fertilizer for centuries in the form of night soil, fecal sludge, and sewage sludge, but at the same time, nearly all human cultures have been disgusted by the smell of their own feces, and made efforts to expel and dispose of it in private.
Since publication, the frozen feces knife story has been featured in several documentaries, books, and internet forums and while the author Wade Davis admits the story could be “apocryphal”, he cited the autobiography of Peter Freuchen who claimed to have shaped his own feces into a frozen chisel to make his escape. I suppose you know you are at the top of your game when you can cite examples of other folk who allegedly created feces tools.
Frozen Feces Knife Sharpened
Besides Freuchen having been the only person to have witnessed his creation of a feces chisel, the researchers doubted the validity of his story because a chisel is a much different device than a knife. To go forward with their research, the scientists reasoned that if frozen human feces knives ‘cannot’ cut through hide, muscle, and tendons in a lab setting, then there was no way it could have been done in the wild outdoors.
Firstly, this whole study was approved by the Institutional Biosafety Committee at Kent State University then one of the team adopted an Arctic diet, eating only protein and fatty acids. On the fourth day the first sample was provided and once a day, regularly, for the next five days thereafter. Some samples were squeezed into ceramic knife molds and others were “hand-shaped” before being stored at −4 °F (−20 °C) and finally being sharpened with a metal file and refrozen.
An example of a “hand-shaped” feces knife blade. (Eren et al., / Journal of Archaeological Science)
Rattlesnake and Rat Found In Human Poo
The bottom line was that none of the feces knives even got close to cutting through hide, and the paper says that the knife edges melted upon contact, leaving nothing more than streaks of fecal matter. Good science would account for the recording that “saliva” was used to sharpen the frozen blade, and thus, the scientists say they might examine this in future studies, but at the moment they “are skeptical” that saliva will increase fecal blade efficiency.
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The “hand-shaped” feces knife blades failed to cut through the pig hide. (Eren et al., / Journal of Archaeological Science)
Another failed attempt to cut through the pig hide with the feces knife. (Eren et al., / Journal of Archaeological Science)
Basically, a poop isn’t sharp enough to be used as a tool. Who would have known? Well, that is almost true for there was this one particular poop that certainly could have been fashioned into sharp tools. In April this year I wrote an Ancient Origins news piece about a 1,500 year old human feces discovered in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of southwest Texas and it was found to contain: a prickly cactus, a whole rodent, and “entire rattlesnake complete with bones, scales, and a fang”.
The sample of fossilized coprolite was discovered in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of southwest Texas. (Natuur12 / CC BY-SA 2.0 )
A trio of researchers wrote in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, that this spiky poop was the first evidence of whole snake consumption ever found in fossil records. But this individual hadn’t eaten the poisonous creature out of crazed hunger, rather, the scientists deducted it was more likely that the snake was consumed during a ceremonial or ritualistic event.
What kind of ritual might have ended with the digestion and passing of such an abominable mixture of plants and animals, I can only leave to your own filthy imaginations.
Top image: Example of a “hand-shaped” knife during sharpening with a metal file after freezing. Source: Eren / Journal of Archaeological Science.
By Ashley Cowie