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A Brief History of Ancient Toilets

You’ve probably heard of chamber pots, but you might not know what people did before chamber pots existed. In the earliest days of agriculture, people would find a spot in nature to relieve themselves. They knew how important it was to keep human waste separate from domestic dwellings and crops.


Ancient toilets have a lot to reveal about ancient cultures. You might not even recognize an ancient toilet if you were sent back in time. The function, appearance, and locations of toilets have changed a lot over the last two thousand years. Here is a brief history of ancient toilets that might make you extra grateful for your indoor porcelain throne. If you run into any problems with your own toilet, make sure you seek plumbing in Loveland for help.


Squatting in the Fields


Bathrooms were not always called bathrooms because they were not separate rooms. In olden times, people would relieve themselves in the jacks, or the privy, or the necessary. Rural communities often had a designated area for people to leave human waste. Because of the smell and the contamination of groundwater, early peoples knew that they needed to defecate away from food sources and homes.


In areas with small populations, open defecation worked fairly well. Waste would decompose and become earth. Unfortunately, open defecation is associated with lots of health risks. Many areas in the world still do not have access to sanitation and this leads to high percentages of death among young children.


Mesopotamian Cylinder Toilets


A very unique kind of toilet was used in ancient Mesopotamia. They had a bench with a hole in it for sitting on. Beneath and buried in the ground would be several large ceramic cylinders layered on top of one another. Between each cylinder was a very small gap.


The idea with Mesopotamian cylinder toilets is that waste would pile up and then liquid could seep out from the cracks between cylinders gradually. This still polluted the groundwater so toilets had to be away from food sources and homes. But it was a good model as a precursor to flushing toilets and sewage systems that use water to move waste away from the place it is deposited. Today, some sewage systems also dump waste into the yard away from the main home. Sometimes this can go wrong and you’ll need to call in excavating contractors from Loveland to dig up your garden. Just be grateful it’s not ancient Mesopotamia and there is heavy machinery that can get the job done quickly.


Roman Sewage and Communal Toilets


Romans were the first society to create full-scale sewage systems. Cities had interconnected sewage pipes, including wealthy private domiciles and large communal latrines. The Roman toilet included a hole in the stone where waste fell down to the bottom. There was a source of water that was directed through these pipes which could flush the waste out and away from the city. They had not yet invented the S-bend yet, so flies and other vermin could easily travel through the sewers and into homes. Users had to be careful of rats and other vermin that could pop up and bite you.


When it came to communal toilets, there was not much privacy. But Roman communal toilets were fairly dark and people’s garments would provide a bit of modesty. Ancient graffiti shows that there were often long queues to use public bathrooms. People had enough time to scrawl little notes while waiting for their turn at the loo. Only very wealthy people had a toilet inside their own homes. These people may only have had access to hot water in a Roman bath with thermal heating. If you’re running into problems with your own hot water, then you may need a water heater replacement in Loveland. The Romans would envy your on-demand steamy bath!


Household Toilets Near Kitchens


As chamber pots and indoor toilets became more common, some households would locate their toilet near the kitchen. In this way, they were the first people to come up with composting toilets. By having the toilet near the kitchen, people could put food scraps into the toilet along with the human waste. Then, this container could eventually be emptied and turned into a garden or a field to improve the soil.


On the one hand, this is a very clever way to use resources and combine two essential tasks. On the other hand, this is how parasites make their way from human waste into human food sources. Not many cultures now use composted human waste on their plants. Instead, animal waste is generally much safer and can improve the quality of the earth.


Ancient toilets and their contents can tell us a lot about historic civilizations. They tell us how people lived, what they ate, and they provide crucial information about how people thought about privacy and bodily functions. Each different culture had different slang words for their toilets. In some places like Ireland, it was referred to as a “jacks.” In England, it was called the “crapper” after Thomas Crapper, an inventor who innovated toilet designs. Sometimes bathrooms are called “the head” which came from the toilets aboard ships. Here, most toilets were located in the bow or the head of the ship. This is where ocean water would splash in and cleanse the toilet regularly. “Lavatory” is a very common word for the bathroom, which comes from the Latin “lavare” which means to wash.


So, the next time you visit a toilet, take a moment to think about how far the design of your bathroom has come since ancient times. And if you need to call in plumbing services from Loveland to make your bathroom more enjoyable, don’t hesitate.


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