This week, we talk about good humble 'ol toilets

History of toilets

  • Toilets and sewers came into being as early as 3000 B.C.
  • Mohenjodaro had earliest forms of toilet which resembled western toilets. Waste was deposited into pits or drains.
  • In Harappa, a primitive form of water cleaning toilet was used which utilised flowing water to remove waste.
  • Indus valley civilisation is well known for its network of sewers built under the ground.
  • In the west, toilets that used water were built in the Orkney Islands on the northern tip of Scotland dating back to 3100 B.C - 2500 B.C.
  • By 18th century B.C, toilets made appearances in Egypt, parts of Greece and Persia.
  • Remains of toilets have been found from a Neolithic village in Vietnam dating back to 1500 B.C.
  • Romans used public toilets along with public baths. These toilets were elevated platforms over sewers that were periodically flushed with water.
  • Greeks and Romans also used Chamber Pots that were brought to public meal and drinking parties! Yeah, let them sink in for a moment.
  • Han dynasty in China used Pig toilets. An outhouse was connected to a pigsty and the waste was consumed by the pigs. Hence the reputation Pork!
  • During medieval times Garderobes were used as toilets, especially in Castles. Basically, a flat piece of wood or stone spanning from wall to wall with a hole in the middle. The holes were placed above pipes that dropped the waste outside the wall of the room. Usually these rooms were placed away from bedrooms to prevent smell and sometimes near kitchen or fireplace for warmth.
  • Chamber pots were also extensively used in medieval times. The waste was excreted into pots made of metal or ceramic and they were emptied into street gutters.
  • Rural Denmark, until 18th century, had no toilets. Instead, people defecated in farmlands so that the waste could be used as manure for the crop. Cycle of life!
  • By 16th century, to avoid the clogging on gutters around the streets, cesspools and cesspits were dug near houses to collect waste. The toilet was connected to the cesspools by a pipe with sometimes water to clean the waste. Gong farmers cleaned out these pits by pumping out the liquid waste and removing the solid waste. This was done mostly during the night and the solid waste came to be known as the night soil and was used as manure.
  • While water closets were something that wealthy could afford, the working class and in towns and cities, Privy Midden and Pail closets were used. Privy midden was an outhouse with a waste dump and had a bad reputation for being difficult to clean. Pail closet was a toilet with a bucket into which people defecated and local authorities cleaned out the buckets on regular basis and either got rid of the waste or used it as manure.
  • It was not until early 19th century that public sanitation was considered a necessity and mid 19the century is when underground sewer networks were constructed to carry away waste.
  • The building codes in London did not require an indoor toilet until after the First World War.
  • Water closet, although invented during the Tudor era in 1596 by Sir John Harington, Queen Elizabeth’s godson, it wasn’t perfected until 1770 by Alexander Cumming and Joseph Bramah. Around 1850s, water cosets started moving inside the houses.

In India

  • Manusmriti: At least 40 hands distance is to be observed while urinating near a river or temple and defecation should be at least at a distance of 400 hands.
  • Toilets were constructed only after Mughals came to India.
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unsplash-logoGabor Monori