- The Orkney Islands are the location of excavations that show early
- First lavatory-like plumbing systems were fitted
into recesses in the walls of homes -- with drained outlets.
- Certain liquid wastes drained to area(s) either under
or outside of buildings/homes.
- Had stormwater drain systems in the streets; drains were constructed
of sun-baked bricks or cut stone. Some homes were connected. [The need
for proper disposal of human wastes was not fully understood -- but
there was a recognition of some of the benefits (less odor, etc.) of
taking these wastes away from homes.]
- In Babylon, in some of the larger homes, people squatted over an
opening in the floor of a small interior room. The wastes fell through
the opening into a perforated cesspool located under the house. Those
cesspools were often made of baked perforated clay rings -- ranging
in size from 18" to 36" in diameter -- stacked atop each other.
Smaller homes often had smaller cesspools (18" diameter); larger
homes ... more people ... had larger diameter cesspools. The annular
space (1') outside of the cesspools' walls were often filled with pieces
of broken pottery to better the percolation rates.
- Origin of the earliest known pipe: Babylonia was documented by many
as one of the first places to mold clay into pipe (via potter's wheel).
Tees and angle joints were produced and then baked to make drainage
pipe ... all as early as 4000 BCE.
Source: Cast Iron Pipe,
by United States Cast Iron Pipe & Foundry Company, 1914.
- Mohenjo-daro: "The Mound of the Dead."
- Well-evolved society: commerce, wheeled vehicles, domesticated animals,
- Wealthy lived well; peasants lived in hovels (but many had sanitation
- Drainage systems were located in the streets (masonry; rectangular
- At the ends of the drains were wooden "bar screens." Liquids
entered brick-lined cesspools (soak-pits) or were conveyed to the local
river for discharge.
- Homes had bathrooms -- on the street sides -- connected to sewers
- Bathrooms and latrines were often located next to each other (wells
were often nearby, in an adjacent room) inside each home on the street
side of the home. The bathroom being located next to the latrine indicates
that people understood the importance of cleanliness. Water was used
- Second-floor bathrooms existed, with terra-cotta piping and vents.
Some homes had garbage chutes.
- Solids traps were located along plumbing lines and also along street
- Some homes connected to underground soakage (perforated) jars.
- Manholes (with stone covers) were positioned along the street drains.
- Crete was an island of variable climate and geography; it also had
- Knowledge of "hydraulics" was quite evolved.
- Until Roman times, Minoan plumbing and drainage were the most developed
in what was then the Western World.
- Drainage systems of terra-cotta pipe (clay pipe with bell & spigot
joints, sealed with cement) and open-topped channelized drainage systems
built of stone conveyed storm water primarily, but also human wastes.
Some of the sewers were large enough for people to walk through.
- Bathtubs with no drains were used. Latrines were flushed with water
from large jars.
- Many of the drains from 2000 BCE are still in beneficial service
today on Crete.
- The Royal Palace at Knossos had a latrine on the ground floor with
a rooftop "overhead" water reservoir (which collected rainwater):
the first flush toilet!? The toilet consisted of a wooden seat, earthenware
"pan," and the rooftop reservoir as a source of water.
- Certain homes of aristocrats had copper pipes that
carried hot and cold water.
- Many religious ceremonies included bathing.
- Complex public waterworks were constructed in Palestine.
- Later, religious aspects of bathing were strengthened
by Jews under Mosaic Laws. Bodily cleanliness equated with moral purity
under the rule of King David and King Solomon.
- In Egypt, certain more well-to-do homes had "toilets" --
the toilets used beds of sand to catch/contain the wastes. Servants
the sand regularly.
- 726 years before the birth of Christ (in the reign
of King Hezekiah), the City of Jerusalem built a "pool" and
a conduit to bring water to the city [II Kings, Chapter 20, 20th verse].
- Pipes of lead (of lengths of 10 feet or more) and bronze
were used by the Greeks to distribute water.
- The sizes of lead pipe in the early years took their
names, not from the resulting internal diameters, but from
the width of the sheet of lead before it was bent into
a pipe. The linear joint was soldered with an alloy of lead and tin.
- Greece had a system of aqueducts, but for the most part, few above-ground
structural arches were incorporated; a lot of tunnels through hills,
siphons under valley/rivers, etc.
- Sewers in Athens delivered storm water and human wastes
to a collection basin outside of town.
- From the basin, the storm water and wastes were conveyed
through brick-lined conduits to fields to irrigate (and fertilize) fruit
orchards and field crops.
- The contents of a tomb of a King of the Western Han Dynasty shows
the presence of an antique latrine, complete with facilities for running
water, a stone seat, and a comfortable armrest.
- Complex drain systems evolved (initially, and primarily,
for storm water and for draining marshes).
- Public latrines were used by many people, but for the
most part, human wastes were thrown into the street.
- First sewer constructed between 800 and 735 BCE.
- Rome had extensive street washing programs (water supplied by aqueducts,
the first being built in 312 BCE). Only a few homes had water piped
directly from the aqueducts. The vast majority of the people came to
fountains to gather their water. Even though not many homes were directly
plumbed into the sewers, when the wastes were thrown into the street,
the street washing resulted in most of the human wastes ending up in
the sewers anyway!
- Direct connection of homes to the sewers was not mandated until nearly
100 CE. (Cost was a factor; also mandating such a connection was then
considered an invasion of privacy.)
- Sewage resulting from the public baths and the included latrines
was discharged into sewers. It is worth noting that the Romans recognized
the value of their water (which had been transported to the city via
aqueducts, often over a distance of 20-30 miles); as such, any wastewater
from the public bath facilities was often re-used, frequently as the
flushing water that flowed continuously through the public latrine facilities.
From the latrines, it flowed to a point of discharge into the sewer
- The Romans were proud of their "rooms of easement" (i.e.,
latrines). Public baths included such rooms -- adjacent to gardens.
There Roman officials would sometimes continue discussions with visiting
dignitaries while sitting on the latrines. Elongated rectangular platforms
with several adjacent seats were utilized (some with privacy partitions,
but most without). These latrine rooms were often co-ed, as were the
baths. As noted earlier, water from the public baths, or brush water
from the aqueduct system, flowed continuously in troughs beneath the
latrine seats; the sewage (along with waste bath water) was delivered
to the sewers beneath the city, and eventually to the Tiber River.
Source: Courtesy of Steve Harding, 1998, Ephessos, Turkey.
- In Rome, water was distributed with lead pipes. To make pipe, sheets
of lead were cut in ten-foot-wide strips and bent around a wood mandrel
and joined by solder.
- The 11' x 12' Cloaca Maxima ("Main Drain" -- finished in
510 BCE, and made of hewn stone, no cement) drained to the Tiber River.
Its original purpose was to drain a marsh ... upon which a large portion
of Rome was eventually built. The sewer has remained in service for
over 2400 years.
- Thievery of water was a significant problem:
A quote from Frontinus, the Water Commissioner of Rome:
- Sewer infrastructure throughout the city was essentially completed
by 100 CE; some direct connections of individual homes began to appear.
Terra-cotta pipe was utilized. If a pipe had to withstand pressure,
it was often fully embedded (i.e., sealed) in concrete -- a practice
the Romans started.
- Sewer odors were a problem, since there were very few vents from the
sewers. Any connections to public baths, or to the few houses that were
connected, served as vents in the early years -- making life interesting
(odor-wise) in those facilities.
- The initial purpose of the early sewers was to accommodate storm
water runoff (and in at least one case, to drain a marsh); later, sanitary
sewage began to be slowly added to the flow.
- Dejecti: Effusive Act: Damages to be paid by the throwers of wastes
into the street -- if the person hit was injured (no damages paid for
clothing), and only if the incident happened in daytime hours.
- Roman courtesy also extended to visitors, and to people with emergencies:
The result was fewer wastes on the streets of Roman cities; still, the
majority of human wastes (of the masses) ended up in the streets.
- Huge vases were provided for use at the edges of towns at entrance
roads and at exit roads (i.e., early port-a-potties.)
- Vendors worked the streets of Rome and other cities providing
access to pottery jars (and "modesty capes") -- for a
- Little known fact: lead poisoning was common among upper-class Romans
-- they used lead to sweeten wine and grape pulp (as a condiment). The
Romans did not have sugar and learned that lead would sweeten wines
and other acidic foods. Lead acetates (a.k.a. "Sugar of Lead")
were the reason that many Romans became insane, sterile, or gravely
ill in their later years.
- Some cities/areas such as Mohenjo-daro, Babylon, Crete, Eshnunna,
and Palestine had strict rules about sanitation. Others, such as Rome
and the Greek cities, had fewer rules; the streets were, in large part,
open collector sewers!