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The Toilet: Now and Then

The Evolution of the Toilet

Sanitation and waste control have posed problems for even the earliest civilizations. The toilet as we know it is often taken for granted, but it took thousands of years of innovative minds to build upon. Today we celebrate those people and cultures that made our quality of life possible by sharing some insight into the history of the toilet.

In the Ancient World

Believe it or not, the earliest known civilization of mankind had a sewage system. In the Indus River Valley, early cities combatted the tremendous waste of urban sprawl with toilets that had something like modern pipes, which dumped waste into channels or pits that were cleared during periods of intense rain.

Some of these toilets, in particular those of the wealthy elite, may have even used a system of running water in the bowl, much like our version of the toilet.

Ancient Romans had large public toilet rooms, where a series of stone holes emptied into cesspits. Oddly enough, there were no dividers between toilets, and the establishments were used by individuals throughout their designated village.

The Middle Ages

In early European civilizations, toilet technology was not quite so advanced. Many citizens used chamber pots to dispose of their waste. These pots, when full, were typically dumped into the streets below. This contributed to a tremendously destructive spread of disease in urban areas, not to mention the smell!

Wealthier homes had small chambers built outside their walls, where waste would gather in alleys below. These rooms were known as garderobes.

The Popularization of the Modern Toilet

In 1596 John Harrington invented a toilet system similar to the one we use today. Sadly, it wasn’t until the 1880’s that toilets began to emerge. The industrial era made it possible for a growing middle class to introduce toilets into their homes in the 19th century, and increasingly complicated sewage systems made urban life more bearable for all.

If you’re ever having toilet troubles in your Berkeley home call Albert Nahman Plumbing at (510) 876-9725

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