The History of the Toilet

The history of the toilet goes back in ancient times. Although we use them every day, most of us know very little about toilets. This history shows that civilization began, not with the written word, but with the toilet.

The commode, the crapper, the john , the can, the latrine, whatever we call it, what are its origins?

A toilet was found in the tomb of a Chinese King in 206BC. In 2500BC The Egyptians had latrines flushed by hand with buckets of water into clay pipes still present today. As far back as 3000BC the people of ancient India and Pakistan had indoor toilets that drained into clay pots underground.

Around the same time ancient Scotland cleverly devised ways to have toilets drain into a river and away. In Rome many centuries later, huge aqueducts were built to bring fresh water into the city's public sewer system. Waste was eliminated in urinal-style toilets in the famous public bathhouses but toilets in individual homes were rare.


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Ancient Toilets
Ancient Urinals

Negative progress was made as the history of the toilet continued after the fall of the Roman Empire. In this era chamber pots were used and had to be emptied, with no connection whatever to running water. Some chamber pots were very decorative and ornate; some were disguised to look like books or furniture.

In London in 1189 banks of toilets called garderobes were built in public places and private castles; they were attached to a pipe that drained outside the building into a river. The garderobes contributed greatly to stench, filth and disease but were not eliminated until around 1530 when the close stool came into fashion. This was a velvet cushioned chair with a removable chamber pot used by royalty and nobility. The poor and the common people used the streets or a bucket in their homes.

Next in history was Leonardo DaVinci who drew plans for a flushing toilet but his ideas were scrapped and considered nonsense. The invention was credited to John Harrington, godson of the first Queen Elizabeth, who published a detailed instruction manual for making the first flush toilet. This device had a valve to seal off the bowl and a tank of water to flush it. These were found in a few royal homes. This was a major breakthrough in the history of the toilet.


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In 1775 a Scotsman, Alexander Cummings, obtained a patent on a similar flushing commode with the addition of the always-present pool of water similar to our modern donikers. This was the last major contribution to the design.

The history of the toilet continued into the 18th century for the refining of the flushing mechanism and improvements in water flow. In the 19th century, Thomas Crapper is credited with designing better drainage, a valve that leaked less, and a venting system for sewer gas.

Finally in the 20th century the water tank was integrated into the seat rather than mounted on the wall. The bathroom throne has changed very little in modern days but continues to be a necessity we all enjoy and take for granted, giving little thought to the history of the toilet on which we sit and depend

This ancient urinal dates back to approximately 9th - 12th century AD.And it is being exhitibited at the Polonnaruwa Archeological Museum in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka.


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