In the United States, and much of the rest of the developed world, running water and indoor bathrooms are considered necessities. With how commonplace the technology is, it is easy to take all that modern plumbing supplies give us for granted. The fact of the matter is that it was not very long ago when running water was a luxury that very few people had. Here is a look back at the evolution of plumbing supplies for toilets, from holes in the ground to modern automatic flushing models.
One of the earliest toilets known to historians was discovered in Orkney, Scotland, and is dated to roughly 3000 B.C. Believe it or not, this bathroom actually had flowing water that removed the waste. Around 2500 B.C., the ancient Egyptians were using copper pipes to irrigate their crops, create sewage systems, and build elaborate bathrooms in palaces. In China, commodes were often located above pigsties, and the pigs cleaned up the waste. Ancient Romans were able to bring running water to cities through the construction of an intricate system of aqueducts. Many of the aqueducts still stand today, and some are even in use, despite being nearly 2,000 years old. Like the Egyptians before them, the Romans used copper, along with lead, as plumbing supplies. These were used to build pipes, which were used to create a more sanitary sewage system, serving public and private bathhouses, public drinking fountains, and livestock troughs.
During the Middle Ages, two forms of lavatories were common. The first was a board or piece of stone with a hole in it that was placed along the outer wall of a castle or house. The hole was positioned above a chute that deposited the waste outside the dwelling. To keep the rooms warm, they were often located close to the kitchen. The other form of toilet was a simple chamber pot, which had been in use since ancient times. Chamber pots were usually made of metal or ceramic, and the contents could be dumped outside the home, in the agriculture fields, or in the river. Chamber pots had the added benefit of being portable, and could be used in any room in the house.
In 1596, an Englishman named Sir John Harrington invented the first flushing commode, a precursor to modern toilets. Unfortunately, Harrington’s invention would not become commonplace until the 19th century, due to a lack of infrastructure and the initially high cost of the units. Today, the vast majority of homes and businesses in the United States, and much of Europe, have flushing toilets. Plumbing supplies used for toilets include PVC piping, which first saw use in the 1960′s due to a copper shortage, ceramic bowls, and stainless steel fixtures. In Europe, a popular accompaniment to a privy is a bidet, which is viewed as a sanitary cleansing method.
Plumbing supplies for toilets have evolved significantly over the past 5,000 years, benefiting our society greatly.