The Toilet’s Evolution: An Unknown History

The Toilet’s Evolution: An Unknown History

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If there is one innovation that improved our quality of life and health like no other, it would be the toilet. Why not, right? If not for the invention of this amenity, we would probably still be living like the primitive people with our dirty business done almost everywhere – without sanitation, privacy, and proper disposal. No matter what you call it – the loo, john, lavatory, powder room, crapper, water closet, restroom or simply a toilet, we cannot deny that it has become an essential part of our lives.

The Evolution of the Toilet

Unknown to many is that people have been revolutionizing toilets since the ancient world. Here are some of the things worth mentioning for us to understand how the modern toilets we have today came to be.

In the Ancient World

  • People in the Skara Brae were able to create inside toilets where some had cubicles over drains on their inside toilets in Orkney Island.
  • In Ancient Egypt, the rich have a stool made of wood with a hole on it. They had their slaves empty the container filled with sand where they empty their bowels.
  • The people of the Indus Valley Civilization had grid-patterned streets which have underground sewers.
  • The Minoan Civilization was also able to flush their toilets with water on the island of Crete. Their toilets had a drainage system and sewage.
  • The Romans are unique for they have their Goddess of Sewers, Cloacina. They collected rainwater and built a public toilet made of stone seats without any partitions. They used to clean up their bottoms by dipping a sponge at the end of the stick. For the wealthy Romans, they have their own lavatories built in their homes.

In the Middle Ages

  • Wooden seats over pits in the ground are what used to be toilets in this age.
  • For the rich people, they used rags to wipe after themselves while ordinary people used woolly mullein to clean up after using the toilet.
  • Monks were able to build their own lavatories made of wood or stone over rivers.
  • 12th Century monks built chutes which were inclined planes to move their wastes to the sea. The tides are what flushes away their sewage.
  • Medieval castles were common during this time, and they have toilets called garderobe. These are small chambers that have a stone seat with a hole.

In the Modern World

  • Sir John Harrington invented and built the flushing toilet for his godmother, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth I.  It has a tank called a cistern where you store water, but people failed to incorporate the idea and still used chamber pots.
  • People call toilets as “jakes.”
  • Alexander Cumming, a Scottish tinkerer, and a general mechanic had exclusive right towards the invention of a flushing toilet.
  • This is the year Joseph Bramah made a better version of Cumming’s flushing toilet.
  • Yes, Thomas Crapper wasn’t the inventor of the flushing toilet. However, he did popularize the idea by manufacturing and supplying flushing toilets through his company, Thomas Crapper & Co.
  • 19th Century. The modern toilet is now made with porcelain and is either painted, embossed or decorated with beautiful drawings and attractive colors. Wooden toilet seats have chain pulls used to flush the cisterns.

Moreover, people in the working class needed to share while only a chosen few have toilets built outside their homes. It was just after a decade that toilets were a common amenity inside homes.

Good Read: Everything you’ve always wanted to know about bidets

Toilets Nowadays

Today, we have different kinds of toilets – some which are far more sanitary than the others. Some poor countries have people living with no proper toilet while others depend on pits. Some still depend on manual toilets, some on modern toilets with a flush, while other places have bidets to wash after using the bathroom. We also have bidet toilet seats and bidet and toilet combination by which offers many perks for its users. Not only do we have toilets in our homes and commercial buildings, but we also have toilets in planes and boats.

The amazing thing is, the evolution of the modern toilet rooted not from our need for privacy, not for sanitary purposes nor is it because we wanted to help prevent the spread of diseases. The reason is that we wanted to get rid of the stink that comes after doing our dirty business. Plague doctors even used to wear “beaked masks” thinking they could protect themselves from the smell and from being infected. No matter the reason, we have the inventors to thank for providing us with the modern toilets we now enjoy today.

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