Plumbing History:

pont-du-gard-water-system-picPlumbing was extremely rare until the growth of modern cities in the 19th century. At about the same time public health authorities began pressing for better waste disposal systems to be installed. Earlier, the waste disposal system merely consisted of collecting waste and dumping it on ground or into a river. Standardized earthen plumbing pipes with broad flanges making use of asphalt for preventing leakages appeared in the urban settlements of the Indus Valley Civilization by 2700 B.C. Plumbing originated during the ancient civilizations such as the Greek, Roman, Persian, Indian, and Chinese civilizations as they developed public baths and needed to provide potable water, and drainage of wastes. The Romans used lead pipe inscriptions to prevent water theft. Improvement in plumbing systems was very slow, with virtually no progress made from the time of the Roman system of aqueducts and lead  pipes until the 19th century. Eventually the development of separate, underground water and sewage systems eliminated open sewage ditches and cesspools. Most large cities today pipe solid wastes to treatment plants in order to separate and partly purify the water before emptying into streams or other bodies of water. The use of lead for potable water declined sharply after World War II  because of the dangers of lead poisoning. At this time, copper pipes was introduced as a better and safer alternative to lead pipes. Another material used for plumbing pipes, particularly water main, was hollowed wooden logs wrapped in steel banding. Logs used for water distribution were used in England close to 500 years ago. The US cities began using hollowed logs in the late 18th through the 19th centuries.

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Sanitation in ancient Rome The growth of ancient Rome and expansion of its sanitation innovations: Historians and archeologists have investigated Sanitation in ancient Rome for centuries. Rome had a complex sanitation system that worked similarly to modern ones, but the system and knowledge about it were largely lost in Europe during the Dark Ages.

A system of eleven aqueducts provided citizens of Rome with water of varying quality, the best being reserved for potable supplies. Lower quality water was used by everyone in the public baths and latrines much like an early form of modern toilets. Latrine systems have been found in many places, such as Housesteads, a Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall, in Pompeii, Herculaneum, and elsewhere that flushed waste away with a stream of water. Romans used sea sponges on sticks after defecation. The Romans had a complex system of sewers covered by stones, much like modern sewers. Waste flushed from the toilets or latrines flowed through a central channel into the main sewage system and into a nearby river or stream. Romans were less sanitary than this system may make them appear. It was not uncommon for Romans to throw waste out windows into the streets. Despite this, Roman waste management is generally admired for its innovative feats.

HII estimate the first sewers of ancient Rome were built between 800 and 735 B.C. Drainage systems had evolved slowly, and began, primarily, as a means to drain marshes and storm runoff. The sewage system as a whole did not really take off until the arrival of the Cloaca Maxima, an open channel that was later covered, and one of the best known sanitation artifacts from the ancient world. Most sources believe it was built during the reign of the three Etruscan kings in the sixth century B.C. This “greatest sewer” of Rome was originally built to drain the low-lying land that ran through the Forum. The sewers of Rome were not designed like the sewers of today, they were mainly for the removal of surface drainage and underground water. It’s important to mention that little is known whether the sewers are effective especially when dealing with removing excrement.

Over time, the Romans expanded the network of sewers that ran through the city and linked most of them, including some drains, to the Cloaca Maxima, which emptied into the Tiber River. In 33 B.C., under the emperor Augustus, they enclosed the Cloaca Maxima, creating a large tunnel. From very early times the Romans, in imitation of the Etruscans, built underground channels to drain rainwater that might otherwise wash away precious top-soil, used ditches to drain swamps such as the Pontine marshes, and dug subterranean channels to drain marshy areas. The Cloaca Maxima, probably built in the fourth century B.C. and reconstructed under Augustus, still drains the Forum Romanum and surrounding hills. Strabo, a Greek author who lived from about 60 B.C. to 24 A.D., admired the ingenuity of the Romans in his Geographica, writing:

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The sewers, covered with a vault of tightly fitted stones, have room in some places for hay wagons to drive through them. And the quantity of water brought into the city by aqueducts is so great that rivers, as it were, flow through the city and the sewers; almost every house has water tanks, and service pipes, and plentiful streams of water…In short, the ancient Romans gave little thought to the beauty of Rome because they were occupied with other, greater and more necessary matters.

The latrines are the best preserved feature at Housesteads Roman Fort on Hadrian’s Wall. The soldiers sat on wooden boards with holes, which covered the two big trenches. Water ran in the two small ditches at the soldiers’ feet. Strabo may have given too much credit to the Romans, as he says “almost every house” was connected to the sewer. Most homes in early Rome were not connected to the sewers, and wastes were thrown out into the street. However, a widespread street-washing policy using aqueduct water sent most human wastes into the sewers nonetheless.

Eventually a law, called the Dejecti Effusive Act, was passed to protect innocent bystanders from assault by wastes thrown into the street. The violator was forced to pay damages to whomever his waste hit, if that person sustained an injury. This law was only enforced in the daytime, presumably because one then lacked the excuse of darkness for injuring another by careless waste disposal.

Around 100 A.D., direct connections of homes to sewers began, and the Romans completed, for the most part, the sewer system infrastructure. Sewers ran throughout the city, serving public and some private latrines, and which also served as dumping grounds for those not fortunate enough to live in a directly connected home. It was mostly the wealthy whose homes were connected to the sewers, through outlets that ran under an extension of the latrine. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

It is sure nice to have modern plumbing. How in the world did people survive before hot and cold running water, super sized water heaters and hot water circulating pumps? It is so easy to jump in the shower when ever you want and have all the hot water you want for as long as you want, even if the kids are also in the shower. What did people do before in door plumbing? How did they survive? The the advent of garbage disposals and dish washers has made our life easier in a multitude of ways. We have more time that is for sure, but looking back at how things were on this planet before all these conveniences, are we thankful to God for all these blessing? The average person in America is living better than the kings of old, remember that next time time you walk in to your marble floored, glass enclosed, tiled 4 shower head mega show for a quick clean up.

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