A 2,700-Year Old Toilet Fit For A King

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A 2,700-Year Old Toilet Fit For A King

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Archaeologists have found a toilet that may once have played host to the bottoms of royalty.

A toilet thought to be 2,700 years old has been found during archaeological excavations of a former royal mansion in Jerusalem.

Dating from the end of the 7th century BCE, the private toilet cubicle was unearthed in the crumbled remains of a building that overlooks the City of David archaeological site and the Temple Mount, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

The royal estate operated at the end of the Kings of Judah period, according to the IAA, before the ancient Assyrians invaded and crushed Israel. 

Sculpted from stone, the bathroom is a rectangular cabin with a carved toilet that stood over a deep septic tank.

 “The toilet, made of limestone, is designed for comfortable sitting, with a hole in the centre,” the IAA says.

IAA Director of excavation for the site Yaakov Billig says private toilet cubicles were extremely rare in antiquity. 

“Only a few were found to date, most of them in the City of David,” he says. “In fact, only the rich could afford toilets.”

Archaeologists believe a magnificent palace once stood on the site. Via Yoli Schwartz/Courtesy IAA

“A thousand years later, the Mishnah and the Talmud raised various criteria that defined a rich person, and Rabbi Yossi suggested that to be rich is ‘to have the toilet next to his table.”

The Mishnah is the earliest written codification of Jewish oral law, and the Talmud is a compilation of ancient teachings. Rabbi Yossi was one of the most famous teachers of the Mishnah.

The septic tank beneath the toilet contained a large amount of pottery and animal bones, according to the IAA, which were collected along with the soil fill.

Studying these materials could add to our understanding of the lifestyle and diet of the period, as well as ancient diseases, the agency said.

The limestone toilet cubicle was excavated at a digging site in the Armon Hanatziv neighbourhood of Jerusalem.

Excavations also unearthed a large amount of pottery and animal bones in the septic tank. Via Yoli Schwartz/Courtesy IAA

“It was designed for comfortable sitting,” an official added.

Experts suggest the toilet dates back to the First Temple Period. Archaeologists also found a number of pottery shards and animal bones underneath the toilet. These may help them learn more about “the lifestyles and diets of the First Temple people, as well as ancient diseases.”

At the wider excavation site, archaeologists discovered stone capitals in a style typical of the period, and small columns that were used as railings for windows.

The team also found evidence that there was a garden near the toilet, with ornamental trees, fruit trees and aquatic plants, adding to the impression that an extensive palace stood on the site, according to the press release. 

“It is fascinating to see how something that is obvious to us today, such as toilets, was a luxury item during the reign of the kings of Judah,” Eli Eskosido, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority told The Times of Israel.

“Jerusalem never ceases to amaze. One can only imagine the breathtaking view. Jerusalem never ceases to amaze.”

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