How Did We Get To This Point – The Bathroom Of Today, And What Does It Mean For Us?

All humans have lots of things in common, and one of them is that most of us use the bathroom several times a day. Have you ever thought about how we ended up with bathrooms as we know them, or why restrooms are not the same in every place in the world? It might seem a bit odd to link people through bathroom usage, but the truth is that after so many years of evolution, we can find interesting and important parts of history in the most random and basic elements of our lives.

Of course, we’ve been “going to the bathroom” since the first human appeared millions of years ago, but the concept of having a room specifically for that is rather new. It was probably the Mesopotamians who first built latrines in their homes, building clay structures to squat or sit, in the most private room of the house. 

These structures were connected to pipes with running water that sent the waste to street canals and septic pits. This model could be found in many different civilizations around the Indus valley, ancient Greece, and then Rome. The Roman Empire and different Chinese dynasties from around the same age had both private and public toilets, Romans also had thermos, public bathhouses where people gathered to talk and of course, clean themselves, and complex aqueducts to get rid specifically of human wastes. Arab civilizations inherited Roman thermae and used Hammams (commonly known as Turkish baths), steam baths with religious, hygiene, and gathering functions

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By the late middle ages, most wealthy families in Europe used wooden boxes with seats and lids called “commode stools”. So commodes and latrines were mostly used until the sixteenth century when Sir John Harrington designed the first modern flush toilet for Queen Elizabeth. Just as modern toilets, his model used leavers to release water and a valve to drain the bowl. Later on, Thomas Crapper (no pun intended) designed a U-bend in its drainpipe to help keep water and odors from getting back from the toilet, and with that little addition the modern toilet was completed.

By the 19th Century, many cities had developed complex sewage infrastructures and wastewater treatment methods. Western cultures embraced the modern toilet model, and it’s used in every big city, where bathrooms are a specific room of the house where you can find a toilet, a shower or bathtub, and a sink. Other cultures still use latrines instead of toilets, and depending on where you are in the world, restrooms can look a lot different. 

The modern bathroom signifies a huge accomplishment in terms of health control because, since thousands of years ago when humans identified untreated sewage as a breeding ground for bacteria and microorganisms that can cause lethal diseases, humankind has developed better ways to dispose of it, and nowadays we have more safe and clean ways to do it, although there are lots of places where people can’t have these facilities, which a globally major problem still to this days.