Flushing the Mystery

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Archaeologists in China discovered a 2,400-year-old flush toilet, considered to be the oldest known in the world, CNN reported.

Researchers came across the ancient lavatory while inspecting the old palace ruins at the Yueyang archaeological site in the central city of Xi’an.

They described the sanitary artifact as a “luxury object,” noting that it was installed inside the palace with a pipe leading to an outdoor pit. Servants were then tasked to pour water into the toilet bowl every time it was used, they added.

“The flush toilet is concrete proof of the importance the ancient Chinese attached to sanitation,” said Liu Rui, a researcher at the Institute of Archeology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who was part of the excavation team.

He explained that there were very few records of indoor toilets in ancient times, adding that the sanitary object was reserved for high-ranking officials during the Warring States Period (475 – 221 BCE) and the later Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE).

He and his team suggested that the finding also offers a rare insight into ancient China’s privileged and ruling elite.

Archaeologists are now studying soil samples gathered from the toilet to determine what people ate at the time.

Meanwhile, the discovery adds to the ongoing mystery of who came up with flush toilets.

Historians generally credit English courtier John Harington for inventing the flush toilet in the 16th century. Harington reportedly installed one such toilet for Queen Elizabeth I.

Even so, excavations in northwest India have found 4,000-year-old drainage systems that may have been toilets, according to the British Association of Urological Surgeons.

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