Revision on Research Paper about Toilets

  Toilet, and its Humble Beginnings

Key technologies, such as toilets are responsible for much of the progress in health and innovation. But how does such a simple concept alter the view of how a modern society should operate? Settled agriculture is and always will be the basis of a sophisticated civilization is the key argument of this paper. The need for technology like toilets can only be met through the implementation of an organized settlement.

The idea of a drainage system can be dated back to about 5,000 years ago in present-day Scotland to a stone-built Neolithic settlement known as Skara Brae [3]. Each hut in this settlement had an indoor toilet and connected with a central drainage system. The reason the drainage system was installed remains a mystery because the Skara Brae settlement could house up to 50-80 individuals at any given time [1]. As a result, its inhabitants could easily leave their waste on nearby fields. This suggests that the inhabitants prefer a cleaner management of waste, although not a necessity as compared to other civilizations. Another hypothesis could be its location near the bay of Skaill which suggests that the inhabitants used nature as a tool to solve problems [7].

So, how did these ancient toilets function? A designated hole was made in each hut to pass out feces. A central drainage system connected to the hole released waste into the ocean. These sewers were believed to be made of stone and tree bark that were approximately 14-24 inches high [2]. Exact length of the sewers is still unknown. The big question then arises, how did inhabitants ‘flush out’ the waste? Inhabitants made use of ocean nearby by storing water in pots and pouring it down the hole and into the sewers to make feces flow to the ocean [4]. Archeologist Vere Gordon Childe led an excavation from 1928 to 1930 and discovered several pots used by the inhabitants made from shell, whalebone, and stone using grooved ware style, a pottery process used by the British Neolithic [5]. Moreover, the use of the drainage system led to the creation of different form factors of pots to host various amounts of water depending upon the needs; suggesting the use of drains also led to advancement in pottery [6].

Unlike other civilizations, Skara Brae did not directly impact the invention of other forms of sanitation systems found in Mohenjo Daro or Rome because it remained isolated from much of the world until its discovery in the 19th century.  However, it proves that no matter where, once a society makes use of settled agriculture , they can create technologies that reduce human effort. This waste management system remains today as the oldest latrine relic. Previous to this technology, people would leave their waste on plain fields unattended. The use of drainage system shows that people, even as far back as 3500BC, made positive use of extra time gained through the use of settled agriculture which led to the creation of well-planned, organized, and sophisticated societies.

Word Count: 500 words


                                                                 Bibliography (ordered Alphabetically)

  1. Cromwell, Bob. “Neolithic Toilets / Stone-Age Toilets.” Toilets of the World. July 16, 2018. Accessed October 20, 2018.
  2. Dineley, Merryn & Dineley, Gr­­­aham. (2000). From Grain to Ale: Skara Brae a case study. 196-200.­­
  3. Fields, Cheri. “Ancient Technology: Sewers?!!! Skara Brae and Lots More.” Creation Science 4 Kids. April 16, 2015. Accessed October 18, 2018.
  4. Mark, Joshua J. “Skara Brae.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. October 18, 2012. Accessed October 19, 2018.
  5. Towrie, Sigurd. “The Discovery of The Village.” Skara Brae – The Discovery and Excavation of Orkney’s Finest Neolithic Settlement. Accessed October 20, 2018.
  6. “Skara Brae.” Atlas Obscura. July 05, 2012. Accessed October 20, 2018.
  7. Whitaker, Alex. “Skara Brae.” Skara Brae, Scotland. Accessed October 17, 2018.