The History Of Plumbing

April 22, 2013 | Plumbing | By Big Wig | 0 Comments

Plumbing History

Since the dawn of civilization humankind have had to make use of and channel water for its purposes. Our civilizations have flourished where water is plentiful, withered and died when water becomes scarce. Ancient civilizations built entire religious and ritual systems around the ebb and flow of water. Perhaps the greatest civilization to revolve around the flow of water was the Egyptian Civilization. Today we will look at the plumbing systems and practices of the Ancient Egyptians.

By 2500 B.C. the Egyptians had managed to create masterful drainage.
By 2500 B.C. the Egyptians had managed to create masterful drainage.

By 2500 B.C. the Egyptians had managed to create masterful drainage construction, as water played a crucial role in rituals of purification, mummification and those pertaining to the burying of the kings of Egypt. According to the Egyptian book of the dead, death was merely a portal between coexisting states of living and the afterlife. They surmised that should the living require water, food, clothing and purpose for daily life, so too the dead require such things. Given this premise it is unsurprising that archaeologists have uncovered bathrooms in some tombs. In some of these tombs were even toilets with seats made of stone. No toilet seat warmers needed in the afterlife!

The Egyptian civilization is possibly the earliest known nation that created copper urns, used copper to create various tools and even the pipes and joints used for the irrigation systems were made of copper. Near Abusir in the north of Egypt archaeologists excavated the remains of a 4,500-year-old Egyptian pyramid complex and unearthed a complex drainage system made from copper. The pyramid complex is quite possibly the oldest of the many pyramids located in Abusir. The tomb was for King Sahure, who reigned from 2517 to 2505 B.C as the second King of Egypt’s 5th Dynasty. The Temple closest to the pyramid, widely surmised to be the mortuary temple contained intricate and robust systems of copper tubing. Daily priests would wash and anoint statues, garland them with flowers and place offerings of food at their feet. The pipes uncovered were of remarkable length, some unbroken sections of over 300 metres.


Egyptians not only venerated death, but also the source of life as they saw it, the Nile. Each year the Nile would flood and recede, and the fortunes of Egypt waxed and waned with it. So important was this yearly inundation that the ancient Egyptians devised a system by which to measure and predicted the flow of the mighty Nile. At least as far back as 1500 B.C. Pharaohs have ordered the reading of the Nilometer as a sacred ritual to a triumvirate of gods that ruled the mighty flow. The Earliest recordings of the inundation date back to around 3500 B.C. Since then three kinds of nilometers have been used. The first was simply making marks on a cliff and observing over years. The second is a complex series of granite steps that indicated the effect of the yearly flood. The third method was a deep well with a central column. The water filtered in and filled the building giving an accurate measure of the years flood. Thanks for joining me in plumbing the history of the Egyptians.

Jamie Grant

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