Luxurious Biblical-Era Toilet Complete With Air Fresheners Found In Israel

The bathroom consists of a rectangular-shaped room featuring a seated toilet carved out of limestone. Image courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority

Archeologists in Israel have unearthed a very different kind of royal throne: an exceptionally rare toilet dating back to the Biblical era.

The private toilet was discovered by the Israel Antiquities Authority during recent archaeological excavations near the Beit Shatz tourist complex at Armon Hanatziv in Jerusalem. Their work suggests the toilet was being used some 2,700 years ago towards the end of the Kings of Judean period (7th century BCE).

Toilets might be intensely banal objects in many parts of the modern world, but they were incredibly rare in the ancient world. Whoever was lucky enough to sit upon this luxurious throne would have likely been a very powerful, privileged, and rich person. In fact, owning a personal toilet was a real status symbol for this ancient culture, afforded only by the most prestigious of elites.

"A private toilet cubicle was very rare in antiquity, and only a few were found to date, most of them in the City of David. In fact, only the rich could afford toilets. 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,’” Yaakov Billig, Director of the Excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said in a statement sent to IFLScience.

A different shot of the very special toilet. Image courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority

The toilet was discovered among the ruins of a building that once overlooked the City of David, the historic name given to the location of Jerusalem's earliest settlement, and the Temple Mount, an important holy site that’s honored in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The bathroom consists of a rectangular-shaped room featuring a seated toilet carved out of limestone. Beneath the toilet, the team discovered a large septic tank containing a collection of pottery from the period and a number of animal bones. The researchers say that analyzing the contents of this tank could reveal some invaluable insights into the lifestyle, health, and disease of this period. 

Archaeological site
An artist's impression of how the archeological site may have once looked. Image courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority

Billig told Israeli newspaper Haaretz that the bathroom also once held dozens of small bowls. He speculates that these containers may have been used to hold aromatic oils or incense that acted as an ancient air freshener 

"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. Jerusalem never ceases to amaze,” explained Eli Eskosido, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “One can only imagine the breathtaking view. I am convinced that the glorious past of the city will continue to be revealed to us in the future and will allow us to experience and learn about our past."

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