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Ancient luxury: 2,700-year-old limestone toilet discovered in Jerusalem

The limestone toilet was discovered in a cottage attached to a palace from the time of the First Temple; Only the wealthy could afford toilets

Yaakov Billig, the director of the excavation (Photo Yuli Schwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority)
Yaakov Billig, the director of the excavation (Photo Yuli Schwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority)

A luxury toilet cubicle from the First Temple Period uncovered on Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv promenade. It was part of an ancient royal estate that existed at the conclusion of the Kings of Judean period (7th century BCE), Israeli Antiquities Authority said Tuesday.

The smooth, carved limestone toilet was found in a rectangular cottage that was once part of a huge mansion overlooking the Old City. It was built for comfort, with a deep septic tank dug beneath.

Rendring of the palace by Shalom Kveler, city of David 1
Rendering of the palace by Shalom Kveler, city of David 1

The bathroom was fashioned after a rectangle hut, complete with a carved toilet on a deep-hewn septic tank. The limestone toilet is shaped to provide a comfortable sitting position and contains a central hole.

Israeli archaeologists discovered a unique ancient toilet in the old city of Jerusalem that dates back more than 2,700 years to a time when private bathrooms were considered a luxury,

“Private bathroom cubicles were extremely unusual in antiquity, and only a few have been discovered to date,” said Yaakov Billig, the excavation’s director.

Rendering of the palace by Shalom Kveler, city of David 2

“Only the wealthy can afford toilets,” he explained, adding that a renowned rabbi once claimed that being wealthy entailed “having a toilet next to his table.”

The Antiquities Authorities stated that animal bones and earthenware discovered in the septic tank may give information on the lifestyle and nutrition of people living at the time, as well as old diseases.

R-L- Dr. Jon Seligman Liat Nadav Ziv-Dr. Eli Haddad. Photo- Yaniv Berman Israel Antiquities Authority
R-L- Dr. Jon Seligman Liat Nadav Ziv-Dr. Eli Haddad. Photo- Yaniv Berman Israel Antiquities Authority

Archaeologists discovered era-appropriate stone capitals and columns, as well as remains of a surrounding garden with orchards and aquatic plants – more proof that folks who lived there were highly wealthy.

All of these details enable experts to reconstruct an expansive and verdant residence, probably a beautiful palace, from the time of the First Temple’s presence on the site.

The stone toilet that was used by one of the city's richest people 2,700 years ago (Photo Yuli Schwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority)
The stone toilet that was used by one of the city’s richest people 2,700 years ago (Photo Yuli Schwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority)

The IAA’s director, Eli Eskosido, stated, “It’s remarkable to observe how something as basic as toilets was considered a luxury item during the era of the Judah kings. Jerusalem never fails to astound. One can only picture the magnificence of the view.”

“I am certain that the city’s wonderful past will continue to be disclosed to us in the future, providing us with opportunities to experience and learn about our history,” he said.

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