Ancient Pompeians Could Go Upstairs to Pee
2013-01-15 0:00

By Stephanie Pappas |

The residents of the ancient city of Pompeii werenít limited to street-level plumbing, a new study finds. In fact, many in the city may have headed upstairs when nature called.

Most second floors in the Roman city are gone, claimed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii in A.D. 79. But vertical pipes leading to lost second stories strongly suggest that there were once toilets up there, according to a new analysis by A. Kate Trusler, a doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of Missouri.

A few second-story toilets survived the lava that covered Pompeii, such as this one

"We have 23 toilets that are connected, that are second-story preserved, that are connected to these downpipes," Trusler told LiveScience on Friday (Jan. 4) at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in Seattle, where she presented her research.

Traces of toilets

Trusler became interested in Pompeiiís latrines six years ago while doing fieldwork in the city. Previous researchers and works on Pompeii often stated that there was a toilet in almost every house. But Trusler found that statement confusing. Walking around the city, she said, it was clear that some spots were chock full of homes with private latrines, while other areas seemed to be toilet deserts.

"And," Trusler added, "there are all of these downpipes that are part of that picture that no one is really considering."

So Trusler decided to conduct a plumbing survey of sorts, mapping latrine and downpipe locations around the city. One residential district, known to archaeologists as Region 6, does indeed have toilets on the ground story of almost every home, she said. But other blocks have few toilets. In total, 43 percent of homes in the city had latrines on the ground floor, Trusler found.

Downpipes provide the other half of that picture. These vertical, usually terracotta pipes are concentrated in the oldest part of the city, where there were many workshops and small businesses crammed into close quarters. A total of 286 pipes run down the walls of these buildings, leading to the mostly lost second floors. In 23 cases, however, the second story remains, and the same types of pipes lead to latrines.

In addition, Trusler said, unpublished research on scrapings from the insides of the pipes revealed fecal material and traces of intestinal parasites, good signs of a toilet.

The plumbing of Pompeii

The upstairs plumbing offers a window into daily Pompeii life, Trusler said.

"The sanitation features can tell us a lot about what people are doing on upper floors and above these little shops," she said. "What they suggest is that people are living there."

Most of the downpipes were likely installed in the first century B.C. into the first century A.D., Trusler said, the same time that the city developed its pumped-water system. Residents of apartments above shops would have been able to get water from public fountains installed in the streets.

"You really have a picture of urban development going on in Pompeii," Trusler said.

Article from:

A pipe leading in from the side likely provided flush water for this upstairs toilet in Pompeii.

Related Articles
A Stroll Around Pompeii via Google Street View
Maya plumbing, first pressurized water feature found in New World
Roman Baths and Hygiene in Ancient Rome
A History Of Personal Hygiene
What the Romans Used for Toilet Paper

Latest News from our Front Page

Feminist blogger uses her vaginal yeast to make sourdough bread
2015-12-01 22:52
It's a tale that might ensure you never look the same way at a humble loaf again. When a feminist blogger found herself suffering from a vaginal yeast infection, she made the unusual decision to use the unwanted bodily fluid as an ingredient for making bread. Zoe Stavri, who writes under the title Another Angry Woman, has documented the details of her ...
Apple could be working on virtual reality projector, patents show
2015-12-01 22:40
The company has been granted a patent for an ‚Äėadaptive projector‚Äô, which can project images onto surfaces Apple could be working on a new augmented reality projector, which would allow it to make computers without even adding a screen. The company has been granted a patent for an ‚Äúadaptive‚ÄĚ projector, reports Patently Apple. The patents seem to refer to a tool ...
83-year-old Romanian Jewess crowned "Miss Holocaust Survivor" in Israel
2015-12-01 22:23
83-year-old Romanian born Rita Berkowitz wins the one-of-a-kind charity beauty pageant Romania-born woman who immigrated to Israel won the third annual Miss Holocaust Survivors Beauty Pageant in Haifa. Rita Berkowitz, 83, was chosen among the 16 European natives who participated in the contest on Tuesday. She came to Israel in 1951. Hairdressers and makeup artists primped and pampered the contestants before they took ...
North Vancouver schools get first gender-neutral washroom
2015-12-01 21:52
In a first for North Vancouver schools, Seycove secondary has opened a gender-neutral washroom. The move is a step in the right direction and recognition that not every student feels welcome in the binary male- or female-designated washrooms, according to Brian Wilson, president of Seycove’s Queer Straight Alliance Club, which lobbied the school administration for the washroom. High school is already a ...
Newly-Completed Fukushima 'Containment' Wall Already 'Slightly Leaning'
2015-12-01 21:15
Just weeks after re-starting the building of a giant ice-wall to contain groundwater leaking from the Fukushima nuclear plant, TEPCO has been forced to admit that a 780-meter protective wall built alongside the crippled power station (completed only last month and designed to prevent contaminated groundwater from seeping into the sea)  is already "slightly leaning." While this sounds a lot ...
More News »