2,700 First Temple era private toilet discovered in Jerusalem

October 6, 2021 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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Israeli archaeologists excavating a First Temple-era royal mansion in Armon Hanatziv in Jerusalem have discovered a 2,700-year-old private toilet, testifying to the complex’s luxurious settings.

The rare find. (Yoli Schwartz/IAA)

The discovery, unearthed by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in archaeological excavations near the Beit Shatz tourist complex, is a rare toilet cubicle that was part of an ancient royal estate that operated at the end of the Kings of Judean period around the 7th century BCE.

About two years ago, Israeli archaeologists uncovered the remains of a magnificent building that overlooked the City of David and the Temple Mount, including the private toilet cubicle.

The bathroom was hewn as a rectangular-shaped cabin, with a carved toilet, which stood over a deep-hewn septic tank. The toilet, made of limestone, is designed for comfortable sitting, with a hole in the centre.

Yaakov Billig, Director of the Excavation on behalf of the IAA, noted, that 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,’” he said.

Beneath the toilet, in the septic tank, a large amount of pottery from the First Temple Period and animal bones was found. The finds were carefully collected, including the soil fill. Their analysis may teach us about the lifestyles and diets of the First Temple people, as well as ancient diseases.

The archaeologists also uncovered impressive architectural items, including stone capitals designed by an artist bearing a style typical to the days of the First Temple, and small architectural columns that served as railings for windows.

Archaeologists also identified evidence that a garden with ornamental trees, fruit trees and aquatic plants was planted near the toilet cubicle. All of these allow researchers to recreate a picture of an extensive and lush mansion, apparently a magnificent palace from the days of the First Temple that stood on the site.

Eli Eskosido, Director of the IAA, stated that “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. 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,” he said.

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