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Royal Flush: Rare, private toilet from the First Temple Period found in ancient Jerusalem royal mansion

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The discovery is an indication that life for the rich 2,700-years-ago was indeed better with a private toilet being a luxury

By ILANIT CHERNICK

Think your toilet is fancy? Think again!

In a surprising but rare finding, a private toilet cubicle from the First Temple Period was discovered by archaeologists on the Armon Hanatziv promenade in Jerusalem. 

The cubicle, which was part of an ancient royal estate that operated at the end of the Kings of Judean period (7th century BCE), is believed to be a part of a magnificent building that overlooked the City of David and the Temple Mount, the remains of which were discovered by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and the City of David about two years ago.

Recently uncovered among the ruins of the royal building was the private toilet cubicle, an indication that life for the rich 2,700-years-ago was indeed better with a private toilet being a luxury.

According to IAA’s director of the excavation Yaakov Billig, discovering a private toilet cubicle is 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,” he said. “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.”

The archeologists explained that “the bathroom was hewn as a rectangular-shaped cabin, with a carved toilet, which stood over a deep-hewn septic tank.” 

They added that the toilet itself was made of limestone and was designed for comfortable sitting, with a hole in the center. 

The septic tank below the toilet was found to have a large amount of pottery from the First Temple Period and animal bones, all of which were carefully collected, including the soil fill. 

The IAA and City of David said that studying these items “may teach us about the lifestyles and diets of the First Temple people, as well as ancient diseases.”

Other fascinating discoveries made at the excavation include 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.

The archaeologists also pointed out that they have 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,” they said.

Commenting on the finding, IAA director Eli Eskosido said that “it’s fascinating to see how something like toilets, which are so obvious to us today, was a luxury item during the reign of the kings of Judah.”

“​​Jerusalem never ceases to amaze,” Eskosido said, concluding that he is “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.”

**Featured Photo:  Archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority Yaakov Billigrare next to the ancient stone toilet believed to be 2,700 years old. (Credit: Yoli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority)

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