The world’s oldest flush toilet may have been discovered by archaeologists in China.
During the summer last year, a research team at the Yueyang archaeological site in the Chinese city of Xi’an found parts of the 2,400-year-old lavatory and a bent flush pipe, local news outlets reported.
However, details about the toilet only began circulating widely this month.
The toilet may help researchers learn more about how China’s ancient ruling elite lived.
The excavation team who discovered the lavatory located it among ancient palace ruins, prompting them to call it a “luxury object.”
High-ranking officials most likely used the toilet during the Warring States period (475-221 BC) and the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), according to Liu Rui, a researcher at the Institute of Archeology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Liu, who helped discover the toilet remains, explained to China Daily that indoor toilets in ancient times were uncommon. To flush the unearthed toilet, servants likely poured water into it, and the toilet’s pipe likely led to an outdoor pit.
“It is the first and only flush toilet to be ever unearthed in China. Everybody at the site was surprised, and then we all burst into laughter,” he shared.
According to China Daily, researchers aim to identify the food commonly eaten at the time by using soil samples obtained from the toilet.
Before the recently announced discovery, the first modern flush toilet was widely attributed to John Harington, an English courtier who lived from 1561 to 1612.
However, ancient civilizations such as the Mohenjo-Dara and Harappa of the Indus Valley were found to have flushed away feces in toilet holes using water around 4000 BCE.