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Old July 13th, 2011, 10:03 PM   #1

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Who developed the idea of the first sewer system?


Romans are generally seen as the first civilization to put a sewer system to widespread use. They had an underground sewer system that ran into a cloaca (where did the modern meaning for this word come from?!), although it was really only connected to the upper class houses.

I believe the Egyptians and the Greeks were using some form of a sewage system before the Romans, though not on as large a scale. What I want to know is what people first put the idea of a sewer system to actual use? That was an invention that changed the entire course of civilization and city structure.
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Old July 13th, 2011, 10:05 PM   #2

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gaius View Post
Romans are generally seen as the first civilization to put a sewer system to widespread use. They had an underground sewer system that ran into a cloaca (where did the modern meaning for this word come from?!), although it was really only connected to the upper class houses.

I believe the Egyptians and the Greeks were using some form of a sewage system before the Romans, though not on as large a scale. What I want to know is what people first put the idea of a sewer system to actual use? That was an invention that changed the entire course of civilization and city structure.
The Minoans had a limited sewage system by 1700 B.C.
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Old July 13th, 2011, 11:50 PM   #3

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gaius View Post
Romans are generally seen as the first civilization to put a sewer system to widespread use. They had an underground sewer system that ran into a cloaca (where did the modern meaning for this word come from?!), although it was really only connected to the upper class houses.

I believe the Egyptians and the Greeks were using some form of a sewage system before the Romans, though not on as large a scale. What I want to know is what people first put the idea of a sewer system to actual use? That was an invention that changed the entire course of civilization and city structure.
The Romans were not the first civilization to put a sewer system to widespread use- neither was their sewer system the most advanced (or akin to modern standards) put into place in the ancient world. The reason I say the Roman sewer system was not as advanced (or rather, pre-planned) is because we have the Cloaca Maxima, an underground drainage system that was semi-developed (and semi ad-hoc) fed in by street sewers in an ad-hoc fashion (where some streets had none, some streets had sewers but did not follow the 'T' joint format or the grid-format of a planned modern sewage network).

The Minoans had basic sewer system(by 1700 BCE) serving their palace compound and some streets, but this was a crude design with simply ditches dug into the ground and lined with stones leading to....God knows where.

The Indus Valley civilization is not only the first evidence we have of a sewer system of any sort, it is also by far the most advanced sewer system put into use till pre-planned modern cities of the 20th century.

We have several dozen Indus Valley civilization cities, dating from 3200-2800 BCE (and in use till 2000-1800 BCE, depending on the city) that have a complete sewer disposal system.
By complete, I mean a system that would meet the engineering benchmarks of 21st century: underground grid-network sewer system, running underneath main thoroughfares, complete with manhole covers, with 'main lines' running along 'main arterial roads', which were fed into by 'ancillary/smaller' lines that serviced minor streets (which in turn, serviced each and every dwelling discovered so far), all emptying into the river downstream of the city (or, in the case of Rakhigarhi, emptying into a big sewage tank and then into the river downstream).

These sewers were of two types: the larger 'main sewers', with manhole covers, were basically rectangular brick-encased pipes, while the smaller 'house-to-street sewers and minor street sewers' were cylindrical sewers, made out of pottery material, buried 1-3 feet below street level or in some cases, running at street level to the 'junction point'.

As such, such city-scale planned sewage system was not seen until the post-WWII overhaul of London & Paris or the 1950s-70s growth of New York City.
The Indus Valley people, quite literally, were the 'masters of crap'
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Old July 14th, 2011, 12:13 AM   #4

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Whoever lived in Burnt City, 5000 BC, near Zabol, Iran.
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Old July 14th, 2011, 02:30 AM   #5

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Whoever lived in Burnt City, 5000 BC, near Zabol, Iran.
Many say there were either some people closely related to proto-Elamites or other people related to the Harappan culture.
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Old July 14th, 2011, 03:31 AM   #6

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As such, such city-scale planned sewage system was not seen until the post-WWII overhaul of London & Paris or the 1950s-70s growth of New York City.
Joseph Bazalgette built a sewer system under London between 1859 and 1865. The system utilised 'lost' rivers and over 100 miles of purpose built sewage tunnels. The post WWII overhaul was merely an upgrading of this system.
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Old July 14th, 2011, 04:11 AM   #7

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Mohenjo -Daro shows signs of an extensive sewerage systems this is in the Sindh part of what is now Pakistan , which flourished 2600 BC to 1800BC ,
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Old July 14th, 2011, 06:38 AM   #8

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There is another contender: Skara Brae from the Main Island of the Orkneys, of all places.
After a storm in 1850 the grass was stripped of a large mound known as "Skerrabra". A few structures of what was first thought to be a Pictish village from around 500BC were made visible by the storm. But it was no Pictish village. In the 1970's the site was dated to have been inhabited from 3200BC-2200BC. Apparantly neolithic hydraulic technology was used to - with the help of a river - wash the waste away.

Click the image to open in full size.

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The other front corner, on the opposite side of the cabinet from the bait boxes, is a small chamber referred to as a cell in the material in the museum and at the Skara Brae site itself.
This dwelling has its cell at upper right in this picture.
According to the explanatory material at the Skara Brae site, drainage systems have been discovered in some of the cells. According to their interpretation, the cells "may have been toilets."
Neolithic Village at Skara Brae

One of the cells.
Click the image to open in full size.

What's also interesting, and makes it logic that there were toilets, is that the eight houses were all linked by roofed passages. The entire settlement was built so that the residents did not have to go outside during the rough Orkneyan winters.
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Old July 14th, 2011, 02:39 PM   #9
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Whoever lived in Burnt City, 5000 BC, near Zabol, Iran.
Which is like 2000 years BEFORE Indus Valley Civilization sewerage....
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Old July 14th, 2011, 03:07 PM   #10
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Define 'sewer system.' The first caveman to notice how good it was to poop into a river downstream instead of where he drank water could be said to have utilized a sewer system.
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