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September 26, 2016

A look at the history of plumbing, pipes and sewers (part 1)

Many of us don’t give plumbing a second thought, or our heating and cooling units, until something goes wrong with it. Then we are quickly reminded how important our plumbers are! Household plumbing is more than a vital modern convenience, it's fundamental to our quality of life: clean water and plumbing systems are key to maintaining public sanitation, health and safety.

The EU considers plumbing a basic human right and public good, our precious water resources are a cornerstone of environmental protection. Wavin knows that professional plumbing is fundamental and that's a reason why there’s such a great pride in the plumber's science and art. So as we look at cultures over the centuries that have helped connect modern day plumbing with rudimentary pipes and systems, it’s fascinating: civilization's advancement has moved alongside advancements in pipes and sewer systems!

Early homestead hidden for millennia, at the Bay of Skaill, on the west coast of the Orkney Mainland, Scotland. Picture by Freddie Phillips, via Flickr.com

So how long have sewers been around, anyhow? Perhaps the oldest are on the Orkney Islands, north of Scotland, where archaeologists found traces of pipes and drainage systems that are 5,000 years old, with lavatory-like plumbing systems – complete with drainage outlets! Other ancient plumbing evidence has been uncovered in excavations on the Isle of Crete, in the Palace of Knossos. Dating to around 1700 BCE, several separate drainage systems were found that emptied into great sewers constructed of stone. The terra cotta pipe was installed beneath the palace floor, hidden from view. At nearly one inch in diameter, they provided hot and cold running water for the place as well as the palace fountains. Brilliant!

Central court of the Palace of Knossos. Picture by Nelo Hotsuma, via Flickr.com

The ancient beginnings of plumbing helped build our civilization, leading right up to today and WAVIN’s own advancements in piping innovation. In our next brief look at plumbing history we will be the amazing Roman Aqueducts, and the Empire’s use of material that would last for thousands of years! Stay tuned for part 2 of our series about the history of plumbing.

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