Progress in all things comes from studying and profiting by the errors of the past. The reason why the water carriage system of sewage disposal is gradually supplanting the dry methods the world over is because we have learned through bitter experience with cesspools and all other arrangements for retarding the removal of organic waste, that water carriage is the safest and best. But our progress has been slow because we have too often despised the lessons of the past. Everywhere horrible cesspools still abound throughout the land to the peril of our people, because we are still, as a people, ignorant of their dangers, and the terrible scourges which their use in various forms has brought upon nations.
One of the most useful things you, as sanitarians and plumbers, can do, both for yourselves and for the public, is to study the cause of these plagues which, especially in the Orient, have devastated the land, and with the equipment this study will provide, urge everywhere the substitution of good plumbing for the dry carriage system, whether in the form of earth closets, cesspools, or pail systems. For this reason I shall review with you very briefly some of the earliest methods of waste disposal and call your attention to their effect upon the public health, in order that your advocacy of plumbing may be based upon a knowledge of the past.
Fig. 393. Sanitary Conveniences of the Malay Peninsula.*
*From "Latrines of the East." by Prof. Edw. S. Morse.
As the result of ignorance of the first principles of sanitary science, "the Orient stands as a continual menace to the nations of Europe. The people are utterly ignorant of the germ theory of disease, and consequently the persistant violation of all sanitary laws follows as a matter of course."
Fig. 394. Ancient Egyptian Dwelling.
We find in Egypt, thousands of years before the Christian era, according to Viollet le Due, privies built very much like our country cesspools, placed as shown in our next cut, Fig. 394,* which represents an Egyptian rural dwelling
*From Viollet le Due's "Habitations of Man" under the first three dynasties. It consists of a central room open to the court, and two bed-chambers, one on each end, the garden being in front, with a pantry for provisions at one of the corners opposite the dwelling. The latrines were in the small building at the other corner of the garden, quite inconveniently distant from the living rooms, with dove cots and fowl house along the garden wall. The cooking was done in the open air.
Fig. 395. Palace of a Governor of Ancient Egypt.
The palace of a governor or monarch is shown in Fig. 395. The bed rooms are in the right and left of the main building on each side of the great pillared hall open to the sky. The kitchen is in the center of the right-hand court in the foreground, and the water tank in the court opposite. The servants' rooms in the two wings behind the kitchen and tank.
The latrines are shown in the center of the building just behind the small colonnades at the right and left of the main building. Here again we find these conveniences very inconveniently located with reference to the bed rooms, especially those at the further end of the building. And I need not relate to you the visitation of the plagues of Egypt, known to every reader of history and the Bible. It was formerly said that these terrible scourges were brought upon the people by the wrath of the Lord, because of the hardening of the heart of Pharaoh against the children of Israel. But later investigations have led us to believe that the condition of the Egyptian cesspools had more to do with the plagues than either the wrath of the Lord or the obdurate heart of the king. Now the privies of our own farmers' houses in the first years of the twentieth century are no more scientifically treated and located than were those of ancient Egypt. So far, then, as our country towns are concerned, we have done worse than merely stand still for over 5,000 years, because the climate of Egypt enabled the house owners to visit these out-of-door latrines far more comfortably and safely than is possible with us.
Fig. 396 shows one of the earliest water closets of which we have record. It is one described by Liger as used in ancient Rome. We see the two water closets in the corner, one of them having the seat removed to better show the construction. The flushing stream follows a course which would seem to us quite uncomfortable in water closet construction. It passes along a trough in front of the closets, then enters and flushes a floor urinal at the right side of
Fig. 396. One of the earliest forms of Roman Latrines.*
Side and Front View of Marble Seat.* the water closet, and finally passes under the closets themselves. This small stream is much more demonstrative than it would be effective in its circuitous course, Figs. 397, 398 and 377 represent a curved marble of porphyry seat dating from the time of Constantine and preserved in the Louvre, Paris.
*From F. Liger, "Fosse d'Aisance," p. 53.
We are again indebted to Prof. Morse for permission to reproduce a number of sketches from his "Latrines of the East,"* in which is portrayed a most important feature of Oriental life and character in the author's inimitable style. The sketches are his own.