History of Bathing

History of Bathing

Prehistoric humans noticed that swimming in a certain part of the river caused the dirt to come off very effectively. This was because animals were butchered in the river and the animal fat caused a soapy discharge and was the basis for early soaps.

The history of bathing is interesting because the popularity of being clean has changed often throughout history. Ancient Egyptians were obsessed with cleanliness to the point of plucking all bodily hair (Cleopatra was bald as balloon). The ancient Greeks and Romans saw bathing as not only pleasant but also an important part of an active social life. Europeans in the colonial era, however, were disgustingly filthy and most believed that bathing lead to sickness and immorality. People often carried flowers or perfumed handkerchiefs to block the smell of the stinking unwashed masses.

The oldest evidence of bathtubs, toilets, and plumbing comes from the Indus River Valley civilization of about 6000 years ago. Their cities were meticulously planned in a grid pattern, complete with a sophisticated drainage system. Houses had their own wells and bathrooms, with clay pipes taking waste water to the drainage running along the main streets.

For citizens of ancient Rome, communal bathing was a daily activity and was considered to be the center of a wealthy roman’s social life. The baths were also very egalitarian as the fees were well within the budget for a free Roman. The first step was the apodyterium where the bather stores their toga and garlands. Next up was the frigidarium, a cold water tank, followed by the tepidarium which was a warm room. The last and best room was the caldarium which had hot baths and lots of interesting people with which to mingle.

During the middle ages, Kings and aristocrats had bathing facilities usually consisting of a wooden tub filled with heated water. Common people in the countryside washed in rivers and lakes while their urban counterparts generally had to make do with washing their hands in whatever fetid, brackish water was available. From time to time, bathhouses became popular but were often abandoned due to puritanical religious zealots and/or plagues.

The first of what we would consider to be modern porcelain bathtubs was invented in 1883 by John Kohler and was prominently advertised as a “Horse Trough/Hog Scalder” for sating horse’s thirsts or boiling dead pigs. As indoor plumbing became more prevalent, bathtubs became more ornate with faucets and heated water.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The first mechanical shower was patented in 1767 and was operated by a hand pump. The dramatic rise in shower use coincided and was affected by the concept that keeping clean is good for a person’s health. In the United States most people take one or more showers a day, which ironically can be bad for your health, washing away beneficial oils and bacteria.

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