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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History of Wood Doors

The oldest wood door in the world was discovering in Switzerland while digging underneath an Opera house. Built around the same time as Stonehenge, the 5000 year old door has “a clever design that even looks good.”(http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-11593005)

 

 

The world’s largest wood door is in the United Arab Emirates and is dedicated to the country’s president Sheikh Khalifa. The door is made of teak and stands more than eighty feet tall. (http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/inspiration-behind-the-forthcoming-worlds-biggest-gate-in-uae)

largest-gate

 

Cavemen got tired of predators wandering into their caves and causing trouble so they decided to create a barrier that would be easy for humans to get through but hard for animals without opposable digits. While stone and metal were often used in monumental doors such as in Temples and government buildings, wood was the common man’s material. The exception was King Solomon’s temple, whose door was made of olive wood. Asian doors from antiquity often included rice paper framed by bamboo.

Moving up to the High Middle Ages, the designs become unique to a historical period and region. For example English doors from the Tudor period (1485-1625) are very different from English doors during the Baroque period (1625-1715). Discussing the obvious inferiority of wood doors during the British Victorian period (1837-1901) to those of the American Victorian period (1840-1910) seems like a good way to get into a fist fight with a woodcarver. These detailed changes are meticulously cataloged by the woodcarver’s guild of London (est. 1208 AD).

We can touch upon a few of these design periods as some of the styles are still popular today.

Colonial Doors 1607-1780

As the name implies, these doors are of a style adopted by the European colonies. They were generally constructed with wood slates and little decoration. As the colonies became more cosmopolitan, the main entry doors were often carved in patterns akin to their European counterparts.

Beaux arts/Art Deco

Any respectable art history student would be very upset with the above pairing but the two styles are very complicated and inspired by the respected art movements of the times.

Contemporary/Modern

The greatest advancement in wood door technology is the ability to make doors that don’t warp with heat and humidity. Making doors out of wood composite with a nice solid wood veneer mitigates the negative atmospheric effects.