Roman indoor plumbing was highly overrated: AnalysisAmy Walsh (Author) Published Date : Jan 10, 2016 15:33 ET
According to a recent paper published in Parasitology, indoor plumbing initiated a gradual increase in communicable parasites rather than helping prevent disease.
The Romans knew indoor plumbing before other civilizations but it seems that claims to their efficiency were overstated.
The sanitation system in Rome had aqueducts and plumbing and these were made to carry away dirty water, feces, and urine, in order to prevent common parasites. But the ancient Romans still saw some indication that pathogens were spread through poor hygiene approximately 2,000 years ago.
Researchers at Cambridge carried out a recent stool analysis, which found that despite these efforts, various pathogens, tapeworm, ringworm, whipworm, and dysentery-causing bacteria persisted in the bodies of ancient Romans.
At present, indoor plumbing gives an advantage as far as sanitation is concerned but it seems that their system did not include application of sanitation measures. One example of this is public baths. These were made to keep Romans clean but the water at these baths were not changed regularly and this led to worms and fleas for other people.
The researchers stated that there were ectoparasites like fleas and lice and even these could have been transmitted through shared bathing.
Even food may have played a role in spreading parasites. For example, consumption of garum, a Roman fish sauce that was commonly added to meals. It was prepared by leaving it to ferment in the sun. Parasitic worm eggs didn t have a chance to breakdown and spread through its consumption.
Indoor plumbing might have carried human waste away from cities but it found its way back into the city after it reached farms as fertilizer.
These factors cancelled out the advantage of indoor plumbing and regular bathing, which made Romans like other Europeans or people who lived without indoor plumbing system as the human waste that was carried away came back in several other forms.
Roman indoor plumbing was highly overrated: Analysis