Indus River Valley:
Plumbing in Mohenjo-Daro
Compare with Today
From the time people began living in cities, they have faced the problem of plumbing: how to obtain clean water and remove human wastes. In most ancient cities, people retrieved water from a river or a central well. They dumped wastes into open drainage ditches or carted them out of town. Only the rich had separate bathrooms in their homes.
By contrast, the Indus people built extensive and modern-looking plumbing systems. In Mohenjo-Daro, almost every house had private bathrooms and toilets. No other civilization achieved this level of convenience until the 19th and 20th centuries. The toilets were nearly built of brick with a wooden seat. Pipes connected to each house carried wastewater into an underground sewer system.
Above is a picture of a private bath, showing a man taking a private shower by pouring pitchers of water over his head? You can see how the wastes drained through clay pipes into brick sewers running below the streets. These sewers had manholes through which sanitation workers could inspect the drains and clean out the muck.
1. What does the attention the Indus people gave to the plumbing and sewer systems suggest about their culture?
2. Find out how water is supplied and wastewater disposed of in your home or community. How does the system in your home or community compare with what was used in Mohenjo-Daro? Create a diagram to compare the water and waste systems in your community and in Mohenjo-Daro
a. You are encouraged to contact the local water department or sewage facility to find answers to the questions above. You may also find answers by contacting local building contractors or plumbers.