Have you ever wondered how showers have evolved throughout history, from ancient bathing practices to the development of modern showering systems? How did cultural beliefs and technological advancements shape the way we shower today? In this blog post, we will explore the fascinating history of showers and how they reflect our changing needs and preferences.
The First Showers: Waterfalls
The first showers were neither indoor structures nor human-made but were common natural formations: waterfalls. The falling water rinsed the bathers completely clean and was more efficient than bathing in a traditional basin, which required manual transport of both fresh and waste water.
The earliest form of showers was probably washing in rivers or lakes. People would apparently hunt out these beauty spots by travelling for miles, after realising this was a much more effective way of washing away the ingrained filth that hunter-gathering inevitably brings, as opposed to bathing in a pool or lake.
The first man-made showers were found in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, where servants poured water from jugs or basins onto the wealthy bathers. The Ancient Egyptians and the Mesopotamians (who lived in modern day Iraq) were believed to be the first empires to realise the potential this seemingly simple approach could offer.
Ancient Egypt is thought to be the brains behind establishing how a shower could be a thing of luxury, with wealthy members of the community ordering servants or slaves to bring jugs of water to special shower rooms. Inevitably, this turned out to be something that would ensure you were classed much higher in the social ladder than the common people.
The Ancient Greeks and Romans: Drainage Systems and Aqueducts
The Greeks adopted this idea and improved it by developing the first drainage systems, with the Egyptians never really getting past the initial stage of having the water carried in and out of the room by hired (or forced) help on their own.
Because this once mighty civilization really didn't like the idea of having all the waste from a person's cleaning session hanging around, they came up with an ingenious system that allowed water to be transported in and out of rooms via lead piping.
The ancient Greeks were also the first people to have showers. Their aqueducts and sewage systems made of lead pipes allowed water to be pumped both into and out of large communal shower rooms used by elites and common citizens alike.
The Romans took this concept further by building elaborate public baths that featured hot and cold water, steam rooms, saunas, massage rooms, and even libraries and theatres. The baths were not only places for hygiene but also for socializing, entertainment, and relaxation.
The Dark Ages: A Decline in Showering
After the fall of the Roman Empire, showering became less common and less accessible. The aqueducts and drainage systems were destroyed or neglected, and water became scarce and contaminated. People resorted to washing with basins or cloths, or not at all.
Showering was also discouraged by some religious authorities who associated it with paganism, hedonism, or immorality. Some people believed that bathing would open up pores and make them vulnerable to diseases or evil spirits.
The Middle Ages: A Revival of Showering
Showering gradually regained popularity in the Middle Ages, especially in Islamic countries where water was considered a symbol of purity and cleanliness. Islamic teachings include the use of water for cleaning after using the toilet and before prayers.
Muslims also developed sophisticated systems of water supply and sanitation, such as wells, cisterns, fountains, canals, pipes, pumps, filters, and public baths. Some of these baths had separate sections for men and women, as well as different temperatures and functions.
In Europe, showering was still rare and mostly reserved for the upper classes who could afford private baths or access to public ones. The public baths were often crowded, dirty, and unhealthy places where diseases could spread easily. They were also associated with prostitution and gambling.
The Renaissance: A Rediscovery of Showering
Showering became more popular again in Europe during the Renaissance period, when people rediscovered the ancient knowledge and culture of Greece and Rome. The human body was celebrated as a work of art and a source of pleasure. People also became more aware of hygiene and health benefits of showering.
The first shower with a pump and a basin above the user’s head was patented in 1767 by William Feetham in London, but it used the same dirty water repeatedly. The first shower that offered hot water was the English Regency Shower, invented anonymously in 1810.
The Industrial Revolution: A Mass Production of Showers
Showering became more accessible and affordable in the 19th century, thanks to the Industrial Revolution and the development of indoor plumbing, water heaters, and mass production. Showers could be connected to a running water source and installed in homes, hotels, schools, factories, and prisons.
Showers also became more diverse and versatile, with innovations like adjustable nozzles, spray patterns, water pressure, and temperature. Some showers were designed for specific purposes, such as medical showers for treating skin diseases or fire showers for extinguishing fires.
The 20th Century: A Popularization of Showers
Showering became more popular and widespread in the 20th century, especially after the World Wars when people experienced water shortages and rationing. Showers were seen as more efficient, economical, and ecological than baths. They also offered more convenience, comfort, and privacy.
Showers also became more stylish and sophisticated, with features like glass doors, tiles, curtains, shelves, soap dispensers, radios, lights, and fans. Some showers were designed for luxury and relaxation, such as whirlpool showers, steam showers, sauna showers, and spa showers.
The 21st Century: A Future of Showers
Showering continues to evolve in the 21st century, with new trends and technologies that aim to improve the showering experience and address the environmental and social challenges. Some of these trends and technologies include:
- Water-saving showers that use less water or recycle water
- Digital showers that can adjust water temperature and pressure
- Thermostatic showers that can maintain a constant temperature
- Massage showers that can provide different types of massage
- Rainfall showers that can simulate natural rain
- Drencher heads that can deliver a powerful blast of water
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