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Ancient Plumbing Marvels

What’s the first example of ancient plumbing you can think of? A water wheel? The aqueducts in Rome? The ancient precursors to modern-day plumbing extend further back than you may think!

Ancient Plumbing Innovators

The Bronze and early Iron Ages featured some of the first recorded instances of waterways, aqueducts, sanitation systems, and toilets!


Aqueduct is an umbrella term for anything carrying water from its source to another area far away from where it is used. Modern aqueducts include ditches, trenches, pipes, and canals, but the first aqueducts looked very different.

  • Ancient Peru: The Inca utilized a system of underground aqueducts called ‘puquios’ to move freshwater into the desert.
  • Minoan civilization (Greece): the Minoan civilization was the first civilization known to use subterranean clay pipes for water supply and sanitation purposes.
  • Ancient Egypt and Rome: Water wheels known as ‘norias’ were used to move water from rivers to raised aqueducts.


Ancient sewage processes developed from simply dumping waste into local rivers and bodies of water into more sophisticated means.

The Indus Valley (modern-day Pakistan and India) civilizations of Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro, and Rakhigarhi feature the world’s first examples of urban sanitization systems. Groups of homes within the cities got fresh water from wells, and some homes in wealthy areas even had entire rooms devoted to bathing — sound familiar?

The Ancestors of Modern Engineering

One of the most impressive advances in ancient plumbing was made by the Inca people of Machu Picchu. Their impressive drainage engineering is still studied by historians and engineers alike!

What is Machu Picchu?

Machu Picchu is located on a mountain peak over 7,000 feet above sea level. Farmland on a mountain top is relatively scarce, but the Inca had a solution. They created hundreds of man-made terraces lining the side of the mountain to grow crops. These terraces were built with drainage and soil erosion in mind and even helped to protect the mountain from landslides and erosion. The Inca built the terraces in such a way that irrigation systems weren’t needed — the naturally high levels of rainfall in the area simply followed the drainage system to water crops as it flowed down the terraces.

Plumbing is one of the world’s oldest inventions, and civilizations from around the world have benefited from its existence. S & D Plumbing may not be able to help repair an aqueduct, but we can assist with toilet trouble, water heaters, and any of your plumbing needs. Call us today to schedule an appointment!

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