Rare 2,700-year-old Toilet Found in Jerusalem Palace

Archaeologists recently discovered a rare 2,700-year-old toilet in a Jerusalem palace, authorities said on Tuesday.

The discovery was made in an excavation by the Israel Antiquities Authority and the City of David in Armon Hanatziv, Jerusalem. The limestone toilet sat above a septic tank carved into the bedrock, the IAA said in a Facebook post. The luxurious amenity was "designed for comfortable sitting and features a hole in its center."

"A private toilet cubicle was very rare in antiquity, and to date, only a few have been found, mostly in the City of David," said Yaakov Billig, director of the excavation, in the post.

"Only the rich could afford toilets," he continued. "In fact, a thousand years later, the Mishnah and the Talmud discuss the various criteria that define a rich person, and Rabbi Yossi's option to be rich is by having a toilet near his table."

Speaking to Newsweek, Billig explained that toilet seats were previously found in the City of David, at a fortress near Lachish and the Ramat Rachel kibbutz.

In addition to the toilet, archaeologists found animal bones underneath it, which will provide greater insight into the diets of ancient Judaeans, The Jerusalem Post reported.

They also found evidence of a garden that contained "ornamental and fruit trees and aquatic plants," as well as ornate stones and columns from a window handrail. The carvings, they said, were of the same style seen during the First Temple period.

"Combining these features allows researchers to reconstruct the magnificent First Temple period palace with lush gardens that once existed at the site," the IAA said.

In Jewish tradition, the First Temple—otherwise known as Solomon's Temple—was built during the reign of King Solomon. The First Temple was completed in 957 B.C. and served as the "permanent resting place for the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Ten Commandments," according to the Jewish Virtual Library.

The New World Encyclopedia described the temple as the "center of Israelite religious life." The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians under Nebuchadrezzar II in 586 B.C., and the Ark of the Covenant vanished.

To find relics from this time period, especially something as rare and luxurious as a private toilet, is exciting for archaeologists.

"When I speak of my profession, I often state that my work is in ruins.... The excitement escalates when you find rare unique finds," Billig told Newsweek.

The finds are in temporary storage awaiting treatment, full documentation and research. Billig hopes the artifacts will soon be displayed either at the Israel Museum or in a tourist center at the site where they were found.

2700-year-old toilet
Yaakov Billig with a 2,700-year-old toilet that sat above a septic tank carved into the bedrock. Israel Antiquities Authority

Correction (10/06/2021, 4:51 p.m. ET): This story was updated to correct the spelling of Yaakov Billig's name.

Updated (10/06/2021, 4:47 p.m. ET): This story has been updated with a photo from the excavation.

Update (10/7/2021, 9:50 a.m. ET): This story has been updated to include comments and additional information from Yaakov Billig.