The history of toilets in five minutes

Video Jul 6, 2021

This animation, created by Francis de los Reyes (you may already know his Ted Talk) and animated by Igor Coric, does a great job of exploring the history of toilets in just five minutes! You will find the usual suspects (Rome, Mesopotamia, Crapper...), and a useful view of where we are today and what needs to be done – not just technology.

As well done as it is, I can't help but feel irritated by some bits of this animation:

  • To my knowledge the Cloaca Maxima in Rome didn't include aqueducts: these were used to channel water to the city, and into the sewer system.
  • The authors contrast the advanced reuse of excreta in China with the "Dark Ages" of Medieval Europe, an unfortunate and common trope: were the gong-farmers (pictured here as shameful night-time thieves) really that different to Chinese farmers, in allowing nutrient recovery?
  • Showing sewerage as the most "normal" / "advanced" form of sanitation – through the narrative and the choiceof pictograms – doesn't help to realise that we need more diversity in the solutions.
  • And a pet peeve of mine, saying 'sewage' instead of 'sewerage'.

But these are nit-picking from a toilet enthusiast. Show this to the kids!

Image credits: A brief history of toilets
More information: Ted Ed
Spotted thanks to: The Kids Should See This