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Wednesday, 26 July, 2000, 06:40 GMT 07:40 UK
China claims invention of toilet
toilet
Did the Chinese invent the flush loo?
Archaeologists have discovered what they say is one of the world's oldest known water closets in the 2,000-year-old tomb of a king in central China.

The stone toilet was provided with a seat and arm-rest and could be flushed with piped water.

The Chinese archaeologists said it was one of a number of amenities provided for the king in his after-life.

"This top-grade stool is the earliest of its kind ever discovered in the world, meaning that the Chinese used the world's earliest water closet," they told the Chinese news agency Xinhua.

"It was a great invention and a symbol of social civilisation of that time."

Another Chinese invention - toilet paper - came a few decades later.

The first rough version of paper, produced from rags and tree bark, was not invented until about 100 AD.

Thomas Crapper

The ancient latrine, which dates back to the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC to 24 AD), was discovered in a tomb in Shangqiu county, Henan province.

Archaeologists also found a queen consort's stone tomb, more than 210 metres (690 feet) long, with more than 30 rooms including a bathroom, toilet, kitchen and ice-store.

Claims to having pioneered the flush can prove a controversial subject.

London plumber Thomas Crapper, who patented a U-bend siphoning system for flushing the pan in the late 19th century, is widely credited with the development of the first system.

So successful was it that he installed a number of toilets for Queen Victoria.

However others say it had already been invented by Queen Elizabeth I's godson 300 years earlier.

Meanwhile a series of stone closets at the Palace of Knossoss in Crete are regarded by many archaeologists as being the oldest example of flushing technology - dating back to between 3,000 and 1,500 BC.

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See also:

03 Mar 99 | Asia-Pacific
Pollution threat to terracotta army
25 Jun 98 | Asia-Pacific
Plundering China's heritage
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