The first flush was ours, say Chinese

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The Independent Online

Chinese archaeologists in central Henan province have unearthed a 2,000-year-old water closet, entombed with a king of the Western Han Dynasty, presumably to ensure he sat on the finest of thrones even in the afterlife.

Chinese archaeologists in central Henan province have unearthed a 2,000-year-old water closet, entombed with a king of the Western Han Dynasty, presumably to ensure he sat on the finest of thrones even in the afterlife.

"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," the archaeological team told the state news agency, Xinhua. The stone latrine, boasting flush water piping and an armrest for added comfort, was a "great invention and a symbol of social civilisation of that time".

The Chinese revelation is sure to stir up a debate in the world of lavatorial history. British claims to the flush toilet rest on the efforts of Thomas Crapper (1836-1910), but historians have long questioned Crapper's legacy. Some suggest he may not even be responsible for adding "crap" to the English vernacular.

A definitive answer may lie deep in an underground palace in Shaanxi province, where the tomb of China's First Emperor, overthrown by the Western Han (206BC to AD8), awaits excavation. Besides a fabled treasure trove, his terracotta army may be guarding the ultimate lavatory of the ancient world.

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