Although it is unknown how often people bathed in ancient Mesopotamia, archaeological evidence provides a fairly clear picture of how and where they bathed. The vast majority of people could not afford separate rooms for bathing in their homes, so they washed in the nearest river or canal. People also used buckets to carry water from these sources back to their homes, and those whose houses had small courtyards sometimes installed terra-cotta cisterns, or shallow basins that collected rainwater. The water from buckets and cisterns was used not only for cooking and drinking but also for what today would be called a sponge bath.
   Actual bathrooms in Mesopotamia were a luxury of royalty and the well-to-do. Palaces, including that of the Neo-Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II, had bathrooms, the floors and lower walls of which were made of baked bricks waterproofed with a coating of bitumen, a tarlike substance. The bather sat or stood in the middle of the room while servants poured buckets of water over him or her - a crude sort of shower. No modern-style bathtubs have yet been found. "Soap" consisted of plant ashes or animal fats. The dirty water drained into clay or stone conduits in the floor that led outside, sometimes to primitive sewers. There is also evidence that it was customary for people to wash their hands before entering the royal throne room for an audience or other gathering.
   See also: grooming; houses; water supplies

Ancient Mesopotamia dictioary. . 2015.

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