Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 16, 2015

Bath Time in the Palace

Peter Lacovara

The ancient Egyptians seem to have placed great importance on personal cleanliness. For most people, bathing appears to have been done in pools, rivers and canals but shower stalls were a feature in the Royal Palaces and in the model palaces.

In these stalls, the bather would stand on a stone slab with a drain cut into it and water would be poured over them by a servant standing beside a half wall enclosing the shower. Soap was made from natron and was beneficial for the skin. It may have even been scented as were soaps made from animal fat or vegetable oil.

The Palace of the King at Malqata boasted at least ten bathrooms. Only scant traces of them remain today, but when the Palace was excavated by Robb de Peyster Tytus in 1901 to 1903, he discovered a very well preserved bath in room N11, in one of the suites of rooms bordering the central court. Like all the other baths in the palace, it was made of sandstone which had been generously coated with gypsum plaster. It had a drain into the ground and a “splash guard” along the front edge.

Bath from Room N11  as excavated by Tytus

Bath from Room N11 as excavated by Tytus

Only a few fragments of these shower stalls can be found in the Palace today. They are roughly made out of a light brown sandstone and slathered with a thick coat of gypsum plaster. The plaster was also used to glue the sections of stone together and to coat the adjoining mud brick walls to protect them from splashing water.

Fragments from a Bath remaining in the palace

Fragments from a Bath remaining in the palace

The Temple Palace of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu has two of these shower baths in their original state. A sandstone basin is set against the corner of a small room and drains off into a basin set below ground.

Shower bath in the Temple Palace of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu

Shower bath in the Temple Palace of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu

The ancient Egyptians even invented the “Turkish towel” to add to the luxuriousness of their bath.

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Responses

  1. Reblogged this on An Archaeologist's Diary and commented:
    A couple of great posts on the iMalqata blog today. Here’s one about ancient Egyptian bathing rooms… I didn’t realise there were no fewer than 10 bathrooms in Amenhotep III’s palace! The pictures of the ‘shower stalls,’ then and now, are quite humbling. So much has disappeared in the last +100 years…

  2. […] with upper thin clay and white wash layer used to set and plaster stones of a bathroom basin (iMalqata Blog | February 16, 2015). Below, the cross section of a dark brown clay plaster fragment with white and Egyptian blue paint […]


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