Which Ancient Civilization Invented Sewers?

Sewers are an essential part of modern infrastructure that help keep our cities clean and safe. But have you ever wondered where the concept of sewers originated?

Which ancient civilization came up with the idea of underground sewage systems? Let’s delve into history to find out.

The Origins of Sewers

The earliest known example of a sewer system dates back to ancient civilizations in the Indus Valley, which is now present-day Pakistan and northwestern India. The city of Mohenjo-Daro is believed to have had a complex underground drainage system as early as 2500 BCE. The city had an extensive network of brick-lined drains that were covered with stone slabs to prevent odors from escaping.

The Roman Empire

The Romans are often credited with inventing sewers, and rightly so. They took the concept of underground drainage to a whole new level.

The Cloaca Maxima, or “Great Drain,” was one of the earliest and most impressive sewer systems built by the Romans in Rome around 600 BCE. It was a massive open-air canal that flowed into the Tiber River, carrying away waste from public toilets and other sources.

The Roman sewer system was not just limited to Rome but also extended throughout their vast empire, including cities like London and Paris. They used advanced engineering techniques such as arches and vaults to construct tunnels that carried away wastewater.

The Greeks

While the Greeks did not have a sophisticated sewer system like the Romans, they did make significant contributions in sanitation practices. Ancient Greek cities had public latrines that were connected to drainage channels that carried waste into nearby rivers or seas.

The Harappan Civilization

As mentioned earlier, the Harappan civilization in the Indus Valley is believed to have had an advanced underground drainage system as early as 2500 BCE. Their sewage systems were designed to keep their cities clean and hygienic. They had covered drains and manholes that allowed easy access for maintenance.


In conclusion, the concept of sewers has been around for thousands of years, with different ancient civilizations contributing to its development. While it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly which civilization invented sewers, the Indus Valley and Roman civilizations are widely regarded as pioneers in this field.

The Romans, in particular, revolutionized sewer systems with their advanced engineering techniques and extensive network of underground tunnels. Today, we continue to rely on these ancient innovations to keep our cities clean and habitable.