1,000-year-old flushing toilet found in ancient Korean kingdom remains

This photos shows what is presumed to be remains of a bathroom from the Silla Kingdom (57 BC to 935) in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province.
PHOTO: Cultural Heritage Administration

Archaeological remains of a bathroom equipped with a flushing toilet used during the Silla Kingdom (57 BC to 935) have been discovered, the Cultural Heritage Administration said Tuesday.

The state-run body has been conducting a dig since 2007 at the remains of Donggung and Wolji Pond in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, which was home to key government buildings of the ancient kingdom.

Among the relics revealed Tuesday were toilets and a plumbing system. The toilets were tilted so that excretion would naturally flow to a drain. Officials presume that water was manually poured into the toilet to wash away the waste.

This marks the first time a complete Silla-period bathroom has been discovered.

"The significance of the toilet remains in Donggung and Wolji is that it clearly shows how the top class of the unified Silla Kingdom used the bathroom. We can imagine what a high-end bathroom used by the royal family looked like, from the facilities made out of granite -- a luxury at the time - the flush method that was employed and tile-like-bricks used," said an official from the CHA.

In addition, storage facilities, a well and what is presumed to be the foundation of a palace gate -- which if confirmed, would be the first -- were discovered at the site.

The gate is expected to help researchers estimate the exact size of the palace.

Donggung and Wolji Pond refers to a palace complex complete with a man-made pond that was constructed in the year 674 by King Munmu. The first exploration of the site by the cultural heritage authorities in 1975 unearthed over 30,000 pieces of relics.