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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Things Are Going Swimmingly


Swimming Pool at Mohenjo-daro
Picture from Wikipedia

One of the real joys of my retirement is getting away from winter. After almost 60 of the wretched beasts, I have had it with the Currier and Ives look. Sunshine is my new gig. As I was sitting next to the pool this morning, I was thinking about how much maintenance these thing take: chlorine, cleaning, filters, pumps, the list goes on and the money goes out. Nevertheless, the pool is a beauty to behold and I wouldn't give it up...at least not any time soon.

This got me to wondering who built the first swimming pool? People have been wading in the water for as long as there have been people...and water. Most of that wading has been in oceans, lakes, rivers, ponds, and every other natural body of water. It may not have always been that beautiful but it was cheap. And the plumbing took care of itself for the most part.

At some point, people started living in larger communities and the old swimming hole was no longer enough. Instead of having the people go to the water, they decided to bring the water to them. I remembered seeing a swimming pool in my stroll through Pompeii a few years ago. Given the Roman proclivity towards the baths, I thought perhaps they were the first to move from standing still and bathing to moving and swimming. But once again, antiquity surprises.

From the little digging in the web, I come across a reference that says that the earliest known swimming pool was in Mohenjo-daro in what is now Pakistan. It seems that the civilizations in the Indus Valley got the idea for a full fledged pool somewhere between 1700 BC and 2600 BC. Their pool was no simple hole in the ground. This was a huge affair in the center of the city with stone steps and a special tar to seal the walls. This pool could rival many of the YMCAs around the country. And this was way before the C even existed.

Reading about the Indus Valley Civilization (also known as the Harappa) is a humbling experience. We think of ourselves as progressive and yet in this city that is 4000 years old we find extraordinary city planning. Streets are laid out on a precise grid. Sanitation was built in with covered sewers. While houses drew water from wells, some houses seemed to have rooms with their own baths. This was obviously a city that valued cleanliness and as a consequence, health.

The city of Mohenjo-daro (meaning Mound of the Dead, its real name remains unknown) flourished for a thousand years and then suddenly seems to have been abandoned around 1700 BC. Why is not clear. Maybe they called the plumber but they were told the pipes were too old and they needed new digs.

I wonder who will be excavating my swimming pool four thousand years hence? Surely, this will be a major archeological mecca for some future Indiana Jones type. I can picture it: the finding of the pool walls, the removal of the rubble, and at the bottom our little yellow rubber ducky pool thermometer still gamely trying to read the temperature. Except the temperature will be off the scale because Global Warming will have morphed us into a new species. Around these parts, maybe into fish as I expect the yard to be on the bottom of a rising sea.

Links:

Mohenjo-daro, Wikipedia

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