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A Matter of Convenience


"The air is already saturated with the sounds of wailing voices, crashing waves, splitting timber, falling masonry and, most disturbing of all, the pervasive roar of the earth itself. Clouds of dust drift over the street from the collapsed buildings, carrying the stench of ruptured privies and newly opened garbage heaps."-- George R. Clark II

The destruction of Port Royal, Jamaica, on 7 June 1692 was accompanied by the smell of ruptured privies, not the sound of broken water mains. This was a town of its time--a time when sanitary arrangements in most urban settings were very nearly at an all-time low. Port Royal, as a densely populated town with a tropical climate, irregular water supply, and poor drainage, must have been at least as bad as contemporary cities in Great Britain. Studying the historical background of sanitation in the 17th century may help us 

Four Chamberpots from Port Royal [39K JPEG]

Link to:


  1. A Matter of Convenience--Introduction(You are here)
  2. A Matter of Convenience--Historical Background
  3. A Matter of Convenience--Dry Land Disposal
  4. A Matter of Convenience--Chamberpots
  5. A Matter of Convenience--Jamaican Sanitation
  6. A Matter of Convenience--The Building 5 Privy
  7. A Matter of Convenience--Port Royal Chamberpots
  8. A Matter of Convenience--Conclusio

Revised: 1 December 1996

Christine A. Powell
Nautical Archaeology Program
Texas A&M University
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