Do You Know the World’s Oldest Swimming Pool?
the great bath

If you had to guess how old the world’s oldest swimming pool is, what would you say? 50 years old? 100 years old? 1,000? You’d be wrong, because the Great Bath has been around since the 3rd Millennium BC. That’s over 5,000 years ago. Believe it or not, it’s been kept pretty clean.

A surviving portion of some ancient ruins in the Indus Valley at Mohenjo-daro, Pakistan, is home to this marvel. Considering its location, it should be little surprise that it was made by the ancient Indus Valley civilization. They were a Bronze Age civilization in the northwestern regions of South Asia, covering the land occupied by several different countries and cultures. We believe they existed from around 3300 BCE to 1300 BCE, which would have been when they constructed the Great Bath.

The location, Mohenjo-daro, was one of the ancient civilization’s main centers, and it’s filled with baths and homes with washrooms. Though it also included a sewage system, and it’s clear they valued cleanliness, the Great Bath was not for bathing.

Fun facts about the Great Bath

  • The ancient swimming pool measures 38.9 feet (12 meters) by 23 feet (7 meters) and is as deep as 7.9 feet (2.4 meters) in certain sections. We don’t expect to hear stories about people diving or swimming through it, but they could have.
  • Surprisingly, the world’s oldest swimming pool is made with bricks and a coat of bitumen. We still use these materials to build our houses and roads, so this pool was built to last.
  • To keep the Great Bath watertight, its floor was made of sawed brick set with a special gypsum and bitumen mortar. The edges of the pool had large columns presumably to hold window frames.
  • The Great Bath had stairs and changing rooms on both sides. Also, it is sloped on one end to let the water flow out (and in) regularly.
  • Unlike our modern bathtubs, the Great Bath lacks individual cubicles. It’s more of an open pool with steps leading into it. Imagine a communal swimming pool but with a touch of ancient charm.
  • Historians believe the ancient swimming pool had been used for religious functions such as purification. The Great Bath actually has significant religious importance to the people who made it.
  • There’s no inlet drain to be found anywhere in the pool, which means it’s unlikely to have been filled by any water system. This has led many to think the Great Bath was modified at some point in history, or more likely relied on water from rain and wells, possibly a water room close by.

Despite being millennia old, the world’s oldest swimming pool showcases the architectural and engineering achievements of its time, revealing the sophisticated urban planning of the Indus Valley Civilization.

Purification and Renewal

Whether in religious rituals, cultural ceremonies, or daily hygiene practices, water stands as a versatile symbol and tool. It can be used for purification, symbolizing renewal, cleanliness, and the potential for a fresh start. Although we don’t know the exact purpose of the world’s oldest swimming pool for sure, it likely has religious connotations.

As mentioned, the prevailing theory is that this pool was used for purification. While it’s fun to think that they could swim laps around this pool, it’s unlikely.

People likely came to see their souls, or some spiritual equivalent, purified, seeking a renewing feeling. Almost like a form of therapy, not completely unlike a spa. Though if it were meant to be heated, we could have called it the oldest spa in the world instead of just one of the coolest pools.

Imagine this happening over 5,000 years ago. No fancy spa products, no temperature control, just bricks and water do the job. The Great Bath – more than just a swimming pool – was a hub for communal purification or a place where people took a dip not just for the sake of hygiene, but for some soul cleansing too.

Get a Pool (or Spa) for Yourself By Contacting Aqua Leisure

This ancient swimming pool testifies to the fact that for thousands of years, people have used large bodies of water as places to swim. It’s clearly meant to be if we still do it.

These vast aquatic spaces, whether natural lakes, rivers, or man-made reservoirs, have served as timeless venues for a simple yet profound activity – swimming. It’s a tradition that’s persisted through generations, hinting at a fundamental connection between humans and water. We are here to continue the tradition by offering swimming pools for Pennsylvania residents to enjoy for years to come. If not a pool for your personal enjoyment, maybe a spa for your health would make more sense.

At Aqua Leisure Pools and Spas, we have a huge selection of pools and spas across three locations in NEPA. There’s no better time to contact us or even stop by to check out our inventory.