I’ve always been fascinated with the ancient Egyptians. I think I can trace this fascination back to when I saw “The Mummy” for the first time. It’s still one of my all-time favorites.
As I did more research, it turns out the ancient Egyptians used petroleum for embalming, which makes sense given their affinity for preserving human bodies after death.
But what about other ancient civilizations?
Near a place called Hit, which is modern-day Iraq, the indigenous used an oil seep near the Euphrates River as mortar between building stones. They also used it as a waterproofing substance for baths and boats.
The Babylonians also sealed their ships with asphalt.
Bitumen–a tarry crude–was used in Mesopotamia 6,000 years ago as an adhesive for weapon handles. In the bible, the writers also mentioned bitumen as a substance to coat the Ark and Moses’ basket.
In China nearly 2000 years ago, people used oil for heat and light.
Surprisingly, petroleum was later looked on as a source of medicinal benefits. The ancient Persians, pre-Columbian Indians, and the 10th century Sumatrans all used petroleum for medicinal purposes.
It’s been used as a treatment for gout, mange in camels, and other purposes.
Native Americans used crude oil quite a lot, actually. They waterproofed their baskets with it, secured arrowheads with it, and traded it to settlers for $20 per quart.
Here’s the most ironic fact: When settlers struck oil before the 19th century, it was often met with disinterest because they were really drilling for water!