Oil From Ancient Times

By: Bob Jent

Many people are surprised to hear that we've been using oil for almost seven thousand years. At first, we used oil that seeped to the surface in the form of thick black tar. In the Middle East, there is a huge oil reserve underground. In this area, there have been enormous oil seeps of bitumen, oil springs and oil-bearing rock. Oil has been readily available for use in this area since ancient times.

Oil was even effectively used in the time of the caveman. During the Stone Age, man used the bitumen tar to repair pottery and to seal water containers so that they would not leak. Oil and tar was also used in the Stone Age to make bricks and mortar. Not all ancient men were cave dwellers. Some, in the Middle East, were actually marsh dwellers. They are the ones that created bricks and mortar from the thick, black, sticky tar that they had readily available in their bitumen seeps. The area where they lived often flooded. Their oil and tar homes kept them safe and waterproofed from these floods. Entire cities were built of these bricks and mortars in Babylonian times. The oil trade was the catalyst for industrialization in the Middle East.

The next use of oil in ancient times, which we know about, was when ancient man started coating their boats with oil. They knew about the waterproof properties of oil and tar, which led to this very effective practice. Boats were made of reed. Bitumen kept them from leaking. The practice quickly spread around the world. Sailors would always be stained black from working in these bitumen sealed boats. They eventually became known as tars from all of the black stains that they had. The practice of caulking boats with bitumen remained unchanged for thousands of years. It only ended when people started switching to metal and fiberglass for boat production in modern times.

Currently, we use oil in all of its forms. In the past, oil and gas were considered flammable, dangerous and too thin to use for any practical purposes. Bitumen was mainly used as a glue and a waterproofing agent. The Persians were the first to use the thinner forms of oil. They realized that the flammable properties could be very useful in battle. This was the beginning of modern warfare. Flaming arrows quickly turned into fiery bombs made with bitumen.

The Chinese were the first people to drill for oil and spark a revolution. Purely by accident, they discovered that when drilling for salty brine water that they could get to oil. We don't know if they used the actual oil, but we do know that they used the natural gas that they discovered to boil the brine and get the salt out. Companies like Triple Diamond Energy use the same drilling principles today.

Science
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on Science