From the field ofarchitecture to medicine, our ancestors had found diverse uses of petroleum
After water, petroleum is the most abundant liquid on earth. The Medieval Latin word "Petroleum" translates to "rock oil" in English.
Since ancient times, oil has been used in one form or another. According to historians, unrefined petroleum has been utilised by humans for over 5000 years.
According to The Institute of Petroleum, a former UK based organisation, humans first came across petroleum near the city of Hit, Iraq.
Locally known as the Fountains of Pitch— Hit is the site of an oil seep. For a better understanding of ancient usage of petroleum, these "fountains" are extremely valuable.
However, this "Fountains of Pitch" are just one oil seep among hundreds or thousands across the globe.
As crude petroleum seeps up through fissures in the earth, asphalt occurs as residue. In ancient times, bitumen was the Roman name for asphalt used as a cement and mortar, according to historians.
As stated by ancient Greek historians Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus more than 4,000 years ago, asphalt was extracted from this oil seep to use as mortar between building stones. It was also used as a waterproofing agent for baths, pottery and boats.
A Petroleum Prospection Primer claims that the Babylonians also used to use asphalt to caulk their ships.
However, studies suggest, around 4000 BC, bitumen, a tarry crude, was used as caulking for ships in Mesopotamia. It was also used as a setting for jewels and mosaics, and as an adhesive to secure weapon handles.
Oil that had seeped to the surface would leave behind bitumen, once it had mostly evaporated. It is composed from a mixture of hydrocarbons.
In ancient Egypt, bitumen was used for embalming. The walls of Babylon and the famous pyramids were also held together with it.
According to the Institute of Petroleum, bitumen has been used as a waterproofing agent and boat building for thousands of years. In fact, it is believed to be used as a coating for Moses' basket, and even Noah's Ark was pitched inside and out with it.
About 2000 years ago, in China, oil and natural gas were used for heat and light. Back then, they used bamboo pipes to carry the gas into their homes.
Many in the ancient times - the Persians, 10th century Sumatrans and pre-Columbian Indians - believed that crude oil had medical benefits.
Venetian merchant, Marco Polo said it was used in the Caspian Sea region to treat camels for mange. He also said the first oil exported from Venezuela was for the Roman Emperor Charles V, intended for gout treatment.
Studies found that the American Indians used to collect oil for medicines. However, the American settlers later learned to use it as a fuel in their lamps.
According to Drilling Through Time: 75 years with California's Division of Oil & Gas by Rintoul William, asphaltum was used by Indians near Sarcramento for waterproofing their baskets. They also used it to glue fibers to form a handle with twine. To make blades for knives or arrowheads, hard asphalt was used.
Meanwhile, their counterparts on the coast in Northern California's Mattole Valley harvested this dark, sticky material, and used it as medicine for colds and coughs, burns and cuts.