What Was Used to Light in Ancient Times?

Lighting has been an essential part of human life since ancient times. The way we light our homes and streets has evolved dramatically over the centuries, from torches and candles to gas lamps and electric bulbs. In this article, we will explore what was used to light in ancient times.


Torches were one of the earliest sources of light used by humans. They were made by tying together bundles of reeds or sticks and then soaking them in resin or animal fat.

Once lit, they produced a flickering flame that provided a decent amount of light. Torches were portable and easy to make, which made them popular for use in caves, homes, and during nighttime journeys.


Candles were invented in ancient Egypt around 3000 BC. They were made by dipping papyrus reeds repeatedly into molten tallow or beeswax until they formed a solid cylinder.

Candles were more reliable than torches since they burned steadily for hours without producing much smoke or soot. They became popular in medieval Europe when monks began using them during religious ceremonies.

Oil Lamps

Oil lamps came into use during the Roman era around 400 BC. They were made by filling a clay bowl with olive oil and then placing a wick made from flax or cotton inside it.

Oil lamps produced a bright flame that could be adjusted by moving the wick up or down. They were used extensively in homes, public places like temples and theaters, and even on ships.

Gas Lamps

Gas lamps were invented in the early 19th century when natural gas was discovered underground. They worked by burning gas through small holes to produce a steady flame that provided bright light. Gas lamps were initially expensive but soon became popular in cities where they replaced oil lamps on streets and public places.

Electric Bulbs

Electric bulbs were invented in the late 19th century and marked a significant change in the way we light our homes and streets. They worked by passing electricity through a filament, which produced a bright, steady light.

Electric bulbs were more efficient than gas lamps and lasted longer. They became widespread in the 20th century when electric power grids became available in most parts of the world.


In conclusion, lighting has come a long way since ancient times. From torches and candles to gas lamps and electric bulbs, each new invention has brought about significant changes in the way we live our lives. Today, we have access to a wide range of lighting options that are more efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly than ever before.