The ancients also suffered from sunburn, so they used these 4 forms of protection | Trending Viral hub


We owe a lot to the sun. Without it, of course, we would have no heat or light. We would also not have photosynthesis and, therefore, we would not have oxygen, without which neither we nor the Earth’s ozone layer would exist. And yet, like a giant nuclear reactor, the sun insists on bombarding us with energy that, if left unchecked, could burn us all to ashes. And the ozone layer has never been a foolproof filter when it comes to protecting harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Even in ancient times, before humans could generate enough ozone-depleting substances to erode that protective barrier, the ozone layer still let in enough solar radiation that our ancestors had to deal with sunburn and other sun-related damage, just as we do today.

In modern times, of course, we have developed preventative measures: clothing and accessories specifically designed to minimize exposure to UV rays, as well as sunscreen and topical sunscreen to filter or reflect those harmful rays. These advances offer important benefits in protecting our skin from damage and minimizing our risk of skin cancer.

But how did we protect ourselves in ancient times, before we fully understood the radiation that causes sun damage? It turns out that ancient people came up with some surprisingly effective ways to protect yourself from sunburn, and many of them are still used today.

1. Clothing and hats that protect from the sun

(Credit: Dmytro Buianskyi/Shutterstock)

While the historical record lacks documentation, it is reasonable to assume that early humans discovered that protecting their skin and scalp with some type of covering (clothing, rudimentary hats, or headdresses) kept them cooler and less likely to burn in sunlight. direct. .

After all, humans have been weaving textiles for up to 28,000 years, possibly longer. (A famous figure, nicknamed the Venus of Willendorf, dates back 30,000 years and depicts a woman wearing what could be a woven hat. It is true that there is no evidence to suggest that it was designed or used with the purpose of blocking the sun in mind. But it couldn’t have hurt.)

Over the millennia, different societies developed lightweight, light-colored fabrics that would be useful for protecting against harmful sun exposure. We know that the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and other civilizations (especially those that lived in hot, sunny climates) adapted to their environments by dressing in long, loose-fitting garments that offered greater body coverage without overheating the wearer.

Wide brim hats, woven with reeds, straw or other materials, were also used by some of these civilizations to protect the scalp, face, eyes and shoulders, keeping both burns and sunstroke at bay. Traditional headdresses such as turbans (depicted in sculptures dating back to 2300 BC) and keffiyehs (dating to the 7th century AD, although possibly worn earlier) had both cultural and practical importance, as such garments also protected the head and upper body from excessive sunlight.

Read more: The origin of the 30,000-year-old Venus of Willendorf

2. Umbrella protection

(Credit: Sergio TB/Shutterstock)

Meanwhile, accessories to protect themselves from the sun began to emerge, especially in the form of umbrellas or parasols.

You wouldn’t think that humble nonsense would be a source of academic debate, but there are conflicting theories about when and where umbrellas originated. A famous legend suggests that China developed the umbrella more than 3,000 years ago; Early versions were devised from plant leaves, and later, more sophisticated models were constructed from silk or paper on a flexible frame.

Other sources insist that ancient Egypt was the place of origin of the umbrella, with examples appearing in egyptian art dating back to 2450 BC. C. and is made with palm leaves attached to a wooden stick. If true, those proto-umbrellas could have served as a fan and sun protection for the elite of that culture.

Read more: What was the Silk Road and what happened to it?

3. Shadows and shields

(Credit: Rudolph Martin Anderson, 1916/CC BY-SA 4.0/Wikimedia Commons)

Although shaded glasses made of smoky quartz Said to date back to 12th century China, sun protection glasses may have first emerged among indigenous peoples of the Arctic, such as the ancestors of the inuit or Yupik tribes.

It is known that at least 2,000 years ago (and possibly much earlier) these people developed slit facial coverings that protected their eyes from glare and sun exposure, allowing for better visual acuity (while also unknowingly protecting against UV rays). waterfalls and similar eye damage caused by the sun). Surviving examples of these glasses are made of animal bone, wood and tendons and were very effective in protecting delicate corneas from sunburn and glare.

In modern times, the renowned German lens manufacturer Zeiss It began marketing high-end tinted glasses in 1924, clearly with sun protection in mind. Entrepreneur Sam Foster and his partner Bill Grant, who began making hair accessories for women, also developed non-prescription sunglasses, launching the affordable Host scholarship Eyewear line: available for purchase beginning in 1929.

Read more: Who invented the shoe? Scientists say the footwear may be more than 40,000 years old

4. Legendary lotions

(Credit: twabian/Shutterstock)

In the late 19th century, scientists began to understand that ultraviolet radiation from the sun had a harmful effect on human skin. Filters were discovered to block those harmful rays and we eventually developed the first commercial sunscreens in the 1920s and 1930s. However, our ancestors had some idea that different substances, when applied as salves, ointments or pastes , could protect or heal the skin from a variety of injuries, including sun damage.

Perhaps the oldest sunscreen involves the pigment known as ocher. Man has used ocher in one form or another for about 300,000 years. It was used to color textiles, pottery and other early human crafts. But he has also played a role in decorating our skin.

While researchers have identified many of the cultural underpinnings of such skin applications, it is also worth noting that ocher pigment It has been shown to provide protection against solar radiation. This has led more than one scientist to theorize that humans may have used ocher as one of the first forms of sun protection.

In other cultures, we now know that ancient people experimented with different topical applications to protect themselves from the sun (or relieve sunburn symptoms). Currently, the first recorded sunscreen is attributed to the Egyptians, who were known for using rice branaromatic plant oil jasmineand lupine to prevent excessive darkening of the skin, and it was effective.

The ancient Greeks are said to have used olive oil as a protective layer against sunburn (although modern chefs would probably argue that this would have the opposite effect, perhaps serving only to sauté our ancestors).

That said, the Greeks, as well as the early Indian and Roman civilizations, knew the uses of zinc oxide. Already in the year 500 BC. C., and probably much earlier, the compound was identified to be beneficial in various applications, from cosmetics to cancer treatment. For centuries, zinc oxide was also known to help protect the skin and accelerate wound healing.

Although speculative, it is not difficult to imagine that early civilizations saw its benefits against skin damage caused by the sun. And they would have been right: modern research has confirmed that zinc oxide is a champion in blocking Long and short wave UV radiation.

Today, zinc oxide is still used as a component of many sunscreen products. As beneficial as it is, it can cause a skin reaction in sensitive people and does not match most natural skin tones. And yet, when it comes to sun protection, zinc oxide remains one of the most effective.

This just goes to show that, even if they didn’t fully understand the causes, when it came to preventing sun damage, our ancestors had some pretty brilliant ideas.

Read more: How chemicals in sunscreen protect our skin

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