Watch our video of how to make a Roman Lamp!
The First Light
In the present, we have lots of electricity, but how was the first light created when there was no electricity at all? It dates back to when the first cave men and women were alive. They would get two twigs or two stones that would then start a fire which became the first light.
Lamps made from Pig Fat
Eventually, people made a different way to produce light. People would kill pigs and use the fat produced from the pig for burning in lamps. The only downside was that the house smelt like pigs which was pretty hard to live with.
Back when the Romans were alive, instead of using animal fat, they would use clay and mould it into a holder and a handle. Then they would crush olives and turn them into olive oil. They would fill up the clay holder with the olive oil and use a piece of straw as the wick. Then they would light the piece of straw and would have a nice lamp. You can see a lot of Roman lamps in Pompeii, a city in Italy.
There was an alternative to using pig fat, but basically it was the same. People would go to sea on the hunt for whales. Once they found a whale, they would use harpoons to shoot them. Then they would chop them up to get their fat (whale blubber). Then people would use the fat in lamps but, like the pig fat lamps, they smelt really bad.
James "Paraffin" Young
Eventually, somebody came up with a way to make a lamp without killing animals. James Paraffin Young invented a substance called paraffin, a liquid was used to make oil for machines, lamps and candles. To use a paraffin lamp, put a wick in it and turn it on. If you wanted more light you could turn it higher, if you wanted less light, you could lower the wick. These lamps had a big advantage over the other lamps as they smelt much nicer.
Once the paraffin lamp was created, children could learn much more as they had light so that they could read and write. This helped lots of people as when they got smarter and older, they could get better jobs like we have now. When electric light was invented by Alexander Graham Bell, who was very smart, The Shale industry went our of business and eventually stopped. That's why we don't use these lamps much today.