Petroleum, in one form or another, has been used since ancient times, and is now important across society, including in economy, politics and technology. The rise in importance was due to the invention of the internal combustion engine, the rise in commercial aviation, and the importance of petroleum to industrial organic chemistry, particularly the synthesis of plastics, fertilizers, solvents, adhesives and pesticides.
More than 4000 years ago, according to Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus, asphalt was used in the construction of the walls and towers of Babylon; there were oil pits near Ardericca (near Babylon), and a pitch spring onZacynthus. Great quantities of it were found on the banks of the river Issus, one of the tributaries of theEuphrates. Ancient Persian tablets indicate the medicinal and lighting uses of petroleum in the upper levels of their society. By 347 AD, oil was produced from bamboo-drilled wells in China. Early British explorers toMyanmar documented a flourishing oil extraction industry based in Yenangyaung that, in 1795, had hundreds of hand-dug wells under production. The mythological origins of the oil fields at Yenangyaung, and its hereditary monopoly control by 24 families, indicate very ancient origins.
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