Fact or Fiction? Soap

Fact or Fiction curly and roundValentine’s Day is soon upon us, and with that in mind, AntiquityNOW is testing your knowledge of ways to keep the romance fresh.

Today we are awash in all varieties of soap. Products for the hair and body can be all-natural, fruit or flower fragranced, organic, infused with lanolin, honey, aloe…the list goes on and on. There is also laundry soap and its variations on the themes of squeaky clean and fresh scents. Disinfectants, anti-bacterial cleansers and scrubbing agents of all kinds prove that there is no end to our obsession with cleanliness. As we’ve learned through centuries of dirt, sickness and plain old yuck, hygiene as we have come to understand and practice it has saved our noses from stench and our bodies from disease.

But soap is a relatively new product in the history of human sanitation, being discovered and perfected only 500 years ago in a small town in what is now Eastern Hungary. It was here that soap took form as a cleansing agent. It was quite the discovery, for now rather than dousing one’s self in perfume and wiping down haphazardly, one could actually wash the dirt and ripeness of smell away.

Fact or Fiction?

Scroll down for the answer!

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FICTION! Soap has ancient roots, which proves that humankind from early on realized that the nose can only bear so much. Look at these facts:

  • 2800 BCE: Babylonians combined fat and ashes to make some of the earliest soaps.[1]
  • 1500 BCE: Egyptians manipulated animal and vegetable fat to create a soap-like substance.[2]
  • 600 BCE : Phoenicians used goat tallow and wood ashes for cleansing.[3]
  • 175 – 150 BCE: Germans and Gauls rubbed their hair with a combination of ashes and animal fats.[4]
  • CE 130 – 210: The Greek physician Galen recommended soap for medicinal purposes.[5]
  • CE 600: Soap guilds formed in Naples, Italy and fragranced bar soaps resembling what we know of today were invented.[6]

[1] Eastman, Peter, “The Dish on Soap”, Slideshare, 2011. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/PEastman/history-of-soap-8439499.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] H B Walters, ‘Athena Hygieia’, The Journal of Hellenic Studies, 19 (1899:165-168), p167. Retrieved from http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/people/hygeia.aspx.

[6] Ibid.

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