Where was oil first discovered?


Quick Answer

Oil was likely first discovered in the Middle East, in what is now Iran. The Achaemenid Empire army used oil in fire weapons as they invaded castles and cities in the sixth century B.C.

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Full Answer

Oil and petroleum products have been in use for centuries, beginning in the Middle East. The Greek historian Herodotus described the presence of oil pits in Babylon, present day Iraq, in 450 B.C. Alexander the Great often used oil-fueled torches to frighten his enemies. Another Greek historian, Plutarch, described oil bubbling up from the ground in Kirkuk.

Oil was not only found in the Middle East, but in China as well. In 347 A.D., the Chinese were using bamboo to drill oil from the ground. Explorer Marco Polo described the Baku people, in present day Azerbaijan, using oil from seeps for lighting and medicine.

Oil has a long history in America; early explorers to the area observed oil slicks off the coast of California. The first oil well that produced oil on a commercial level in the United States was the Beatty Well, located in southeastern Kentucky. Before that, a well was drilled in Ohio for salt water, but the well was found to contain oil instead.

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