The Earliest Traces of Candlelight

The use of candles and improvements in candlemaking have paralleled human ascent from the Stone Age. We do not have much accurate detail about the use of candles in ancient times. However, references to candles and candlelighting have been found that date as far back as 3,000 B.C. Most of these clues have been discovered in Egypt and the island of Crete in Greece. For instance, clay candleholders dating from the fourth century B.C. have been found at archaeological sites in Egypt.

Although highly prized today and throughout history, beeswax was not found to be useful for candlemaking in Europe until the Middle Ages. However, beeswax candles have been found in the tombs of the Egyptian rulers dating back to circa 3000 B.C. They were made much as rolled beeswax candles are today — usually conical in shape (tapered) and with a reed for a wick.

The tomb of Tutankhamen was discovered and opened in l922 by the team of English Egyptologists Howard Carter (l873–l939) and George Carnavon, the fifth earl of Carnavon (l826–l923), during their explorations of the Valley of the Kings (l906–l923). The death of the Earl of Carnavon so soon after the opening of King Tutankhamen's tomb, and under peculiar circumstances, led credence to the famous “curse” which is supposed to attach to all persons and objects related to the tomb. The discovery of a bronze candleholder in the tomb led to crediting the ancient Egyptians for being the first to develop candles.

Candles are also mentioned in Biblical writings, as early as the tenth century B.C. But although candles appear in the Bible several times, there is no information on how or of what they were made.

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