Origins of ordinary things: Pillows

It’s rare to find a person whose bed does not have a pillow or some semblance of it. Stuffed with feathers or soft synthetic material, pillows are a great source of comfort as they support the head and neck while one is sleeping or lying down.

It’s rare to find a person whose bed does not have a pillow or some semblance of it. Stuffed with feathers or soft synthetic material, pillows are a great source of comfort as they support the head and neck while one is sleeping or lying down.

Unlike present day pillows, ancient pillows which date as far back as 9,000 years ago were not designed for comfort. In Mesopotamia where they are said to have originated, pillows were made by curving a stone into a half-moon shape. Their purpose was to keep insects from crawling into mouths, noses and ears since people slept on the ground. This is according to Hankering for History, a website for history facts.

According to Wikipedia the online encyclopedia, between 2055 and 1985 BC, Egyptians used wood or stone headrests. However, the head rests were preserved only for the dearly departed whereby they were placed under the heads of corpses. This is because heads were considered to be the essence of life and as such, sacred. This special treatment was preserved for pharaohs.

When Chinese made pillows, they used materials such as jade, porcelain, bamboo, bronze and wood. According to Pioneer Thinking a knowledge dissemination platform, the Chinese had the means and ability to make soft pillows but they decided not to, because hard pillows were deemed better for blood circulation and for keeping demons away.

However, in ancient Greece and Rome where people were fond of luxurious lifestyles, they used softer material such as straw, cotton, reeds, grass and feathers to make pillows used by the wealthy. This is according to Sleep Smarter, a blog site about sleep.

According to History 1700s, an education platform, Romans particularly liked headrests made from the feathers of wild geese. Consequently, they would send the most precocious warriors to hunt and shoot down the geese.

In the Middle Ages, pillows were shunned. According to Sleep City, a retailer of sleep products, men from the middle ages regarded the use of pillows as a sign of weakness. Because of this, only pregnant women and kings were allowed the luxury of headrests. This attitude changed during the industrial revolution.

During the industrial revolution, according to Hankering for History, pillows became popular because improvements in technology made mass production possible. And headrests were no longer primarily used during time for sleeping. People started to buy decorative cushions for their living room areas.

Today, there are pillows of all material, shape, form and purpose. And instead of washing them in entirety, they are covered with pillow cases which are frequently laundered to rid them of dust, dirt and microbes. According to Wikipedia, pillows have a lifespan of two to four years.

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