There are many of life’s little luxuries that humans tend to take for granted. Every night, we climb into our beds and rest our heads on our pillow of choice. This wasn’t the case, however, for our ancestors. Let’s just say the evolution of the pillow is something to be grateful for.
Pillow Talk: Where the Invention Originated
The very first pillow came into existence more than 9,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, according to Hankering for History. No one today would recognize the original, which was made out of stone and had a slight curve to cradle a person’s neck. Mesopotamians didn’t have comfort on their minds when they designed the rigid headrest; they were simply looking for a solution to keep pesky insects out of their mouths, ears, and noses.
Created for the Elite
Egyptians were equally keen to have a place to rest their heads. Their version—which sat higher and appears to have been considerably less comfortable than the original—held spiritual meaning. Egyptians viewed death as everlasting sleep, making their slumber a sacred act. Pillows in Egypt differed from the Mesopotamian equivalent, as the Egyptian versions were made from wood and were slept on only by the wealthy.
The Ancient Standard notes that a pillow found in King Tutankhamun’s tomb features the god, Shu, holding up the headrest while two lions rest on the base, similar to a scene in the Book of the Dead. It is said that the people of Egypt believed in following the same daily routine as the sun, sleeping each night only to wake the following morning.
Perhaps the Chinese were the most creative of all when designing decorative versions of the previously ordinary pillow. Rather than relying only on rocks or wood to shape their modern versions, they opted for materials such as bamboo, porcelain, jade, and bronze.
Hankering for History explains that Chinese folks shunned soft pillows, as they thought that the softer varieties would sap a person’s energy. They also believed that only pillows made from durable materials would repel dwelling demons.
Pillow Popularity Plummets
One would think that ancient pillows would gradually become softer. This was true in areas like Greece and Rome, but in the Middle Ages, Europeans ditched pillows altogether. Apparently, men believed laying their heads on soft pillows would somehow make them weak. Pregnant women, however, continued to use the supportive cushions.
It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that pillows became mass-produced. At that point, they became a staple in homes, not only in bedrooms, but also on living room sofas. What once was a status symbol reserved for the elite was now readily available to everyone. This trend, thankfully, has continued over time.
A Modern Era
Today, most homes have pillows in multiple rooms. Beds rarely have one lonely pillow, but a plethora of the soft, cozy cushions we now rely on to get our Z’s each night. Long gone are the stiff, uncomfortable versions that served our ancestors. It may be a basic in every home, but the pillow is one modern luxury we can all be thankful for.