Finding light has never been easier: More than 90% of people have access to electricity, per the World Bank, up 12% from 2000. But it wasn’t always this way: From the stone lamps of the Stone Age to today’s ultra-e cient solar panels, here’s how humans cast a glow in four eras.
18000 B.C. Prehistoric people in France burn the midnight oil—animal fat—on slabs of limestone with lichen or juniper wicks while they work on cave drawings.
2000 B.C. Babylon’s markets sell sesame oil as fuel, though it isn’t cheap: A month of labor is good for just 10 liters of the stu .
1800s Gas lighting debuts in most of Europe, but Shetland Islanders still rely on the oily feathers of storm petrels, threading a wick down the bird’s throat.
2020 The average monthly energy bill for an American home is $118. Roughly 43% run on electricity and 40% on natural gas, followed by petroleum (8%) and renewable energy sources (7%).