WORK-LIFE BALANCE / OCT. 06, 2015
version 10, draft 10

7 Ancient Careers That Still Exist Today

Snow White
Snow White

The job market is a constantly pulsating, fluctuating, undulating blob of discarded résumés and tears of frustration. Its demands constantly change, technology makes professions obsolete, and people just stop needing certain professions like someone to remove poo from their houses. There are certain jobs though that have stood the test of time and still exist today, and I’m not talking about farmers and prostitutes here, folks – well, I’m not only talking about farmers and prostitutes (because, honestly, that’s one of the first things humans figured out how to sell: food and booty) – but about jobs so advanced you’ll be gob-smacked. Yes… gob... smacked.

See Also: Top 5 Most Bizarre Jobs in Japan

1. Dentists

Yes, one of the most cringe-worthy professions in modern medicine has been tormenting our collective dreams for millennia. The oldest evidence of dentistry was accredited to the Indus Valley Civilization and is said to date back to 7000 BCE. Surprisingly, the evidence shows that work was done with bow drills that were probably operated by skilled bead craftspeople. So one of the most loathsome of dentistry tools was one of the first used… which is just a bit suspicious, in my opinion. I’ll assume you’re a well-adjusted and mentally sound individual (which I know with all certainty is untrue since you’re reading this article) but, hypothetically speaking, have you ever seen anybody in pain and immediately thought: “I should put them in more pain to alleviate their first pain”? Well, it seems that that was early dentists’ first thought. Like the thought that basically started dentistry even…

2. Brain Surgeons

Look, I’m just as surprised as you are to find out that successful – yes, successful – brain surgeries were done as far back as 7000 BCE. Man, that was a good year for medicine. The crazy thing is that it wasn’t just used to alleviate pressure after head trauma, which would be the most obvious application. No, it was also used for neuropathy treatments, diseases, epilepsy, and mental illness amongst other diseases. The first time the word “brain” was mentioned in written history goes back to the Ancient Egyptians in 3000 BCE.

3. Politicians

Stop booing and hissing! I know they are all 1% elitist bastards that only promote big money and all that other conspiracy theory stuff, but from the moment people started banding together, they have done so much under the guidance of one person who was revered and respected as the most wise, mystical, powerful or smart individual. And sure, shortly thereafter, the establishment of states meant the development of the art of warfare… which proudly brought us millions (more like billions) of deaths and the destruction of natural and manmade resources. But again, we’re talking about loss of human lives… um, I mean politicians.

4. Moneyers/Minters/Engravers

Yes, this article is going from one evil to the next, from politicians to the thing that most motivates them: money. Hmm, I see a pattern emerging: the more evil the profession, the longer it’s existed…

Money and the art of creating it can be traced back to 7th century Greeks. Surprisingly though, it seems that ancient China, Korea and Japan started minting currency. The preferred materials at the time were usually gold, silver and copper but would sometimes include tin, aluminum and nickel. Metals were coveted because of their resilience, durability, luster, and rarity. The more contemporary form of engraving or printing on paper originates a little later (see: about 400 years) in 11th century China. It then spread to the expanding Mongol Empire and was introduced as a concept to Europe by Marco Polo (explorer, inventor of the eponymous pool game, and the man that convinced the world that spaghetti was an Italian invention and was in no way related to the noodles he had brought back from Asia a few years prior)

But I digress. The reason this profession exists is rich people – duh? – but not for the reason you might think. Early Chinese coinage would be carried on a string, but if you were wealthy it would be quite cumbersome to carry these coins with you, so you left them with a trustworthy person, and that trustworthy person would give you a note certifying he was holding a heavy string of coins for you. In the 12th century, the government finally stepped in and started producing paper currency printed from woodblocks. To create a print with this method, the image was reversely carved out of wood in low-relief, covered in ink and then paper, and run through a printing press. Wherever the wood was carved back remained white or the color of the paper, while the higher areas were printed with ink. Today, artists are usually commissioned by governments via official open calls or calls for proposals, but some governments also have engravers in their employ.

5. Hairdressers

Seriously, the obsession with vanity and appearance is a historically ingrained standard of humanity, thus the people that cater to this obsession must have been tied with humanity’s history. Well, according to ancient drawings found in Egypt, Greece and Rome, hairdressing has been with us for more than a dozen centuries (yes, dozens). The images depict people caring for other individuals’ hair, including bathing it, cutting it, and styling it. There were also images found of barbers taking care of their customers’ facial hair. So stop making fun of the high school flunky, because she holds one of the oldest jobs in the world. Also, stop making fun of your local hairdresser; their profession is pretty old, too.

6. Prostitutes

Nope. Too easy. Moving on. (That’s what she said... *sniff*).

7. Brewers/Winemakers/Distillers

If it wasn’t for this person, according to t-shirts and quirky tin signs on bar walls, ugly people wouldn’t be able to procreate and we would only be drinking water which fish have coitus in. Also, let’s be completely honest: this is also the same profession that is responsible for helping 90% of the earth’s population maintain their sanity via the consumption of copious amounts of their products. Our species is so alcohol-dependent that we figured out how to get drunk before we could even write, as indicated by Stone Age and Neolithic vessels that were used to intentionally ferment things (which creates alcohol, which in turn creates drunken cave people). The caveman rave was global because, in the Middle East, around the same time in 7000 BCE, barley beer and grape wine was starting to be produced. Our ancestors were basically frat boys with more back hair but the same amount of intelligence and drinking habits.

See Also: Awesome Jobs That End Up Sucking

Are there any other ancient jobs you can think of? Let me know in the comments section below!

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