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15 Fascinating Things That Our Ancestors Did

By Nitin Bhatnagar, 26 June 2018

There is no denying the fact that there is something extraordinary about every era. Time has changed a lot and with changing time, a number of things have also upgraded or modified. For instance, we have progressed a lot in terms of technology and various inventions have made life much easier now in comparison to ancient times.

However, some bizarre things were in trend in old days that our ancestors used to practice. Those trends were so weird or strange that you might not be able to believe some of them to be true initially. Here we have listed 15 such creepy things and some of them might give you goosebumps:


Presently antibiotics, medicines, injections or surgeries are employed by doctors to cure diseases; however, before the 20th century, disease or illness was treated by bloodletting and it was among the most common ways. Needless to say, it made the patient’s condition worse and did more harm than good in view of the fact that the concerned person used to get weaker than ever.


Image Source: quantrimang.com

2Blackened teeth

People make all the possible attempts to whiten their teeth so that they look good and confident while smiling; nevertheless, in England in the 16th and 17th centuries, there was a trend of blackened teeth.

Sugar was imported into the country at that time and hence it was so costly that only upper class Elizabethans were able to purchase it. We all know that teeth get decayed with the consumption of excessive sugar and the same happened with Elizabeth I. She lost many teeth and it became difficult for people to understand what she wanted to say whenever she spoke. Only few teeth remained in her mouth and those too were rotten and blackened. From that point, black teeth became status symbol for people there and those individuals who didn’t have black teeth made use of coals or cosmetics to get the desired black color.

Blackened teeth

3Chopines or zoccoli

You may find it very surprising or even unbelievable but chopines which were 20 inches high shoe-covers were in trend from the 15th to 17th centuries. There is no denying the fact that they were uncomfortable and people needed servants’ help to wear them. However, they were liked by individuals not only in terms of fashion but also for the fact that they saved clothes from being muddy or stained.

Chopines or zoccoli

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4First and second sleep

In the Middle Ages, the Europeans practiced biphasic sleep, i.e., sleeping two times a day. The time of the first sleep was from sunset to midnight and then they used to wake up for around two to three hours. During this time, they prayed, read or played and then again went back to sleep till sunrise.

First and second sleep

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5Bathing machines

In the modern times, people are free to go to a beach and swim but things were quite different in the 18th and 19th centuries as people didn’t have freedom of swimming openly and if they wanted to swim, they needed to use a bathing machine. Bathing machines are special carts which have the appearance of beach huts. They were driven into water and the concerned person could swim without anyone seeing him/her.

Bathing machines

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6Boys wearing dresses

In today’s times, men are free to dress up the way they want to; however, from the 16th century to nearly 1920s, it was a custom for boys of age 4-8 to wear dresses. The reason of this trend was probably high cost of clothes plus dresses made it easy for them ‘to grow into’. Even royal families were not left untouched with this trend and it was pretty much practiced by them as well!

Boys wearing dresses

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7Using heroin to cure cough

At the present time, the usage of hard drugs such as heroin is not regarded as good for health; nevertheless, from 1800s to 1920s, it was believed to be harmless and used as an alternative to morphine. In fact, pharmacies across the globe used to sell it as a remedy for cough and even kids were recommended to consume it.

Using heroin to cure cough

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8Post-mortem photos or clicking photos with deceased loved ones

During the 19th century, people used to click photos with the lifeless body of their loved ones for preserving their memories. They used to dress the person in a manner as to look alive in the photo. For the same purpose, eyes were also drawn on eyelids and they were made to sit or stand in natural poses.

Post-mortem photos or clicking photos with deceased loved ones

Image Source: files.brightside.me

9Radioactive beauty products

Our knowledge enhances with time as more discoveries are made and people of the today’s world know better what is good for them and what is not. However, in the early 20th century, people considered radiation good for skin and used beauty products that consisted of radium and thorium. Not only this, food, drinks, radioactive souvenirs, etc. were also in trend and preferred by people.

Radioactive beauty products

Image Source: upload.wikimedia.org

10Headless portraits

Ever since the photography was invented, many weird trends came forward and post-mortem photography was among the most popular and weirdest ones. Nevertheless, another bizarre trend called ‘Headless Portraits’ was introduced by Oscar Rejlander, a well-known photographer, who used to combine negatives and made photos of living individuals in which their decapitated heads were anywhere except on their neck. People went crazy for this fad and even kids were not left untouched with it.

Headless portraits

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11Smoking on planes

At the present time, smoking is prohibited in public places, planes, etc. but this was not the case about 50 to 60 years ago. Yes, you read it right! Smoking was not considered to be a bad habit then and it was completely legal to smoke in planes, restaurants or public places.

Smoking on planes

Image Source: image.viettimes.vn

12Poor hygiene

This might irk you if you like to do things in a hygienic way. Individuals in several medieval countries were of the opinion that water brought illness and lice were ‘the pearls of God’. Not only common people but royals also thought likewise. Isabella I of Castille washed only twice in her lifetime; the first was at birth and the last was before her marriage. As per a testimony, a cavalier commented on her dirty nails and hands and she replied, “Oh, if only you could see my feet!”

Poor hygiene

Image Source: image.viettimes.vn

13Cat burning

Harming animals presently is a punishable offense; however, you will be surprised to know that burning cats was a sort of entertainment in France in the 17th century. Parisians used to gather at Place de Greve for dancing, singing and playing during a midsummer bonfire and for making the get-together amusing, people used to bring live cats, hang them over the fire and see them burning. This was a slow process and as cats screamed, people enjoyed and partied. The reason for selecting cats was that they were associated with witches and devils. They could also throw a fox into the fire at times.

Cat burning

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14Live alarm clocks or knocker-uppers

It is not a problem to set an alarm nowadays as we have the facility of doing it on an alarm clock or mobile phone. However, between 1750s and 1950s, this job was done by professional knocker-uppers who used to wake up early in the morning and knocked on the windows of their clients using a long stick.

Live alarm clocks or knocker-uppers

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15Using rocks as toilet paper

In modern times, people use toilet paper or water to clean themselves but in ancient times, Greek people used pebbles, rocks and pieces of pottery to clean themselves up. Sounds absurd but it is true! The other things which were used by people for the same purpose include sheep wool, coconut shells, plant leaves, corn cobs, cloth, sponge, etc.

Using rocks as toilet paper

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