The water bottle. We all use it, whether it’s in the home or on a long car trip to visit friends or family, the water bottle has incorporated itself in the lives of so very many. Today we would define the water bottle as a plastic container with a narrow neck to provide ease of drinking, however this was not always the case. For the purpose of this article, I would define the water bottle as a vessel for handheld water, as we explore the evolution of this vessel to arrive at the plastic container with the narrow neck.

Perhaps one of the first water vessels were gourds. Gourds are part of the cucurbitaceous family, which comprises of melons, pumpkins and cucumbers. Evidence of gourds being grown dates back to around 8000-9000 BC in Africa. These gourds are known as calabash or “bottle gourd” and when dried were capable of water storage or being used as a utensil or pipe.

Sometime around 5000 BC, the Chinese were one of the first to discover how to successfully transport large amounts of water through the use of potted jars. While these are typically not the “handheld vessel for water” these large jars were typically carried by hand for long distances as the ancient china chariot didn’t appear until 1200 BC. Drinking of the water was done via pouring into a pottery bowl or cup.

Moving forward to 3000 BC, a more practical method of transporting handheld water in a container was derived by the Ancient Assyrians. While this method was initially used to create floatation devices, it was not long after that water was held using this method. The method of doing so was to use the bladder of an animal, commonly from a cow or sheep. Today this vessel is known as the water skin, despite no “skin” being apparent in the vessel itself.

By 1500 BC, the first hollow glass container was created by the Romans by covering a core of sand with molten glass. However, it wasn’t until the first century BC, that glass blowing became more common use in creating vessels for water. Even so, at this time, the glass was discoloured due to the sheer number of impurities when creating the glass that it wasn’t until the first century AD that the glass blowers discovered ways to remove the impurities and create glass that was clear and not discoloured. Today glass is still very widely used commercially, and additives are added to provide colour in many glass products.

From there on, glass has been the main material used for drinking vessels, until early to mid-1900s when canteens were used for the military, primarily constructed with steel or aluminium. These canteens were found to be poor in design and would easily leak when dented which was quite common in the army. These bottles were one of the first commercially used with screw caps instead or stoppers or corks.

This finally leads us to the plastic bottle, being first manufactured for commercial use in 1947 and continues to dominate the preferred vessel for water, whether it be large or small.

Author: kyle

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