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A Brief History of Massage in Ancient Times

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Archaeological evidence of massage has been found in many ancient civilizations, including China, India, Japan, Korea, Egypt, Rome, Greece, and Mesopotamia.

The Tomb of Akmanthor (also known as "The Tomb of the Physician") in Saqqara, Egypt, depicts two men having work done on their feet and hands, possibly massage.

Photo: The Tomb of Akmanthor. Credit: 0jimmylouie

BC 2330: The Tomb of Akmanthor (also known as "The Tomb of the Physician") in Saqqara, Egypt, depicts two men having work done on their feet and hands, possibly massage.

BC 2000: The word muššu'u ("massage") is written for the first time, and its use is described in some Sumerian and Akkadian texts found at the beginning of the 21st century in ancient Mesopotamia.

BC 722–481: Huangdi Neijing is composed during the Chinese Spring and Autumn period. The Nei-jing is a compilation of medical knowledge known up to that date and is the foundation of traditional Chinese medicine. Massage is referred to in 30 different chapters of the Nei Jing. It specifies the use of different massage techniques and how they should be used in the treatment of specific ailments and injuries. Also known as "The Yellow Emperor's Inner Canon," the text refers to previous medical knowledge from the time of the Yellow Emperor (approx 2700 BC), misleading some into believing the text itself was written during the time of the Yellow Emperor (which would predate written history).

BC 762 "In the Iliad and the Odyssey the massage with oils and aromatic substances is mentioned as a means to relax the tired limbs of warriors and a way to help the treatment of wounds."

BC 700 Bian Que, the earliest known Chinese physician, uses massage in medical practice.

BC 500 Jīvaka Komarabhācca. According to the Pāli Buddhist Canon, Jivaka was Shakyamuni Buddha's physician. Jivaka is mistakenly credited with founding and developing a style of massage that led to the type of massage practiced in current-day Thailand. He was a doctor and a surgeon, but not a massage therapist.

BC 493: A possible biblical reference documents daily "treatments" with oil of myrrh as a part of the beauty regimen of the wives of Xerxes.

Greek athletes preparing for the Arena

Photo: Depicts the preparation of athletes in the arena before the commission of exercises. To the left, a slave is kneeling to massage the foot of an athlete. The athlete in the centre pours oil from an aryballos into his palm in order to rub his body. The athlete on the right turns the cloth carefully in order to be stripped and then exercise himself. Around 510 BC (the picture is from the book "Olympic History" edited by Stergios Fasoulakis Professor of History, University of Athens, Athens 2004, p. 45). West Berlin, Staatliche Museen.

BC 460: Hippocrates wrote, "The physician must be experienced in many things, but assuredly in rubbing."

BC 300 Charaka Samhita is believed to be the oldest of the three ancient treatises of Ayurvedic medicine, including massage. Sanskrit records indicate that massage had been practiced in India long before the beginning of recorded history.

AD 581: Dr. Sun Si Miao introduces ten new massage techniques and systematized the treatment of childhood diseases using massage therapy.

AD 581: China establishes a department of massage therapy within the Office of Imperial Physicians.

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