Wearing a mask is an ancient human practice and the History of Mask is dated back with the history of human beings. Initially, wearing a mask was started for an anthropological practice but with the passage of time it become a protection practice also.
A mask is an object worn on the face for several purposes including protection, entertainment or anthropological expression etc as a part of human culture since ancient times.
The oldest masks that have been discovered are about 10,000 years old and are stored usually at the Musée “Bible et Terre Sainte” (Paris) whereas some of the artistic sculptures are showing the practice history of 30,000–40,000 years BC.
Masks have also been in practice throughout the human history for sports, wars, rituals, theatrical uses and to act as mediators of supernatural forces but their medical uses are found since Babylon and Persian civilization.
Throughout the History of Mask, several kind of masks such as oxygen masks, dust masks, anesthetic masks, burn masks, surgical masks, face shields and pocket masks or CPR masks etc have been found.
Dust masks are most common types of masks used currently for protection to filter the outside air. These masks are also to protect against flying objects or dangerous environmental particles.
Wearing a mask became a common practice among communities to protect themselves during pandemics when a French biologist in 1861, Louis Pasteur proved the existence of microbial organism like bacteria in the air. Soon after that in 1899, masks of six layers of gauze were developed for enhanced protection.
Same kind of practice was found in East during the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), when Chinese medical scientist Wu Liande invented a mask made of two layers of gauze called “Wu’s mask” in response to a plague in Northeast China.
Development of masks has been evolved to enhance protection against viruses and contaminated air during the several outbreaks of infectious diseases and flu in past centuries.
In recent years, Mask models such as N95, KN90 with enhanced filtering power have become more popular all over the world especially during the modern pandemic of Covid19. A recent concept of 3D mask development is in practice to provide protection in three dimensions.
Development and evolution of masks for protection against viruses, bacteria and other air pollutants have been a human practice as masks can provide about 90% protection.
These masks due to their anthropological practice are also reminders about the danger out there that if we are wearing this mask, we should be much careful to ensure our >99% safety from the infection and contamination.
References of the History of Mask:
- Edson, Gary (2005). Masks and Masking: Faces of Tradition and Belief Worldwide. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co.
- Lommel, Andreas (1981) . Masks: Their Meaning and Function. London: Ferndale Editions. p. Introduction, after Himmelheber Afrikanische Masken. ISBN 0-905746-11-2.