Sesame oil is a traditional oil that has been used in various cultures around the world for at least 5000 years. Archeological excavations throughout the Middle East revealed the use of sesame oil dating back to 3000 BC. Persia and India were also cultivating this tiny treasure for its oil. Sesame oil was the ideal base for making exotic perfumes, a practice that dates back to the Babylonians circa 2100 to 689 BC. The Babylonians also used the oil for cooking, and sesame cakes. They also made wine from sesame and even perfected a brandy employing sesame seeds.
The Chinese used the oil not only as a light source but also to create soot from which they made their superior stick ink over 5,000 years ago. Ancient Chinese calligraphic works of art using stick ink made from sesame oil may still be in existence in museums.
Palace records of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, 6th century BC, were carefully kept on clay tablets. One of the entries mentions a purchase of sesame oil. Records show that the Egyptians used the oil about 1500 BC as ceremonial purification. Historians such as 4th century Theophrastus, mention that sesame seeds were cultivated in Egypt. During that same period, Africa, too, cultivated the sesame seed in Ethiopia, the Sudan, and what was once Tanganyika.
Sprinkling sesame seeds on breads before baking them probably feels like a 20th century culinary innovation, but history reveals that it's not. The ancient tombs of important Egyptian nobles were decorated with colorful paintings. One tomb, dating back 4,000 years, contains a scene of a baker sprinkling sesame seeds into his dough. Dioscorides, a 1st century AD historian, tells us the Sicilian bakers were eagerly sprinkling sesame seeds on their breads centuries ago.