More than 4000 years ago, according to Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus, asphalt was used in the construction of the walls and towers of Babylon; there were oil pits near Ardericca (near Babylon), and a pitch spring on Zacynthus. Great quantities of it were found on the banks of the river Issus, one of the tributaries of the Euphrates. Ancient Persian tablets indicate the medicinal and lighting uses of petroleum in the upper levels of their society. By 347 CE, oil was produced from bamboo-drilled wells in China.
In the 1850s, the process to distill kerosene from petroleum was invented by Ignacy Łukasiewicz, providing a cheaper alternative to whale oil. The demand for the petroleum as a fuel for lighting in North America and around the world quickly grew. The world's first commercial oil well was drilled in Poland in 1853. Oil exploration developed in many parts of the world with the Russian Empire, particularly the Branobel company in Azerbaijan (Asia's first modern borehole oil production began in 1848 at the Bibi-Heybat field near Baku), taking the lead in production by the end of the 19th century.[verification needed]