The ancient condom was found in Lund, Sweden, and is believed to have been made and used around 1640 A.D. It is made from pig intestine, although before latex, condoms made of sheepskin or intestine was not uncommon.
This 373 year old condom was reusable and came with an owner’s manual written in Latin. The instructions recommend washing the condom in warm milk to prevent disease. This is an interesting detail because it shows the manufacturer realized sheepskin condoms weren’t effective at stopping sexually transmitted diseases. Apparently in the 17th century condoms were only seen as a way to avoid pregnancy.
Other condoms of a similar age were found by archaeologists exploring the foundations of Dudley Castle near Birmingham, England. The English condoms were made of animal and fish intestines and may have been used during the war between Cromwell and King Charles I.
There is (arguable) evidence in cave writings that condoms were used by Egyptians as far back as 1,000 BC. Cave paintings at Combarelles in France are believed to show condom use and are about 2,000 years old. Condoms made of dried sheep intestines were used by Roman soldiers to protect themselves during long campaigns away from home.
While it seems that most condoms were made from animal intestines, some accounts describe rubbers made of linen. Literature suggests that the men had long recognized that condoms prevented unwanted pregnancies. In fact, Casanova, the legendary 19th century womanizer, was said to have used linen condoms regularly. He referred to them as “Redingote Anglaise,” meaning ‘English Riding Coat.”
So, we’ve come a long way, but it’s hard to ignore how little, in retrospect, condoms have changed over the years. Sure, the material is different, and now there’s a plethora of options, but the basic design has barely changed at all. But hey, you know what they say, why fix it if it’s not broken?