No one really knows when fans first came into being but we do see them early and can only suspect that they came about even earlier. Some have even survived, a thin gold fan (chased – hammered metal) was found in the grave of Tutankhamen from 1350 BCE, a woven bamboo fan from the 2nd century BCE was found in China, and then there is the fan of Queen Theodolinda made of purple vellum from the 6th century CE. In Ancient Rome fans or flabellum served a few purposes: ceremonial to waft/ignite incense, to beat grain, fan cooking flames, and of course to keep cool… cooler.
Flabellum (fan) from a stone relief from the Roman lapidarium at Seggau Castle near Leibnitz “Jontes Flood of Images” (Austria-Forum, Günther Jontes)
Greek Fans dating back to the 4th century BCE
Bottom: Statue of a Woman with Blue and Gilt Garment, Fan and Sun Hat, from Tanagra 300 BCE
Depictions of Parasols