Numerous examples of old technology that date back thousands of years have left us in awe of the knowledge and wisdom carried by people in the past. They were created as new, strong civilizations formed and started to rule the ancient world. These civilizations made incredible technological and creative advancements. These technological developments encouraged cultures to adopt new modes of administration, manner of life, and worldviews. But many marvels of ancient technology were lost to history's pages and forgotten, only to be rediscovered thousands of years later. Here, we present the history of ancient technology and dozens of incredible artifacts that illustrate the genius of prehistoric people.
Ancient engineering history
The idea of engineering has been around since people first created virtual devices like the wheel, pulley, and lever. Each of these creations adheres to the contemporary notion of engineering, using fundamental mechanical concepts to develop practical tools and things.
The word "engineer" itself has a considerably more recent history, stemming from the word "engineer," which itself dates back to 1325, when "a constructor of military engines" was initially referred to as an "engineer" (literally, one who operates an engine).
An "engine" in this now-outdated meaning meant a military machine or a piece of equipment used in combat (for example, a catapult). Even further back in time, the Latin word Ingenium (around 1250), which means "innate quality, especially mental strength, consequently a smart creation," is ultimately where the word "engine" comes from.
The term civil engineering later entered the lexicon as a way to distinguish between those specializing in the construction of such non-military projects and those involved in the older discipline of military engineering as the design of civilian structures like bridges and buildings matured as a technical discipline (the original meaning of the word "engineering," now largely obsolete, with notable exceptions that have survived to the present day such as military engineering corps, e. g., the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers).
Ancient Technology vs. Modern Technology
The advancement of numerous engineering sciences is called "ancient technology." These innovations, created to make people's lives easier, occasionally revolutionized the world, but some were also quite hit-and-miss.
Technology from the distant past can date back to the very beginning of the human species. Humanity took its first steps into a world of wonder when it first created tools to aid in hunting. Thousands of years ago, this occurred in Africa.
It was common knowledge that many ancient civilizations had advanced technologies. Ancient Egypt, Greece, Mesopotamia, China, the Indian subcontinent, the Roman Empire, the Persian Empire, and many more nations and civilizations created some intriguing inventions. These historical artifacts were unearthed by archaeologists thousands of years later and are now on display in museums worldwide.
Every day, we are surrounded by modern technologies. Modern advancements include computers, tablets, cell phones, and washing machines. Even though using a tool to wash garments has been done for hundreds of years, the washing machine was created in 1868.
One of the most significant developments in human history was the discovery of electricity. Without Thomas Edison, who created the first electric light bulb with a long lifespan in 1879, the world would be very different from what it is now. Electricity was produced and popularized by other inventors, including Nikola Tesla, Alexander Graham Bell, William Thomas, and Joseph Swan.
Would we be where we are today, exploring space and making daily advances, if it weren't for ancient technology? Nobody is aware. It's still true that prehistoric technology was fascinating. We'll give you some of history's most fascinating examples of it.
World-changing inventions from ancient era
The most important ancient technologies include:
The Wheel (Country: Mesopotamia, Era: 4000 BC)
One of humanity's most important discoveries is still the wheel. It isn't easy to envisage a world without the wheel because so many innovations may be linked to the initial step of creating and mastering the wheel.
According to archaeologists, the wheel is said to have been created approximately 4000 BC, or slightly over 6000 years ago. Although circular and wheel-like items were used earlier, they didn't find their total usage until Mesopotamia, around 4000 BC.
The Calendar (Period: 8000 BC, Country: Several civilizations)
Another instance of ancient technology that changed the globe is the creation of the calendar as a timekeeping device. Calendars may predate writing itself. Early hunters observed the Moon's phases; the first calendars were lunar and solar.
While the solar calendar assisted in determining harvest months, the Middle East and Greece used the lunar calendar to keep track of the time of the month. Many civilizations used lunar calendars, but they were unreliable, and the system finally crumbled. Most people still use the Gregorian calendar, which Pope Gregory XIII first introduced in 1582.
The Compass (Country: China, Era: 200 BC)
The compass's development significantly contributed to the human exploration of our world. Without it, numerous famous explorers would perish, and the connections forged during this voyage would never materialize.
Early compasses were produced in China and frequently contained lodestone. A naturally occurring type of magnetite is called a lodestone. These early creations, though, were more often used for spiritual purposes in 200 BC. Explorers started using lodestones to aid in navigation in 1050 CE.
The Antikythera Mechanism (Period: 87 BC, Country: Greece)
The earliest analog computer is the Antikythera Mechanism. This more than 2000-year-old Greek invention was used to predict dates for various events several years in advance.
It used more than 30 gear wheels to track astrological motions and regional events like the Olympics. Regarding engineering sophistication, the Antikythera Mechanism would not be surpassed for at least another 100 years.
Paper (Date: 3000 B.C., Country: Egypt)
We take our post-its and notebooks for granted, but the creation of paper was unquestionably a significant development that altered the course of history. According to scientists and archaeologists, the paper was originally used as early as 3000 BC. The ancient Egyptians used the papyrus plant's pith to make paper.
Papyrus strips were stitched together to form sheets. Then they were chained and weighted, becoming thin but sturdy. Numerous of these papyrus sheets are still in good condition and allow us to view the hieroglyphic writing that was once written on them, demonstrating the astonishing longevity of papyrus.
Concrete (Country: Egypt, Era: 3000 BC)
What kind of material would today's significant cities be composed of if not for the discovery of concrete? Concrete is a material utilized in almost all construction projects in contemporary cities. It is made of cement, water, broken stone, gravel, and sand.
Cement was created in ancient Egypt in approximately 3000 BC when concrete was first created. The ancient Greeks and Romans also employed aluminum and silica-based concrete. These early ideas helped Joseph Aspdin develop Portland cement around 1824.
Clock (Date: 2000 B.C., Nation: Sumer)
Many of us yearn for a time when there was no concept of time, but the mechanical clock's development was revolutionary. Although time-telling tools have been around for a very long time, the 60-minute, 60-second system that we still use today was developed by the Sumerians in 2000 B.C.
Early clocks used the sun's or the water's movement to tell the time roughly. We are also familiar with timers, candle clocks, and hourglasses. The mechanical clock then followed. The gears were turned by an escapement system driven by water.
Printing Press (Period: 1436 AC, Country: Germany)
The printing press was created in 1436 A.D. by German goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg, making it a far more recent invention. However, printing as a craft existed before that.
In China, there are indications of woodblock printing dating back to the ninth century. Around 100 years before Gutenberg announced his monumental innovation, Korean bookmakers used movable metal types, a later development.
Around 12,000 years ago, humanity hunkered down. Though they had previously roamed the planet to scavenge for food, individuals decided to devote themselves to agriculture. They spent their days cultivating seeds, gathering produce, and amassing the world's first food surpluses.
Ultimately, segments of the human population could focus on developing modest, agrarian communities into bustling cities because of the security that ample food gave. They could build imposing temples and palaces and devote themselves to the developing fields of philosophy, politics, and the arts.
Here are seven prehistoric cultures known for their inventiveness and creativity. (The exact time frames for these civilizations are approximate and subject to academic disagreement.)
Ancient Sumerian Culture (4500 B.C. to 1900 B.C.)
The first civilizations in human history are said to have originated in ancient Sumer, a region in Mesopotamia located above the shared floodplains of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Around 10000 B.C., Mesopotamia's "Fertile Crescent" permitted ancient populations to settle and support themselves with cultivation. These groups, known as the Sumerians today, were able to plant crops in such abundance by around 4500 B.C. that they could build the first cities in the world without getting hungry.
Sumerian cities such as Eridu, Uruk, and Ur included tall temples and palace complexes. The written word is also attributed to the ancient Sumerians: They used a writing method known as cuneiform to scratch clay tablets as far back as 5,000 years. This system allowed them to trace grain transportation around their domain, communicate stories and myths, and provide advice on agriculture and cooking, among other things. Mesopotamia's present moniker as, the "Cradle of Civilization" was made possible by these inventions. The Sumerians also established the first schools, codified the first codes of law, invented irrigation, and developed our modern understanding of time by breaking the day into hours, minutes, and seconds. They also made significant contributions to mathematics, astronomy, and astrology.
The Indus Valley Culture (3300 B.C. to 1300 B.C.)
Agriculturalists established small settlements throughout the Indus River Valley in modern-day India and Pakistan around 7000 B.C. These communities saw a very rapid expansion beginning at approximately 3300 B.C. Although the Sumerians created cities, the inhabitants of the Indus Valley refined them. For instance, Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, which housed 40,000–50,000 people, had baked-brick structures. These cities were kept clean by sophisticated sewer and water supply systems, and their wide streets formed a precise grid pattern, indicating that these locations were well-planned.
The meticulous urban planning in Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa shows that the inhabitants of the Indus Valley desired homogeneity. Their ubiquitous bricks had uniform dimensions, and one of their most significant inventions was the standardization of weights and measurements. Other discoveries included a puzzling writing system that is still impossible to comprehend and innovative metallurgical methods.
Earlier Egypt (3100 B.C. to 30 B.C.)
By 6000 B.C., inhabitants had found refuge in the sweltering sands near the banks of the Nile. They cultivated the land and established villages, and around 3100 B.C., these communities developed into bustling metropolises under the control of pharaohs who served as divine mediators between the people and their deities as well as politicians who made laws, demanded taxes, waged war, and governed their domains.
Under the pharaohs, the Egyptians flourished for thousands of years and achieved fame for their innovations in several scientific domains. For instance, they thoroughly understood what would later become arithmetic, astronomy, and anatomy. They were adept at mending broken bones and stitching wounds, leading to their claim that they invented surgery. (It is genuinely hypothesized that their mummification practices affected their aptitude for medicine.)
The ancient Egyptians wrote a lot as well. They created a hieroglyphic writing system on their own, engraving hundreds or even thousands of alphabetic, syllabic, and logographic symbols in stone. This ancient culture also invented a number of derivative writing systems that were written on papyrus, a sturdy material formed from plant pith that was widespread throughout the floodplains. The ancient Egyptians excelled as builders beyond everything else. Their structures, such as the Great Sphinx and the Pyramids at Giza, remind them of their early creativity. Their temples and tombs rank among the finest buildings ever built.
Ancient Egyptian technology
Technology utilized or invented in ancient Egypt is referred to as ancient Egyptian technology. The ramp and the lever are examples of the many straightforward devices the Egyptians created and employed to facilitate construction. To reinforce the beam of ships, they utilized rope trusses. Papyrus-based Egyptian paper and ceramics were produced in large quantities and exported throughout the Mediterranean region. There were several uses for the wheel, but chariots only appeared in the Second Intermediate Period. The Egyptians greatly aided the development of ships and lighthouses, as well as other maritime technology used in the Mediterranean.
Early and Ancient Imperial China (2070 B.C. to A.D. 220)
One of the earliest civilizations in the world was nurtured in the Yellow River Valley in China. Around 5000 B.C., the region saw the emergence of its earliest farming communities. From these humble beginnings, a centralized government developed. Chinese civilization was ruled by a number of succeeding dynasties beginning with the Xia (2070–1600 B.C.). These kingdoms were said to be supported by a heavenly mandate, which became known as the "Mandate of Heaven." This political theory forbade improper behavior by leaders and urged them to take care of their subjects.
Chinese culture grew both in peaceful and turbulent times. Chinese scribes began using modern-looking characters in the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 B.C.). By 400 B.C., the concepts of notable individuals like Confucius had become complete belief systems emphasizing virtue and filial devotion. The earliest silk and the first types of paper were made by Chinese artisans, in addition to their philosophical accomplishments. They also developed the earliest block printing techniques and marine compasses. One of China's most enduring legacies is the practice of acupuncture and herbal treatment. Chinese builders are renowned for having built and connected the initial sections of the Great Wall, one of history's most significant architectural achievements. The 7th century B.C. saw the beginning of this enormous project.
Maya Civilization of the Past (1000 B.C. to A.D. 1520)
Mesoamerican communities began raising maize and beans and building permanent homes in what is now southeast Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and parts of Honduras and El Salvador around 7000 B.C. The ancient Maya cities, built around enormous administrative and ceremonial complexes that seemed to reach the stars, began supplanting these communities around 1000 B.C.
The Maya were fascinated with the sky. They constructed sizable observatories and meticulously recorded planetary motion using an advanced writing system that incorporated pictorial and phonetic letters. They also made accurate long-range forecasts about the placements of celestial objects. The Maya people's famed timekeeping system was influenced by their knowledge of Venus, Mars, and the Moon's motions. This system included intricate interconnecting calendars that coordinated their religious observances and agricultural activity with specific astronomical events. The Maya calendar, which is still used by many of their 6 million modern descendants, also captivates modern brains.
Early Greece (1100 B.C. to A.D. 140)
Despite leaving a lasting cultural legacy, ancient Greece wasn't the first civilization to emerge on the rugged Mediterranean coasts. Around 7000 B.C., agricultural communities spread over the Aegean Sea and developed into cultures like the Minoan and Mycenaean. In reality, the latter had a significant impact on the Greeks, who created the first varieties of their language and worshiped a number of deities, including Zeus, Poseidon, and Athena, who would eventually make up the Greek pantheon. They also influenced the most significant myths of ancient Greece, especially those that described the Trojan War exploits of the famous Mycenaean warriors Achilles and Odysseus.
The Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations vanished by 1100 B.C.. By the 8th century B.C., a small number of independent city-states like Athens, Sparta, and Thebes started to rule the Greek region. Although these city-states had different cultures, they were united by a common language, religion, and enthusiasm for invention. Greek thinkers set the path for modern medicine, mathematics, and science and became the first proponents of theories like atomism and heliocentrism. While society's poets, like Homer and Hesiod, pioneered Western literature. Western philosophy was also promoted by ancient Greek thinkers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. The culture most significantly contributed to the development of modern democracies.
Ancient Greek technology
The fifth century B.C. saw the development of Greek technology, which continued through the Roman era and beyond. The gear, screw, rotary mills, bronze casting methods, water clock, water organ, the torsion catapult, use of steam to run several experimental machines and toys, and a chart to identify prime numbers are among the inventions attributed to the ancient Greeks. Late in the Greek era, several innovations were made, frequently spurred on by the requirement to advance military equipment and strategies. However, their early construction of the watermill, a tool that led to more significant, extensive exploitation under the Romans, demonstrates peaceful usage. Many of their technical innovations, including those in surveying and mathematics, were documented by philosophers like Archimedes and Heron.
The inventive contributions of the ancient Greeks to a wide range of human endeavors, from sports to medicine, architecture to democracy, have earned them the outstanding distinction of laying the foundations upon which all western cultures are constructed.
Like any other society before or since, the Greeks learned from the past, adopted practical concepts they encountered when interacting with different cultures, and created their original ideas. Here are just a few examples of the distinctive contributions made by ancient Greek inventions to world civilization, many of which are still in use today:
Columns, stadiums, human sculpture, democracy, the jury system, mechanical devices, mathematical reasoning, geometry, the Olympic Games, philosophy, astronomy, science, and theater are examples.
Earlier Rome (750 B.C. to A.D. 470)
Rome was one of history's largest empires, encompassing vast areas of the Mediterranean and beyond, even though it started as a small village along the banks of the Tiber on the Italian Peninsula around 750 B.C. The Romans frequently appropriated the concepts and creations of those they encountered as they expanded their realm of influence. For example, they added to their pantheon by absorbing the deities and rituals of the Greeks, Egyptians, and several other nations. They also compiled and organized knowledge from around the Mediterranean region, creating the first encyclopedias still in existence today. In reality, Pliny the Elder's Naturalis Historia was said to contain 20,000 facts drawn from diverse cultures and to encompass all of the prehistoric understanding of art, architecture, and natural history.
The Roman appropriation was not without inventiveness, especially regarding state-sponsored building initiatives. Although the Romans did not invent the road, arch, and aqueduct, their versions were known for their durability and strength, and some are still in use today. Their buildings stand as a testament to the talent of the time's architects alongside the temples and amphitheaters, such as the Pantheon and the Colosseum, that are still standing today thanks to the Romans' advances in concrete. They serve as a reminder that many amazing modern inventions have origins in the past.