16 Incredible Examples of Ancient Technology
With everyone having a cell phone in their pockets and laptops in their backpacks, it’s hard to imagine a time without technology. Most people assume ancient civilizations only had primitive tools for hunting animals and carrying out daily tasks. Well, it turns out that ancient civilizations were far more advanced than people realize. No, they weren’t walking around with their entire music collection on their phone, however, scientists continue to find ancient technology that proves they were ahead of their time. Some ancient technology was so groundbreaking it’s still in use today. Essential items we take for granted were game-changing discoveries in ancient history.
On the other hand, archeologists continue to discover lost ancient technology that baffles, impresses, and blows their minds. The tech is so advanced that humans today struggle to understand it. During the Stone Age, humans found new ways to use stone that changed their daily life. Followed by the Bronze Age, humans began using bronze to create technology never seen before. Finally, the Iron Age allowed humans to go places they never thought possible. Here’s a look at 16 incredible examples of ancient technology.
16 Incredible Examples of Ancient Technology
1. Antikythera Mechanism
Considered the first analog computer, the Antikythera mechanism is likely from the 1st or 2nd century BC. Discovered in 1901 after a shipwreck, it consists of over 30 complex bronze gears.
The Ancient Greek device kept track of the galaxy, the moon, the sun, and other planets. It could also predict future events such as eclipses and the Ancient Olympic Games, which occur every four years. It’s one of the most incredible and puzzling pieces of ancient technology.
2. Greek Fire
The Byzantine Empire was an unstoppable force for thousands of years partly because of their secret weapon, Greek fire. Basically, it was an ancient flamethrower with a secret chemical. Often used to win battles at sea, Greek fire was likely a mix of niter, sulfur, petroleum, and quicklime. They used a device similar to a flamethrower to set ships ablaze, giving them the win each time.
Capable of destroying large fleets, the chemical could burn on water for hours. However, the ancient technology and its secret formula disappeared with the fall of the Byzantine Empire.
3. Damascus Steel
Able to slice through rocks, Damascus steel was a strong metal used to forge the most feared swords in ancient history. With its unique rose pattern, it consisted of cementite and soft iron.
Using imported wootz steel from East Asia, Damascus steel was popular in the Middle East around 1100 AD. Unfortunately, it became a lost art form during the mid-1700s and soon faded into history.
4. The Compass
The creation of a little device in Ancient China over two thousand years ago would change the world forever. Before everyone had a GPS, the only way to get around was with a compass and a map. The first versions of compasses consisted of naturally magnetized pieces of magnetite called lodestone.
Compasses were created during the Han Dynasty in 200 BC, allowing humans to explore the world and discover new parts. However, that wasn’t the initial purpose. Instead, the Han Dynasty used it for spiritual reasons.
Also known as the South pointing fish, the Song Dynasty began using it for navigation during the 11th century. Later, it became a crucial device in human history that let explorers discover a whole new world.
5. Death Ray
From the ancient city of Syracuse, Sicily, mathematician Archimedes is one of history’s most brilliant minds. He was also the mastermind of some of ancient civilization’s most deadly weapons. The aptly named death ray was a devastating weapon that helped maintain power.
The death ray consisted of bronze and either a series of small mirrors or one large mirror. Mounted on the Syracuse sea walls, the death ray would amplify the sunlight shooting it at their enemy’s ships, causing them to burn down in flames.
Nowadays, paper seems like an ordinary thing mainly used to print off school assignments. Of course, the invention of paper drastically changed the world. Paper traces its roots back to Ancient Egypt in the form of Papyrus.
Using the pith of the papyrus plant, Ancient Egyptians wove strips of papyrus together to create sheets. The thickness and durability of papyrus have endured for centuries, allowing Ancient history and hieroglyphics to survive.
7. Roman Concrete
The Roman Empire is known for constructing architectural marvels that still exist today. Apparently, modern-day concrete doesn’t compare to the mysterious Roman concrete. Used to build the Pantheon and Colosseum, structures with Roman concrete are still standing.
It took scientists years to discover the secret ingredient is volcanic ash. However, they’re still unable to replicate the process. For the time being, we’re stuck with regular concrete.
8. Nimrud Lens
A Nimrud lens is an ancient piece of technology that still baffles scientists today. They can’t agree on the device’s purpose but agree it’s an incredible piece of history. Discovered in 1850 in modern-day Iraq, the 8th-century rock crystal had a slightly oval shape with 12 cavities consisting of naphtha.
Some archeologists believe the ancient Assyrians used the lens as part of a telescope to study the universe. That would help explain the Assyrians’ deep understanding of astronomy. For example, the Assyrians viewed the planet Saturn as a god surrounded by serpents, which might have been their interpretation of Saturn’s rings.
However, many scientists doubt the Assyrians had the technology to build a telescope and instead used the Nimrud lens for decorative purposes.
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9. Iron Pillar of Delhi
Built between 375 and 415 CE, the Iron Pillar of Delhi is a mind-blowing rust-free structure. Of course, stainless steel had yet to be invented and didn’t appear until the mid-1900s. Hence, scientists can’t wrap their heads around the Iron Pillar’s design.
Standing at 23.6 feet (7.2 meters) and weighing between 3 and 6.5 tons, the 4th-century Iron Pillar has withstood intense winds and rains for centuries. Located at the Qutub Minar complex in Delhi, the Iron Pillar remains in good condition and is one of the most baffling ancient technologies.
10. The Wheel
Nowadays, most people take the wheel for granted. However, it’s a groundbreaking ancient technology vital to human history. It paved the way for technology that would continue to impact humanity.
Scientists are unclear of the exact origins of the wheel but credit the Mesopotamian civilization with inventing it around 4000 BC. In addition to the wheel, Mesopotamia was the site of the Neolithic Revolution, notably the development of mathematics, agriculture, and astronomy.
11. The Lycurgus Cup
Scientists still struggle to understand a lot of the technology during the reign of The Roman Empire. For instance, the mysterious Lycurgus Cup isn’t a common chalice. Discovered in the 1950s, the 4th-century Lycurgus Cup is possibly the first example of nanotechnology.
Portraying the death of King Licinius in 308 AD, the cup consists of dichroic glass, allowing it to change color depending on the angle at which the light hits it. With gold and silver particles, the chalice changes from solid green to translucent red when light passes through it. Despite spending hours studying the well-preserved caged cup, scientists still can’t figure out how the Romans constructed the stunning piece of art.
During ancient history, the calendar was a groundbreaking invention that changed daily life in a significant way. The simple ancient technology kept track of the moon but had various formats depending on the region. Most areas used the lunar and solar calendars, such as Ancient Greece. They often used the lunar calendar to track the harvest seasons.
Some Ancient civilizations divided the calendar into 12 months, but the year started based on the lunar cycle. Despite the advantages, ancient calendars relied on a flawed and broken system that didn’t work in the long run. Later, Pope Gregory XIII introduced the world to the Gregorian Calendar, which is still in use today.
13. Zhang Heng Seismoscope
Since the dawn of time, humans have strived to understand natural disasters, namely earthquakes. Dating back to Ancient China, seismologist Zhang Heng studied earthquakes during the Han Dynasty in 132 AC. He even invented the earliest seismoscope to predict earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
With its unique and eye-catching design, Zhang Heng’s seismoscope could detect an earthquake within a 400-mile radius regardless if it occurred in the area. The incredible piece of ancient history influenced modern-day technology as well.
14. The Great Pyramids of Giza
As one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Great Pyramids of Giza have captivated humans for centuries since its construction in 2550 BC. The massive structures consist of 2.5 million rocks weighing between 2.5 to 15 tons. Standing at roughly 452 feet tall (138 meters), it’s one of the largest structures in the world built by humans.
With its unique design featuring multiple chambers, scientists are still uncertain how humans built the Great Pyramids of Giza. They guess it took more than 25 years to construct, possibly by an advanced civilization that existed roughly 4,500 years ago.
15. Vitrum Flexile
Also known as flexible Roman glass, Vitrum Flexile is a lost technology that could have significantly changed human history. Created by Petronius in 63 AD, the inventor presented the flexible glass to Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar. As a demonstration, he dropped the glass bowl, but it didn’t shatter. Instead, there was a small dent that Petronius quickly fixed with a hammer.
Expecting a reward for his incredible discovery, Tiberius had Petronius beheaded instead. The emperor feared that Vitrum Flexile would devalue silver and gold. Since Petronius was the only person to know the formula, it died with him. Many experts believe Roman glass might be related to optic fiber.
16. 12-Hour Clock
People often feel like they don’t have enough time or too much time on their hands. Well, it turns out that ancient civilizations felt the same way. The 12-hour clock is a fundamental part of life. At one time in history, the most brilliant minds tried to study time, the solar and lunar cycles. The 12-hour clock dates back to Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Egyptians often used a sundial during the day while using a water clock at night. These clocks first appeared around 1500 BC and divided the day into 12 hours. Also popular during that time in other parts of the world were incense clocks, hourglasses, and candle clocks.
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