Ever wondered what amazing ancient technologies could be like? Living in a technologically advanced era, we never ponder how people survived the ancient centuries without such technological advancements.
Archaeologists frequently discover objects that seem much more advanced than the eras in which they were created. 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.
In today’s world, we all rely on technology. Technology controls everything in the modern world, from basic objects like door-handles to very complex creations like spaceships. You wouldn’t be reading this, and the internet wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for technology!
It’s simple to get caught up in new technology and think of the past as simple and archaic. The reality, however, is far different. We all now enjoy the benefits of numerous breakthroughs made possible by earlier technologies.
For instance, the ancient Greeks created a clock that could, among other things, calculate and track planetary motions and solar eclipses. These innovative creations are frequently called “ahead of their time.”
We prefer to conceive technology innovation as a slow, steady, and largely linear process. This isn’t always the case, though.
Ancient technological examples might range from the bizarre and unexplainable to amazing regarding how far ahead of their time they were. Do you wish to learn more about ancient technologies? Read more below!
1. Greek Fire: The Magic Flames
One of the most iconic moments from Game of Thrones is the Battle of Blackwater, where the outcome of the conflict was decided by a fierce green fire that was uncontrollable by water and continued to burn indefinitely.
What if I told you that some of this conflict is based on real events? Greek fire was a destructive invention from antiquity that was crucial to the crusades. This is the first one on our list of crazy ancient technologies.
In 674 AD, the Muslim Umayyad Caliphate fleet’s ships caught fire as they sought to lay siege to the Byzantine capital of Constantinople. The fact that fire was frequently employed in naval battles and could be quickly put out with cloth, soil, or water did not initially concern the Muslims.
But this fire wasn’t your typical one. Once it was lit, it was impossible to put out, and after the entire fleet had burned to the ground, the sea itself caught fire. The Greeks literally hosed down their opponents with this fire.
Although no recipe has survived, historians believe it may have included petroleum, sulfur, or gunpowder. Petroleum appears to be the most likely possibility of the three, given gunpowder did not become widely available in Asia Minor until the 14th century, and sulfur lacked the destructive strength recorded by Arab observers.
The old idea would eventually be used in many ways by the Greeks, who produced everything from a fire hose (which shoots fire, not water) to fire grenades. The Greeks’ enemies did get the wisdom to use vinegar and stale urine to put out the fire. Nevertheless, Greek fire has never been duplicated. For centuries, the information was well guarded.
Napalm is the closest thing that contemporary technology has to a Greek fire. However, the old invention’s recipe has yet to be discovered.
2. Antikythera Mechanism: An Ancient Cosmic Analog Computer Before Copernicus
For a good reason, when the Antikythera mechanism was first found, it baffled scientists. This ancient device was unearthed on Antikythera, a small, physically unusual Greek island nestled between the more well-known islands of Kythera and Crete.
It was found in 1901 when divers looking for marine sponges came across a collection of underwater artifacts from classical antiquity. The device in question appeared to be made up of about 37 bronze gears kept inside a wooden box, despite being incomplete and in bad shape.
At first glance, you might believe the Antikythera mechanism is nothing special. It appears to be a rock with mold areas. However, upon closer study, you will notice gears that were formerly functional, as well as components that resemble an ancient clock.
The Antikythera mechanism, which was discovered to be more than 2,200 years old, was at first thought to have served as an ancient computer. More thorough research from the 1970s later confirmed what had previously been dismissed as too implausible.
It is thought that the ancient invention was used to travel because it could “replicate the motions of the heavens.” According to the current agreement, the mechanism was an orrery, a solar system model that calculates and keeps track of celestial time.
It could compute the ecliptic longitudes of the moon and sun, the moon’s phases, the planets’ synodic phases, the Metonic Calendar omitted days, and the Olympiad cycle, among many other things.
What’s strange about this device is that if it were widely utilized, wouldn’t we have found more of it? We have yet to come across anything as complex and advanced in the realm of archaeology.
3. Baghdad Battery: The First Taser to Exist
The ceramic pot, copper tube, and iron rod together, known as the “Baghdad battery”, were discovered in Iraq close to the ancient capitals of the Parthian and Sasanian Empires.
This is, without a doubt, one of the most contested ancient technologies on this list. Furthermore, the antique equipment was stolen in 2003 and has yet to be recovered. A German archaeologist found the old device in Khujut Rabu, a location just outside of Baghdad, in 1983.
You can locate an iron rod and a copper cylinder within the clay jar. The “battery” would produce roughly 1 volt of energy if a weak acid, such as vinegar or even grape juice, were to be added to the clay jar.
They think the three different components were originally assembled to form a single apparatus. The unknown is the function of this object, which appears to have been able to produce electricity.
But why would a civilization from the past require a battery?
In reality, archaeologists have only ever discovered one battery. And to make matters worse, the precise purpose of the jar has never been described in writing. But there are a few widely accepted ideas among experts regarding the ancient invention.
It is possible that goods were electroplated using the Baghdad Battery, which involves depositing one metal layer on top of another. Another hypothesis is that the object was utilised during religious rituals. The battery was actually used to shock believers into faith.
Paul Keyser of the University of Alberta in Edmonton developed an alternative, less antiquated, and hence a more tenable explanation in 1993.
He said that rather than acting as a galvanic cell, a battery served as a local analgesic that could numb the pain by discharging an electrical charge. Doing so would have taken the place of electric fish, which were occasionally utilised in Greco-Roman communities to treat headaches, gout, and other ailments.
4. The Houfeng Didong Yi: The World’s First Seismoscope
Every year, earthquake detection technology advances, detecting natural disasters before they occur and saving lives. However, the technology might not be all that novel. It is one of the most advanced ancient technologies, after all.
The Houfeng Didong Yi, which dates back over 2000 years, is the first seismoscope ever made. It originated in China, a nation where earthquakes have been a regular occurrence for as long as anybody can remember.
Zhang Heng, a prominent astronomer, cartographer, mathematician, poet, artist, and inventor who flourished from 78 to 139 AD during the Han Dynasty, was its inventor.
The Chinese Renaissance man, sometimes known as the Leonardo da Vinci of China, was an innovator, astronomer, engineer, scientist, scholar, and artist. Though his lengthy list of contributions and successes are all deserving of notice, his Seismoscope takes the prize.
The Houfeng Didong Yi’s design is both aesthetically beautiful and useful. The mechanism is a sizable copper pot with decorative motifs. Eight tubed projections in the shape of dragon heads were attached to the pot. There was a copper toad with a huge, gaping mouth below each dragon’s head.
Since it can predict both the occurrence of an earthquake and the location of its source, Zhang’s seismoscope is regarded as a seminal invention. The antique device would drop the ball in one of the toads to show the direction of a distant earthquake.
Even more strange, Zhang Heng thought that air and wind were the main causes of earthquakes!
How did he discover a way to locate earthquakes remotely? Researchers are still perplexed by this issue because no one has yet been able to recreate a working gadget effectively.
5. Greek Gates: The Ancient Automated Doors
The automatic doors of ancient Greece were yet another example of the Greeks’ reputation for technical excellence and ingenuity. These self-operating doors also referred to as “automatic gates,” first appeared in the first century A.D. They were frequently installed in places of worship, theatres, and other public spaces.
The doors would automatically open and close using a simple mechanism. Using a system of weights and pulleys, a massive stone or metal slab was hoisted from a central location into the air. Approaching the door would activate a device that would raise the door’s weight, allowing it to be opened. When the user removed their hand, the door would close on its own.
To further increase the efficiency and dependability of their automated doors, the Greeks were particularly well-known for using hydraulics and pneumatics in automated systems.
The doors, sadly, were not as convenient or desired as the contemporary doors of today. In reality, unlocking the antique doors took hours, and once the process had begun, it was difficult to halt. This meant that you probably only had a single daily door opening.
We owe a debt of appreciation to the ancient Greeks for their ingenious and forward-thinking designs of automatic doors, which we continue to use today.
6. Ancient Roman Concrete: The Cement That Stays Intact Forever
Ancient Roman cement, also known as hydraulic cement, sometimes called Pozzolanic cement, was used extensively in ancient Rome and elsewhere to build enduring constructions like aqueducts, bridges, and houses.
The chemical reaction that occurs when volcanic ash, lime, and water combine yields a strong and long-lasting cement. Several ancient Roman building projects would not have been possible without Roman concrete.
Ten Books on Architecture, a document by the architect and engineer Vitruvius, contains the oldest known reference to Roman concrete, which is dated to around 25 BC. Pozzolana, also known as pulvis puteolanus, is a kind of volcanic ash recommended for construction by the architect Vitruvius. Pozzuoli is located near Naples. Pozzolana and lime should be combined in a 3:1 or 2:1 ratio, respectively, depending on the moisture content of the surrounding water.
Roman cement is notable for its resilience against cracking, especially in seismically active or climatically harsh regions. This is because a chemical reaction takes place while mixing, resulting in a crystalline structure that can withstand a lot of pressure before breaking. Its cement’s durability ensured that the buildings it was used it would last for millennia.
In spite of being the most popular construction material in the world, contemporary concrete is vulnerable to the wear and tear that comes from temperature swings, chemical contact, and foot traffic. In order to create new materials that can withstand the test of time, scientists are currently investigating the qualities of ancient Roman cement.
7. Heron’s Aeolipile: The Ancient Steam Engine