Ancient technology that was centuries ahead of its time
Archaeologists repeatedly stumble upon artifacts that seem way too advanced for the times from which they originate. The ancient Greeks, for instance, developed a clock capable of calculating and tracking planetary motions and solar eclipses among other things. These forward-thinking inventions are often called "ahead of their time." In reality, they are reflections of the ingenuity of their respective civilizations.
Archaeological excavations throughout the world reveal that, once in a while, ancient civilizations developed inventions that were decades if not centuries ahead of their time.
It is sometimes said that these inventions rival or outmatch modern science. This, too, is a misconception. While many ancient super technologies — from Roman concrete to Damascus steel — were once lost, they have since been recreated by present-day researchers.
When the Muslim fleet of the Umayyad Caliphate attempted to lay siege to the Byzantine city of Constantinople in 674, their ships were doused in flames. At first, the Muslims were not alarmed; fire was often used in naval warfare and could be put out easily with cloth, dirt, or water. This, however, was no ordinary fire. Once ignited, it could not be extinguished, and after the entire fleet had burned down, even the sea itself was set ablaze.
The Antikythera mechanism, which was found to be over 2,200 years old, had functioned as an ancient computer.
CT scans reveal the contraptions mind boggling complexity, combining cycles from Babylonian astronomy, mathematics from Plato’s Academy, and ancient Greek astronomical theories. It could calculate the ecliptic longitudes of the moon and sun, the phases of the moon, the synodic phases of the planets, the excluded days of the Metonic Calendar, and the Olympiad cycle, among a myriad of other things.
Damascus steel swords originated in the Middle East during the 9th century and were renowned for their appearance as well as their durability, being multiple times stronger and sharper than the Western swords used during the Crusades.
Their name, derived from the Arabic word for “water,” references not only the Syrian city from which they hailed but also the flowing pattern that adorns their surface. This pattern was created during a unique forging process where small ingots of wootz steel sourced from India, Sri Lanka, or Iran were melted with charcoal and cooled at an incredibly slow rate.
Created almost 2000 years ago, the Houfeng Didong Yi holds the honor of being the world’s first seismoscope. Its place of origin was China, a country that has been plagued by earthquakes for as long as its inhabitants can remember. Its creator was Zhang Heng, a distinguished astronomer, cartographer, mathematician, poet, painter, and inventor who lived under the Han Dynasty from 78 to 139 AD.
Many architectural projects of ancient Rome would not have been possible without Roman concrete. Also known as opus caementicium, Roman concrete was a hydraulic-setting cement mix consisting of volcanic ash and lime that bound rock fragments into “a single stone mass” and made them impregnable to the waves and every day stronger.
Archaeologists use the term “Baghdad battery” to refer to a ceramic pot, copper tube, and iron rod that were found in Iraq near what was once the capital of both the Parthian and subsequent Sasanian Empire. They believe the three distinct objects once fitted together to create a single device. The purpose of this device, which seems to have been capable of generating electricity, remains unclear.
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These astounding inventions show that civilizations of the past were a lot more advanced than we might have thought.
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