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14 Ancient Technologies That Were Way Ahead Of Their Time

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With every turn in human history, technology is subjected to develop and mold our way of life and the way we look at things around us. Archaeologists have identified ancient technologies that leave modern-day scientists in shock and awe. Some of these discoveries might seem to be ahead of their time but these technologies proved to be handy in plotting military strategy as well as paved the way for revolutionary changes in scientific advancements. Though these inventions were groundbreaking, it gives their due respect to the cultural and societal habitat it was inspired.

In the words of Nikola Tesla, “The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of existence.” Indeed, technology and mankind have together come a long way in numerous scientific fields. Let’s have a look at the most exquisite technologies used in ancient times.

  1. The Antikythera Mechanism

    Antikythera Mechanism

Invented in 1901, the Antikythera mechanism, was the ancient Greek computer with bronze components assembled in a wooden box designated to ‘replicate the motions of heavens’. In other words, a device able to augur astrological movements as well as dates and times of sporting events such as the Olympic Games. It was developed amid trading ships dating back to around 100 BCE.

The Antikythera mechanism was used as a scientific dial, much bigger than a mantel clock, and operated using 30 gear wheels. It would display celestial time with the help of planets as guides. It tracks the Moon’s position using epicyclic gearing and a slot and pin mechanism to mirror the variations in the Moon’s movement across the sky. A technology surpassing this degree of sophistication is yet to be developed.

  1. Rocks of Sacsayhuaman

Rocks of Sacsayhuaman

Located on the fringes of Cusco, in Peru, Sacsayhuaman is a megalithic site created with stones weighing over 50 tonnes. These stones are shaped and arranged in a way that it appears that the rocks precisely fit into their place such that a single sheet of paper cannot slide through these assembled rocks.

Standing 3701 meters above sea level, some of these rocks consist of bent corners appear that they were softened around their corners. Large stones with softened edges were also implied in the structures built in Egypt. Predating the Incas, the creation of Sacsayhuaman is a mystery of whether it is the craftsmanship of man or the Gods.

  1. Baghdad Battery

Baghdad Battery

Among the most controversial ancient inventions, the Baghdad Battery also known as the Parthian Battery was discovered by a German archaeologist in 1983 on the outskirts of Baghdad (Khujut Rabu). It is pre-dated between 150 BCE to 650 AD.

This 2,000-year-old technology is described as an ancient edition of a ‘battery’. It is a clay jar with a copper cylinder and iron rod inserted within it. If a weak acid is poured into the clay jar, it would generate about 1 volt of electricity.

Though many archaeologists have found only one battery, there is still a blurry explanation as to why this battery was needed. As theorized, the battery was used in electroplating, in which a layer of metal was placed over another. Baghdad battery is also claimed to be a part of religious rites by electrocuting people into belief.

  1. Automated Doors

Automated doors

Automated doors are said to be an ideation of the Greeks going back to 1 AD. Though automated doors were developed in 1931 and are seen as a technology of the ‘modern-age’.

Greeks made use of a hydraulic system for this technology. If ancient Greek wanted to open automated doors, fire is required to be lit generating the heat for an atmospheric build-up in brass vessels. These vessels would be filled with water increasing their weight and causing the doors to open.

Though this system seems not as efficient as the automated doors in the city as they took hours to open, the process could not be tackled once started.

  1. Ancient Model Aircraft

Ancient Aircraft Model

Present-day aircraft have, surprisingly, similar in formation to the ancient Egyptian and Central American cultures. In Saqqara, an Egyptian artifact was discovered in a tomb in 1898. This artifact was a six-foot-long wooden object which seemed to have a fuselage, a tail, wings, and even a pilot’s seat. This model, around 1000-year-old, is made of gold and is considered to be a faulty replica of a delta wing aircraft.

  1. Houfeng Didong Yi

Houfeng Didong Yi

An ancient Chinese artifact dating back to 2,000 years ago, Houfeng Didong Yi, is a seismoscope and is the first earthquake detection device in human history. The inventor of the device was Zhang Heng who was also an astronomer, engineer, scientist, scholar, and artist. Houfeng Didong Yi was one of the many accomplishments Zhang Heng has achieved.

This was a jar-shaped seismoscope that had eight tubed projections in the shape of dragon heads with corresponding eight toads at its base. Each toad indicated the direction of the traveling seismic wave. When an earthquake was detected, the device would drop a ball in one of the toads.

Zhang Heng was of the thinking that earthquakes are caused by wind air. He stated, “the chief cause of earthquakes is, an element naturally swift and shifting from place to place. As long as it is not stirred, but lurks in a vacant space, it reposes innocently, giving no trouble to objects around it.”

The inventor further explains, “but any cause coming upon it from without rouses it, or compresses it, and drives it into a narrow space….and when the opportunity of escape is cut off, then ‘With a deep murmur of the Mountain it roars around the barriers ‘, which after long battering it dislodges and tosses on high, growing fiercer the stronger the obstacle with which it has contended.”

The most fascinating fact today is, that no one has been able to produce a similar device to date.

  1. Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Stonehenge is an arrangement of 75 giant stones constructed between 3000 BCE and 2000 BCE. Since archaeologists have no evidence of the construction of this structure, the placement of these stones is subjected to debates. It is believed that stones were transported either by rolling the stone across logs or on a sleigh with the help of animal fat greasing the track of the stones to the rolled.

Stonehenge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a British icon. Stonehenge is a megalithic structure that functions as a celestial observatory, being used to predict eclipses, solstices, equinoxes, and more. Occasions of summer solstices and winter equinox were celebrated at Stonehenge itself.  This ancient structure aid modern technology to create maps and tracking stars.

  1. The Armored Car

Armoured car

One of Leonardo da Vinci’s ideas, the armored car, was restricted by the times it was thought. Da Vinci’s creations including the ball-wearing, revolving bridge, parachute, and machine gun are used prominently today. But the very idea of an armored car can be stated as the inspiration of a tank, which is an armored vehicle loaded with canons flexible in all directions.

  1. Viking Compass

Viking Compass

The Vegvisir, popularly known as the Viking compass or the runic compass was a symbol of protection. It was made of eight Viking rune staves and functions with the same degree of accuracy as that of a modern-day GPS.  it used sunstones to navigate at sea.

The eight staves of the compass indicated the cardinal and intercardinal direction (North, North-East, East, South-East, South, and so on). The compass consists of a nail in the center of the device whose shadow pointed the directions. The Viking compass is a highly placed symbol of spiritual guidance in the Asatru faith as well as acts as a symbol of Icelandic culture.

  1. Greek Fire

Greek fire

Greek Fire or sea fire or Roman fire or war fire is a destructive invention developed at the hands of the Eastern Roman Empire in 672 AD. This military weapon made its debut when the Byzantines were under attack by the Muslims. The Greeks forced their rivals to kneel with this fire leaving the attacking forces in complete shock and awe. They later developed to create fire grenades.

Greeks out-smarted their enemies by combining vinegar and old urine to create Greek fire. No one has been able to regenerate the Greek fire, except Napalm which came the closest to this military technology.

  1. Archimedes Heat-Ray Weapons

Heat Ray

Another ancient technology subjected to prominent debates is Archimedes’ heat-ray weapon. This device was used to bring rival forces down using large metal mirrors to direct the Sun’s rays on the enemy, setting them on fire.

A Greek scientist, Ioannis Sakkas, produced a very similar weapon and put it to the test. He used 70 copper-coated mirrors, teased roman warships standing 50 meters away, and burned down the roman ships in the blink of an eye. The attacking ship was filled with tar that acted as a combustion agent.

  1. Aeolipile

Aeolipile

A steamed turbine developed in the 1st century AD, Aeolipile, was invented by Heron of Alexandria, a mathematician, and engineer. This turbine was a hollow sphere that functioned by turning a pair of hollow tubes facilitating steam to the sphere from a cauldron. The steam from the hollow tubes caused the device to circulate at high speeds.

Aeolipile was mostly used for entertainment as a children’s toy. The device could not be further developed acquiring fuel for the device meant traveling long distances. Modern inventors recreated this device overcoming its limitations.

  1. The Great Pyramid of Giza

The Great Pyramid of Giza

One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Pyramid of Giza, is one of the three huge pyramids standing on a large plain in the west of Cairo, for around 4500 years ago. At the time, Egyptians were not equipped with rudimentary tools or machinery like cranes. They only had limited knowledge of astronomy and copper tools. The construction required an unimaginable amount of labor taking 20 years to build each pyramid.

The pyramids are built with such precision that each structure is 1/15th of a degree to north, south, east, and west, making it the most accurately placed structure in the world. In addition, it is located at the center of the earth’s land mass as well as the east/west parallel and north/south meridian intersect at the Great Pyramid.

The mathematicians that designed the pyramids measured the radius of the sun with the perimeter of the granite coffers and the weight of the pyramids relative to the earth’s mass. Some believe that the Great Pyramids may have been built with the help of alien technology.

  1. The Non-Rusting Iron Pillar of Delhi

The Non-Rusting Iron Pillar of Delhi

A pillar of iron stands in the capital of the Indian subcontinent, Delhi. The non-rusting iron pillar was constructed in the reign of King Chandra. It is 7.2 meters high with a 16-inch diameter and weighs over 3000 kilograms.

The pillar has ancient writings engraved on it, which is well-preserved as the structure remains unaffected by exposure to moisture. Scientists examined the three-phase process to create a thin protective layer over the pillar. This method of preventing iron from rusting is aged over a thousand years old and is effective even today.

This and many technological advancements executed by our ancestors in recorded human history shines a light on future developments.

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