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10 Incredible Ancient Technologies that were Way Ahead of their Time

ancient technologies

We are yet to uncover so many things of the past. The ancient times were further ahead than we presume them to be. On example is the technology that existed then. They have been many discoveries that determine that the ancient Greeks, Romans, and other civilizations had devised numerous technologies to accomplish day-to-day work. From refrigerators for keeping ice cool in the hot desert to cups that could change color, we bring to you 10 incredible ancient technologies that will just blow your mind.

1. By 400 BC, Persian engineers had mastered the technique of storing ice during summers in the desert.

yakhchal
Yakhchal or icehouse (exterior), Meybod, Iran. Image Credit: Ggia via Wikipedia

During the winters, the Persian people used to bring ice from nearby mountains and store them in pits they created in the middle of the desert. The ice pits, known as “yakhchal,” were one of the most ancient refrigerators known to mankind. They were also used to keep food cool and healthy during the intense summers.

On first glance, the structure looks like a large dome made from mud brick. Some of the structures were as tall as 60 feet. Below the dome lies a large underground space with excess storage area. The underground space was as large as 5,00 cubic meters.

The underground space was connected to a “qanat,” or wind catch. The wind catch consisted of multiple windcatchers that had the ability to bring down the temperature to frigid levels during the summers.

Yakhchal
Yakhchal of Yazd province/ Icehouse (interior), Meybod, Iran. Image Credit: Pastaitaken via Wikipedia, Ggia via Wikipedia

The wall of the dome used to be as thick as two meters. Moreover, it was made by a special mortar that was comprised of sand, clay, egg whites, lime, goat hair, and ash in specific proportions. The walls were resistant to heat transfer, thus keeping the insides cool. Also, they were impenetrable to water which helped to keep the ice and food safe.

But what if somehow the ice melted a little bit? For such unforeseen circumstances, a trench was provided at the bottom so that the melted water could be caught and frozen again during the chilly desert nights. The entire structure was really well-thought despite being from an ancient era. (1, 2)

2. The “Archimedes screw” is a hand-operated machine that can move water up using gravity. If reversed, it can generate energy by water moving down.

Archimedes Screw
Archimedes Screw. Image Credit: Amanjosan2008 via Wikipedia

The Archimedes screw was predominantly used for irrigation purposes in the ancient times. The machine was a screw inside a hollow pipe. The screw was initially operated by hand but later, wind energy was utilized.

The technology exists to this day and is operated with the help of a motor. As the shaft starts to turn, the bottom end of the device scoops up water. this water is then pushed to the top of the screw via the rotating helcoid until it comes out from the top end. (source)

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3. There is an ancient masonry technology in Mexico that allows bricklayers to build vaults and roof-type domes using only their trowel, without formworks or ceiling mounts.

Tequisquiapan is a town located in the state of Querétaro Arteaga, one of the 32 federal entities of Mexico. The town is home to a generation of masons known as “bovederos.” These masons seem to have a superpower as they can build vaults and roofs of domes with just their trowel! For those who do not know what a trowel is, it is a small hand tool that is mostly used for digging or when applying concrete to bricks.

So, these masons from Mexico do not need the aid of any support and build domes with just their trowels! The video above shows this gravity-defying act in action. These masons do not require any formworks or ceiling mounts. It is said that the technology has been passed on from parents to children from generation to generation. This is one of the ancient technologies that still exists today. (source)

4. The ancient Egyptians invented the ramp to aid construction processes.

Ancient Egyptian ramp
Ancient Egyptian ramp. Image Credit: Nano Science

The Egyptians are well known for their massive architectural structures such as pyramids. They normally make their structures quite tall and uniquely shaped. Such massive structures call for the use of ramps during construction. Ancient Egyptians have been known to invent ramps to be used to carry materials during construction.

A ramp is just an inclined plane against a horizontal surface that enables people to overcome resistance. By applying a small force for a longer distance, the load can be carried to a height rather than applying intense force to lift or raise it vertically. The Egyptians were surely ahead in their time when it came to construction. (source)

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5. The “Antikythera mechanism” is a 2,000-year-old computer developed by the Greeks. It was used to predict the position of the planets and stars in the sky depending on the calendar month.

Antikythera mechanism
Antikythera mechanism. Image Credit: Flickr

One hundred sixteen years ago, divers found came across a shipwreck off the coast of a Greek island. They inspected the site and discovered an odd-looking bronze item. Little did they know that this small discovery would change our understanding of human history.

The structure had a series of gears made of brass and dials mounted on something that looked like a mantel clock. The structure had at least two dozen gears laid on top of one another with perfect calibration. Archaeologists came to the conclusion that this must be some kind of analog clock of the past or a calculating device. A debate went on for years until Princeton science historian Derek J. de Solla Price provided a detailed analysis of the device in 1959.

His study revealed that the device was used to predict the location of the planets and stars taking into account the calendar month. According to Price’s analysis, the main gear would move to represent the calendar year, in turn, would move the separate smaller gears that represent the motions of the planets, Sun, and Moon. In short, when the main gear is set to the current date, the device would point out the location of the celestial bodies in the sky!

In Price’s words, “The mechanism is like a great astronomical clock … or like a modern analog computer which uses mechanical parts to save tedious calculation.” The logic behind calling it an analog computer is that similar to a computer, the user can provide an input and get the desired output based on some calculations. (source)

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