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Top Ten Everyday Technologies With Ancient Origins

Updated on October 9, 2017

The 21st century is all about technology. On a yearly basis, several new technologies are developed to optimize and revolutionize the way humans carryout certain activities. As a result of this, the world has become one huge technology center. However, if we take some time to reflect, we would discover that some of the technology we use on a daily basis and cannot do without have been around for a very long period of time, some even for thousands of years. These are the top ten everyday technologies with ancient origins.

1 Plumbing

Plumbing is an important everyday technology. Everyone goes to the toilet on a daily basis, this is a technology that is difficult to boycott, surprisingly, this technology has been around for thousands of years. Ancient plumbing systems date back to 4000 B.C. When archaeologists discovered copper water pipes in the palace ruins of the Indus River Valley in India( 4000-3000B.C), it was obvious that the plumbing system has been around for so long. Moreover, rainwater cisterns, were developed on the island of Crete around 1500 B.C. Archaeologists also discovered the remains of an ancient plumbing system that is more than 3000 years old on the island of Crete at the site of an ancient palace of Knossos. The ancient plumbing system included a bathtub made out of hard pottery which looked similar to the shape of a cast-iron bathtub of late 19th century America. The Romans made some of the most advanced plumbing systems of ancient times. Between 500 B.C to 455 A.D, the Romans developed aqueducts, underground sewer systems and bronze water piping systems. Plumbing in the 21st century is so effective that water moves in and sewage moves out of high rise buildings with ease. Next time we use the toilet, we should always remember how old plumbing technology is.

2 Alarm Clock

Today, there are several ways to set an alarm to wake yourself up. Very few people even bother to use a real clock these days, they just set an alarm on their phone. The Alarm Clock technology is one that has been in use for hundreds of years. One of the oldest alarm clocks is the bronze bell which was probably made in Nuremberg, Germany in the 15th century. This Alarm Clock is 19 inches tall with open framework construction. It is hung high on the wall to make room for the driving weights to fall. English clock makers emigrated to the United States in the 18th century and no doubt carried the idea of the alarm clock with them. Simon Willard of Grafton, Massachusetts made alarm clocks sometimes called “Lighthouse Clocks” in the 1820s. Some of the American wooden works shelf clocks of the 1820s-30s had alarms, so also were the brass movement shelf clocks after 1840. Seth Thomas Clock’s Company was granted a patent in 1876 for a small bedside alarm clock. In the late 1870’s, small alarm clocks became popular and the major US clock companies started making them. Westclox introduced the Chime Alarm in 1931 and the Westclox Moonbeam was introduced in 1949. Many interesting alarm clocks have been made over the years, the latest being the internet alarm clock.

3 Wheel

Wheels are an essential component of cars, motorcycles and bicycles. Wheels are of great importance to land transportation. It is so common in the modern daily life, this we all know but it may come as a surprise to some people that wheels have been around and used by mankind for thousands of years. The earliest evidence of wheeled vehicles appear simultaneously in Southwest Asia and Northern Europe about 3500B.C In technological terms, the earliest wheeled vehicles appear to have being four-wheeled, as determined by models identified at Uruk (Iraq) and Bronocice (Poland) The earliest wheels were single piece discs, with a cross-section roughly approximating the spindle whorl: that is, thicker in the middle and thinning to the edges. Wheels were used in ancient times as a means of transport of people and goods. They were also extensively used in chariots for both peacetime purposes and to wage war. In 2014,Shishlina and colleagues reported the recovery of a dismantled four-wheeled full-sized wagon direct-dated to between 2398-2141 cal BC. It is fair to say that automobile wheels started with Karl Benz’s 1885 Benz Patent Motorwagen. This three-wheeled vehicle used bicycle-like wire wheels which were fitted with hard rubber. Ford’s Model T used wooden artillery wheels which were followed in 1926 and 1927 by steel welded-spoke wheels. Today, there are basically two types of wheels for automotive use. They are steel and alloy, both of which have benefited immensely from technological advancements.


4 Watermill

The first documented use of watermills was in the first century BC and the technology spread quite quickly across the world. By the late 11th century, there were more than 6000 watermills in England. By the late 16th century, water power was the most important source of motive power in Britain and Europe. The number of watermills probably peaked at more than 20,000 mills by the 19th century.

Watermills use the flow of water to turn a large waterwheel. A shaft connected to the wheel axle is then used to transmit the power from the water through a system of gears and cogs to work machinery, such as a millstone to grind corn. The energy potential of watermills are being used more creatively in modern times. One of the main uses of watermills today is for the generation of hydroelectricity. Today, it is estimated that hydro-power produce one fifth of the entire world’s electricity. In emerging economies hydro is used to generate one third of the electricity used. Virtually everyone on earth has benefited at one point or the other from the energy derived from watermills. The little known fact is however that this technology has been with us for thousands of years.

5 Pulley

The uses of pulleys in today’s industries is known to many but very few people are aware of how long it has been in existence. Scholars credit Archimedes with the earliest theoretical development of the pulley. According to Plutarch, a Greek historian, Archimedes claimed that he could move the world if he had enough pulleys. Eventually, King Hieron of Syracuse asked Archimedes to move a large ship in Hieron’s navy. On the appointed day, Archimedes set up his systems of pulleys, the King loaded the ship full of passengers and cargo, Archimedes’ pulley pulled the ship from a distance and the ship moved as smoothly and evenly as if it had been at sea. The pulley has been around for a very long time, surprisingly, it is still used today. Pulleys are an essential components of cranes which are used for lifting heavy objects.

6 Washing Machine

Washing Machines are everyday technology that are used all over the world. Surprisingly, the washing machine has an ancient origin. The earliest washing machine was the scrub board or washboard invented in 1797. American James King patented the first washing machine to use a drum in 1851 . The drum made King’s machine resemble a modern washing machine. In 1858, Hamilton Smith patented the rotary washing machine. In 1874, William Blackstone of Indiana built a birthday present for his wife. It was a machine which removed and washed away dirt from clothes. This was the first washing machine designed for convenient use in the home. The Thor was the first electric-powered washing machine. Introduced in 1908 by the Hurley Machine Company of Chicago, Illinois, the Thor washing machine was invented by Alva J. Fisher. The Thor was a drum type washing machine with a galvanized tub and an electric motor. Over the years, several advanced washing machines have been produced and are in use, all over the world.

7 Air Conditioning System

The Air Conditioner is a common feature in homes of nowadays, however, the little known fact about the air conditioning system is that it has an ancient origin. In ancient times, people figured out a very sustainable way to cool their buildings. One of them is through the use of freshly circulated Roman aqueduct water. Sections of ancient Roman aqueducts supported by towering arches are a sight to see across European landscapes. The Roman aqueduct system allowed water to be channeled and piped through the wall of selected houses in order to cool the brickwork and lower the room temperature. The Chinese also cooled their buildings in an innovative manner. Tang Dynasty Emperor Xuanzong had a “Cool Hall” built in his palace. This “Cool Hall” contained water powered rotary fan wheels which cooled the place. In the ancient Middle East, wind towers were very common. These ingenious towers had windows for capturing prevailing winds. The wind towers also had internal vanes used to funnel cooler air into the buildings below and suck warm air out. Today, Air Conditioning system rely on electricity. Next time you want to use your air conditioner, take some time to reflect on how old the technology is.

Air Conditioner
Air Conditioner

8 Battery

In June, 1936, workers constructing a new rail road near the city of Baghdad uncovered an ancient tomb. Relics in the tomb allowed archaeologists to identify it as belonging to the Parthian Empire. The Parthians, although illiterate and nomadic were the dominating force in the fertile Crescent area between 190 BC to 224 AD. It is known that in 129 BC they had acquired lands up to the banks of the Tigris River, near Baghdad. Among the relics found in the tomb was a clay jar or vase, sealed with pitch at its top opening. An iron rod protruded from the center, surrounded by a cylindrical tube made of wrapped copper sheet. The height of the jar was about 15cm and the copper tube was about 4cm in diameter and 12cm in length. Tests of replicas, when filled with an acidic liquid such as vinegar, showed that it could have produced between 1.5 and 2 volts of energy. It is suspected that this early battery, or more than one in series, may have been used to electroplate gold onto silver artifacts. The implication of this discovery is that the battery we use on a daily basis to power our cars and home appliances may have been around for a thousand years.

9 Microwave Oven

Ancient people first began cooking on open fires. The cooking fires were placed on the ground, later simple masonry construction was used to hold the wood and the food. The ancient Greeks eventually developed a simple oven for making bread and other baked foods. By the middle ages, taller brick and mortar hearths were built. The food to be cooked was often placed in metal cauldrons that were hung above the fire. Inventors started making improvements to wood burning stoves with the aim of containing the bothersome smoke it produces. In the year 1728, cast iron ovens were made. Around 1800, Count Rumford invented a working iron stove called the Rumford Stove that was designed for very large kitchens. Jordan Mott invented the first practical oven in 1833. This oven used coal as its source of heat. This was followed by gas ovens. Electric ovens were made in the 1890s and by 1920s they were already competing with gas ovens. The electric oven prepared the ground for the Microwave Oven.

10 Refrigerator

The Refrigerator is a common household item used to keep food fresh. It is however not a recent technology. The Chinese have been using ice to keep food fresh as far back as 1000BC. Around 500 B.C, the Egyptians and Indians made ice on cold nights by setting water out in earthenware pots and keeping the pots wet. Moreover, Iceboxes were used in ancient times to keep fresh food from getting spoilt. The refrigerator of nowadays is very similar to the iceboxes of ancient times.


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    • WheelScene profile image


      15 months ago from U.S.A.

      Hey! This is a great article, I never thought about some of my cars features starting out at the same time civilization did! Happy hubbing,


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