Home > Articles

Ancient Technology

Ancient Technology & History

Ancient technology examples

Archeologists have discovered ancient technologies which have left scientists awestruck with their precision and efficiency. A few of these inventions are groundbreaking to an extent that they seem impossible to be recreated in modern times with modern technologies. These technologies shed light on the previous socio-cultural aspects of our ancestral societies. 

Antikythera mechanism

This ancient technology was discovered on the Greek island, Antikythera in 1901 by divers who were in search of sponges. The Antikythera mechanism, a 2000-year-old analog computer, had functional gears and it resembled a clock. It is discovered that the ancient invention was also utilized for transportation as it could “replicate the motions of the heavens.” This technology was not any larger in size than mantel clocks at our homes. Unlike displaying time like our modern-day clocks, the Antikythera mechanism used to display “celestial time” by using celestial bodies are guides.

Automatic doors

Automated doors came under the spotlight in 1931 and were considered as symbols of the “modern age”. However, this invention had already been made by the Greeks in 1 AD.

Brass vessels were used as a place to light a fire which generated enough heat to create a buildup of atmospheric pressure to open the door. This vessel used to simultaneously pump water in attached containers which would then act as weights to ensure that the door was kept open. These doors had a functioning similar to that of a hydraulic system.

These ancient doors, however, were not efficient in terms of time, rigid in use, and not user-friendly. Hence were not as popular as automated doors in modern times.  

Houfeng Didong Yi: The earthquake detector in ancient times 

2,000 years ago, the Houfeng Didong Yi, a seismoscope was discovered in ancient China. It was the first effective earthquake detector discovered in history. It was invented by Zhang Heng who was an engineer, scholar, astronomer, artist, and scientist.

The Houfeng Didong Yi could detect earthquakes as far away as hundreds of kilometers. The device was shaped in the form of a jar and consisted of eight tube-like projections on the exterior, with eight corresponding toad-shaped projections at the base. Each of these toad-shaped projections represented a direction taken by the seismic wave while traveling. To demonstrate the direction of the earthquake, the Houfeng Didong would drop a ball in a toad according to the direction of the seismic wave.

Aeolipile: The ancient technology steam turbine

The Aeolipile was invented by the engineer and mathematician, Heron of Alexandria. This technology functioned like a steam turbine in ancient times. It was a hollow sphere that was mounted in a manner that enabled it to turn on tubes that provided the sphere with steam from a cauldron. The steam would then evaporate from hollow tubes resulting in the device revolving at high speeds.

Although it was an efficient device, it did not progress any further from being a novelty device. It was difficult to obtain fuel for keeping the device operational over long periods of time.


Ancient Technology: Marvels of Early Innovation (Continued)

The Precision of Ancient Civil Engineering

The marvels of ancient technology extend far beyond small devices, reaching into the realms of architecture and civil engineering. These ancient achievements not only demonstrate a deep understanding of mathematics and physics but also an extraordinary ability to apply these principles on a grand scale.

Roman Concrete

The Roman Empire was renowned for its architectural achievements, many of which have endured for millennia. One of their most significant innovations was the development of Roman concrete, a material so durable that structures like the Pantheon and the aqueducts still stand today. This ancient concrete, made from a mixture of volcanic ash, lime, and seawater, proved to be more resilient over time compared to modern concrete. The chemical reaction between the volcanic ash and the lime produced a material that could withstand the test of time, even in marine environments.

The Great Pyramid of Giza

The construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza is one of the most astounding achievements of ancient engineering. Built as a tomb for the Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu, it consists of approximately 2.3 million blocks of stone, each weighing an average of 2.5 tonnes. The precision with which these stones were cut and assembled, achieving perfect alignment with the cardinal points and with an error margin of less than 0.1%, remains unparalleled. The methods used for lifting and placing these stones so precisely are still the subject of debate and study among historians and engineers.

Water Management Technologies

Advanced water management technologies were crucial for the development of ancient civilisations, allowing them to thrive in arid environments and during seasonal droughts.

The Qanat System

The Qanat system, developed in ancient Persia around 3,000 years ago, is an underground aqueduct used to transport water from an aquifer in the mountains to the dry plains. This ingenious system allowed for the irrigation of agricultural lands and the provision of drinking water to communities in some of the driest regions on earth. The Qanat system demonstrates an advanced understanding of hydrology and civil engineering, requiring precise gradients to ensure water flow without the use of pumps.

The Stepwells of India

Stepwells are another example of ancient ingenuity in water management. Constructed primarily in the arid regions of India, these elaborate structures were designed to access groundwater during dry periods. Some stepwells were architecturally complex, serving not only as water sources but also as places for social gatherings and cultural events. The construction of stepwells, which could be several stories deep, showcases the sophistication of ancient Indian engineering and architecture.


The technologies developed by ancient civilisations are testament to their ingenuity, creativity, and deep understanding of the natural world. From the Antikythera mechanism to Roman concrete, and from the Great Pyramid of Giza to the sophisticated water management systems of Persia and India, these inventions have left a lasting legacy. They remind us that the pursuit of knowledge and the application of technology have always been central to human progress. As we continue to advance in our technological capabilities, looking back at these ancient marvels can inspire us to approach modern challenges with the same ingenuity and respect for the natural world that our ancestors did. The study of ancient technologies not only provides insights into the past but also offers lessons for sustainable living and engineering practices in the present and future.