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10 More Ancient Inventions You Think Are Modern

Following on from our previous list Top 10 Ancient Inventions You Think Are Modern, we have put together this list. It includes items that were omitted from the first but are still fascinating. Most of the things found here are considered by most to have come from the modern world (or the medieval world at the earliest) but all pre-date the birth of Christ. Feel free to mention others you might know in the comments.



Picture 1-100

The Ancient Greeks and Romans are known to have played many ball games, some of which involved the use of the feet. The Roman game harpastum is believed to have been adapted from a team game known as episkyros. The Roman politician Cicero (106-43 BC) describes the case of a man who was killed whilst having a shave when a ball was kicked into a barber’s shop. These games appear to have resembled rugby football. Also, documented evidence of an activity resembling football can be found in the Chinese military manual Zhan Guo Ce compiled between the 3rd century and 1st century BC. It describes a practice known as cuju (literally “kick ball”), which originally involved kicking a leather ball through a small hole in a piece of silk cloth which was fixed on bamboo canes.




A variety of oral hygiene measures have been used since before recorded history. This has been verified by various excavations done all over the world, in which chewsticks, tree twigs, bird feathers, animal bones and porcupine quills were recovered. Many people used different forms of toothbrushes. Indian medicine (Ayurveda) has used the neem tree (a.k.a. daatun) and its products to create toothbrushes and similar products for millennia. A person chews one end of the neem twig until it somewhat resembles the bristles of a toothbrush, and then uses it to brush the teeth. In the Muslim world, the miswak, or siwak, made from a twig or root with antiseptic properties has been widely used since the Islamic Golden Age.




Sutures have a long and bizarre history, dating back to ancient Egypt, where everything from tree bark to hair was used to stitch human flesh back together again. Physicians have used suture to close wounds for at least 4,000 years. Archaeological records from ancient Egypt show that Egyptians used linen and animal sinew to close wounds. In ancient India, physicians used the pincers of beetles or ants to staple wounds shut. They then cut the insects’ bodies off, leaving their jaws (staples) in place. Other natural materials used to close wounds include flax, hair, grass, cotton, silk, pig bristles, and animal gut. The fundamental principles of wound closure have changed little over 4,000 years.



Oldest Map Of Iraq.Jpg

A Babylonian clay tablet that has been generally accepted as “the earliest known map” is the artifact unearthed in 1930 at the excavated ruined city of Ga-Sur at Nuzi, 200 miles north of the site of Babylon (present-day Iraq). Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand (7.6 x 6.8 cm), most authorities place the the date of this map-tablet from the dynasty of Sargon of Akkad (2,300-2,500 B.C.) The surface of the tablet is inscribed with a map of a district bounded by two ranges of hills and bisected by a water-course. This particular tablet is drawn with cuneiform characters and stylized symbols impressed, or scratched, on the clay. Inscriptions identify some features and places. [Source]



Papyrus Ebers

The earliest recorded evidence of the production of soap-like materials dates back to around 2800 BC in Ancient Babylon. A formula for soap consisting of water, alkali and cassia oil was written on a Babylonian clay tablet around 2200 BC. The Ebers papyrus (Egypt, 1550 BC) indicates that ancient Egyptians bathed regularly and combined animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts to create a soap-like substance. Egyptian documents mention that a soap-like substance was used in the preparation of wool for weaving. Galen describes soap-making using lye and prescribes washing to carry away impurities from the body and clothes. The best soap was German, according to Galen; soap from Gaul was second best. This is the first record of true soap as a detergent.



View To The Castle.Jpg

The world’s earliest dockyards were built in the Harappan port city of Lothal circa 2400 BC in Gujarat, India. Lothal’s dockyards connected to an ancient course of the Sabarmati river on the trade route between Harappan cities in Sindh and the peninsula of Saurashtra when the surrounding Kutch desert was a part of the Arabian Sea. Lothal engineers accorded high priority to the creation of a dockyard and a warehouse to serve the purposes of naval trade. The dock was built on the eastern flank of the town, and is regarded by archaeologists as an engineering feat of the highest order. It was located away from the main current of the river to avoid silting, but provided access to ships in high tide as well. The name of the ancient Greek city of Naupactus means “shipyeard”. Naupactus’ repuation in this field extends to the time of legend, where it is depicted as the place where the Heraclidae built a fleet to invade the Peloponnesus.



Vaginalspeculum1A E.Jpg

A speculum (Latin for “mirror”) is a medical tool for investigating body cavities, with a form dependent on the body cavity for which it is designed. Vaginal specula were used by the Romans, and speculum artifacts have been found in Pompeii. The original instruments were excavated from the House of the Surgeon at Pompeii, so named because of the materials that were recovered there. It comprises a priapiscus with 2 (or sometimes 3 or 4) dovetailing valves which are opened and closed by a handle with a screw mechanism, an arrangement that was still to be found in the specula of 18th-century Europe. Soranus is the first author who makes mention of the speculum specially made for the vagina. Graeco-Roman writers on gynecology and obstetrics frequently recommend its use in the diagnosis and treatment of vaginal and uterine disorders, yet it is one of the rarest surviving medical instruments. [Source]


Processed Rubber

572Px-Mesoamerica - Manopla And Ball.Jpg

Although vulcanization is a 19th century invention, the history of rubber cured by other means goes back to prehistoric times. The name “Olmec” means “rubber people” in the Aztec language. Ancient Mesoamericans, spanning from ancient Olmecs to Aztecs, extracted latex from Castilla elastica, a type of rubber tree in the area. The juice of a local vine, Ipomoea alba, was then mixed with this latex to create an ancient processed rubber as early as 1600 BC. Archaeological evidence indicates that rubber was already in use in Mesoamerica by the Early Formative Period – a dozen balls were found in the Olmec El Manati sacrificial bog. By the time of the Spanish Conquest, 3000 years later, rubber was being exported from the tropical zones to sites all over Mesoamerica. Iconography suggests that although there were many uses for rubber, rubber balls both for offerings and for ritual ballgames were the primary products.



800Px-Terracotta Army @ Gdynia 2006 - 01 Ubt

In the sculptures at Nineveh the parasol appears frequently. Austen Henry Layard gives a picture of a bas-relief representing a king in his chariot, with an attendant holding a parasol over his head. It has a curtain hanging down behind, but is otherwise exactly like those in use today. It is reserved exclusively for the monarch (who was bald), and is never carried over any other person. In Egypt, the parasol is found in various shapes. In some instances it is depicted as a flaellum, a fan of palm-leaves or coloured feathers fixed on a long handle, resembling those now carried behind the Pope in processions. In China, the 2nd century commentator Fu Qian added that this collapsible umbrella of Wang Mang’s carriage had bendable joints which enabled them to be extended or retracted.




The earliest known reference to toothpaste is in a manuscript from Egypt in the 4th century A.D., which prescribes a mixture of iris flowers. Many early toothpaste formulations were based on urine. However, toothpastes or powders did not come into general use until the 19th century. The Greeks, and then the Romans, improved the recipes for toothpaste by adding abrasives such as crushed bones and oyster shells. In the 9th century, the Persian musician and fashion designer Ziryab is known to have invented a type of toothpaste, which he popularized throughout Islamic Spain. The exact ingredients of this toothpaste are currently unknown, but it was reported to have been both “functional and pleasant to taste”.

This article is licensed under the GFDL because it contains quotations from Wikipedia.

Listverse Staff

Listverse is a place for explorers. Together we seek out the most fascinating and rare gems of human knowledge. Three or more fact-packed lists daily.

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  • Bubette Duponte

    Good to see some Islamic mentions.

    • history

      Although, the Islamic mentions shouldn’t have been there. At the beginning of the article, it say before 1 AD

  • Baxter

    Interesting list! Toothpaste is a reassuring one… the world can’t have been a terribly pleasant place before it.

  • zacky27

    interesting list. i’m glad they had soap and toothpaste ha

  • NoE

    Urine in toothpaste was used to withen teeth it contains ammonia …

  • HAL9000

    Football?? You mean soccer, right? :)

    Just jesting with you.

  • Aquila

    Great list, but I’m confused. You say the first recorded evidence of toothpaste was in the 4th Century AD, but you said at the top that the items all pre-dated Christ… :S. Everything else was great though :p

  • zululand

    Informative list – I found # 8 fascinating, also the pic at no.4 the germans used a similar device as a means of torture in the concentration camps.

    Thanks JF.

  • MattNZ

    Diamonds is a nother one. They seem new coz ther so sparklish but the is actually over a hundrerd years old.

  • MattNZ

    opps i meant hunderd, lol!!!!

  • Jotafrisco


  • I4gotmyMANTRA

    #2 is cool! Interesting list. :)

  • hasuri

    Haha, imagine SOCCER with martial arts.. Haha that cool

  • ABrutalKind

    We aren’t as smart and innovative as we would like to think eh? Great list, we always assume that ancient civilizations were primitive and uncivilized but as we can see they were not that much different from us. I for one would find it very interesting to live during these periods of time.

  • nfrillman

    MattNZ, I’m pretty sure no one “invented” diamonds, unless you want to count mother earth or something.

  • Plastik

    I take it you haven’t watched the movie Shaolin Soccer? :)

  • somebody

    I already knew all of these. And can we please have some interesting lists i think 2 boring lists in a row is enough.

  • archangel

    Great list! Especially like how German soap is the best. Haha, funny trivia.

    Though I’d have to say, you’d be pretty daft not to know that maps and shipyards were present in ancient times? o.0

    With the toothpaste mention, can that be clarified please as 5. Aquila pointed out?

  • whataclaire

    Nice list, I am glad personal hygeine rates highly

  • oouchan

    I always wanted to travel back in time. One of the first items I would have grabbed to take with me would have been my toothbrush. Glad to know it was around way before I thought it was.
    I didn’t know that our ancestors thought so highly of personal hygeine. I really do hate that I have misconceptions when it comes to history but happy to be set straight. Great list, JFrater!

  • Cazza

    I feel like such a nerd, I knew all of those D:

  • Mark

    18 oouchan : Incidentally, tooth decay would have been exponentially less before we (humans) started eating carbohydrates. The sugar in carbs was the start of the end of easy oral hygiene.

  • m

    i honestly wouldn’t have thought that people existed who thought that shipyards were modern inventions..

    and umbrellas..? maps..?!


    #15–somebody–Well now, ifn you don’t like the lists posted, you can either not read them, or put up your own list.

  • msulli22

    Interesting list, although I sort of feel like shipyards were sort of obvious inventions of ancient times. Maybe it is because I read so much historical fiction, but the ancient presence of toothbrushes, sutures and maps were also not much a surprise. However, I had never really thought about where their specific origins, so I definitely learned something from this list.

  • General Tits Von Chodehoffen

    When I saw football I almost shit myself (cause Im American). Then I saw it was just wussy old soccer haha. Finally a list that wasnt so boring that I want to shoot my eyes out.

  • Samzilla

    Number 4 makes me cringe, like when I see one waiting on the doctors cart when I have my annual.

  • crimanon

    General Tits: Your average “football” fan would get demolished by an average “soccer” fan any day. Americans won’t get out of their seat for their team, Hooligans will tear the place down.

    Unpadded hits of the same caliber. American football players are the wusses

    • Noog007

      exactly! have you how many pads they wear , it’s like rugby for girls!

      • segues

        “girls” don’t wear pads to play rugby!

  • Egis Nu

    cool. love the anthropological/historical/archealogical lists (spelling?)

  • Hodari

    You know, i never even tought that any of these were invented in modern time.

  • mom424

    Pretty cool list – I didn’t know that they hardened rubber in antiquity, I was under the impression that they only used the sap to waterproof pots or to chew.

    I would imagine that some form of kick-ball has been around forever. All children play and kicking stuff seems to be a natural reaction – wouldn’t matter whether it was hardened dung, a blown up animal bladder, or a rubber ball. I have no problem imagining caveman kids kicking things at a target or at each other.

  • Lifeschool

    Hey. Once again enthrawled by one of your lists JF, and of course I am biased in that I love ancient history. There is so much we are only just rediscovering.

    I also find your references to the Neem tree very interesting – it’s a wonder tree (have we had a list about it yet??). I notice even the toothpaste formula pic has a bowl of neem seed oil in there. Until recently I washed my hair with the stuff. Smells great.. :)

    Item #4: I hate those things – and that is unusual because A. I’m a guy, and B. I don’t generally go so far as to ‘hate’ anything else in the world… It all stems from the fact that I was traumatised after watching one of the most sickening movies ever: David Cronenberg’s, Dead Ringers.

    #12 Abrutalkind: – “we always assume that ancient civilizations were primitive and uncivilized”. Yes, that’s what we (or I presume most of us) were taught in school. I was. To me though, I can’t imagine how Man has ever been anything other than civil. Sure, wars flair up and barbarians raided and pillaged, but I’m sure the ordinary folk were largely civil civilians??? They ate hot food out of bowls using utensils. They combed their hair. Even Archimedes took a bath now and then.

  • Goldie

    Great list… Ive actually been to Harrapan. Its amazing, the towns they have uncovered are 5000 years old. Though through lack of funding most of the excavation they have done is being covered back up in sand.

  • General Tits Von Chodehoffen

    crimanon Im glad you enjoy yourself while going nuts over a boring ass game. I prefer being civilized while watching a true sport like football.

    “Unpadded hits of the same caliber.” The same caliber as soccer? Go choke on a dong. In soccer there are no hits close to those in football. And if your talking about rugby you can still suck it. Keep in mind with that video that a cb is one of the smaller guys on a football team.

  • redcaboose

    Interesting list, jfrater. Unlike some posters, I did not know (or probably gave much thought) as to when these things were invented. I did know about soap about shipyards, tho.

    Even though, as usual, General Tits Von Chodehoffen is trying to incite an argument, I have to agree on the pretend game of soccer. I do not see how anyone can like a game that can end in a tie. A game has to have a winner, otherwise it is not a game.

  • NFL!

    please call it soccer…its embarrassing to call it football.

  • lo

    21 Mark-

    maybe you meant refined sugars/carbohydrates?

    because unprocessed fruits, nuts, and grains, are all full of carbohydrates, to say nothing of potatoes. even cabbage and mushrooms contain carbohydrates. and humans have always eaten honey when they could get it.

    and there is zero evidence that our ancestors were ever anything other than opportunistic omnivores, not pure carnivores…

  • lo

    people, let the football/soccer thing go.

    the whole entire world except the US calls it football, and frankly that makes sense, as it is a game that primary consists of moving a ball around with your feet.

    whereas american football is a game that largely consists of moving a ball around by throwing and carrying it with the hands, not primarily kicking it with your feet, despite what we call the game.

    the US is not the whole world, and shouldn’t pretend to be.

  • General Tits Von Chodehoffen

    lo I agree with you that we should not argue about soccer and football. I also agree that the US is not the WHOLE world, but it sure as hell is the most badass part

  • I can’t believe people get so upset by the football/soccer thing – it is pretty unimportant in the scheme of things no? :)

  • Nicosia

    I am allergic to American football…. The sound of John Madden makes me break out in hives.

    And as for #4- The annual exam is never fun, but that thing looks like a medieval torture device! Yikes!

  • Nicosia

    Jamie! Are you back from your vacation?

  • segues

    Good list.
    I knew all of the items already, but I am always happy to see an educational list appear.
    Re: soccer/rugby/American football, I know that all the regulars know my position on this subject, but let me toss in my 2 cents worth for the benefit of the newbs…I have respect for the players of soccer and rugby, games which are played hard and with passion, but without protection. American football players wear so much protective padding they appear deformed and graceless.
    Basketball, rugby, soccer are my games of choice, now and forever, amen.

  • Maggot

    lo: maybe you meant refined sugars, and let the football/soccer thing go

    Speaking of “candy” (that of the upper torso appendage variety), and also football, did you happen to notice that “outside girl’s” show premiers tonight? :-)

  • lo

    maggot- i know! she’s been promoting it all over the E! channel ;)

    she went on chelsea handler’s show and confessed she had never in her life been grocery shopping, and was stunned by how the store was “like totally organized, as if they were making a show there or something.”

    and i think she’s 22! a show about a 22 year old, who’s never bought groceries, or cooked, or cleaned her own room trying to be a housewife to her pro (american) football playing fiance, who is basically shy off the field and she admits she “forced” to be on reality TV? how bizarre ;)

  • ihadlegs

    I was under the impression and we are talking about A’level chemistry that soap and detergent are separate items, soap being a fat based formula, detergent not being so.

    damn I wish my memory was clearer – but anyway to the point, they do similar things but should never be confused.

  • crimanon

    General Tits: I never said I liked or even got my rocks off to Soccer. Io said it best. I’ll just say you should put that American Ego away before more people hate us.

    Grilling on Superbowl Sunday and getting into a fight with your best friend is Civilized? Spare me.

    Decathlon is true sport.

  • Diogenes

    Tooth brushes existed before Jesus?
    It seems like it was just over two thousand and nine years ago when my ancient gal had pulled me ever so near and then pushed back quickly,
    “Oh, baby you smell like you just got finished munchin down on bog leftovers and rolled around in the dog’s den. Yo breath stank baby! and yo bettah shed that filthy skin if yo evah wanna get bizzie wid me again.”

    Well, the truth sure do hurt.
    she left me no doubt.
    and I knew right then and thar that a change was in order.

    I found a new love in chewing on bark and roots and twigs and such. Kept them in my porkypine fannypouch.
    Began to adorn my head with bird plumage
    and strut around with a string of animal bones around my ankles.

    Sho enough the tooth brush would help clear the path for the ladies to fall in line. But it took years to craft the urine/formaldehyde paste that made it a closed deal.

  • johnric

    I have a question!
    1. Was there also an “anal speculum”?
    2. If they already have toothpaste at those times, don’t
    you think they also thought about making “mouthwash”?

    • Obviously there was an anal speculum. From the list: "Soranus is the first author who makes mention of the speculum specially made for the vagina." Sore anus – get it? *snicker*

      (OK, I promise to grow up now…)

  • processed rubber and Umbrellas are my favorite! Haha, I never realized how far those inventions date back.

  • lo


    oh, i watched the first 20 minutes or so of outside-girl’s show, and i couldn’t bear it anymore!

    it was like a watching a woman-child who’d gotten every thing in her whole life due to her beauty finally try to do things that a 12 year old -of either sex- ought to know how to do, and mostly failing and being frustrated. it was both sad and worthy of rousing anger in any person who’s ever worked/been self-sufficient a single day in their life.

    i don’t think “kendra” is a bad person, not at all, but she is an emotional/life-skill adolescent (hey she moved into heff-land at 17, on the resume of her body paint) and i see emotional tragedy for her in the next 5 years or-so of trying to be married.

    and i hope i’m wrong! i don’t think she deserves anything traumatic happening to her! but she appears woefully unprepared for life on many levels. especially life with a husband who will constantly be on the road, out of town….

    i actually feel bad for her. again, i hope she -and her fiance- make it work. but i won’t be watching to find out.

  • Travis

    Football vs. Soccer? Lets make it clear that football existed long before american football so the fact that americans gave the same name to an already existing sport just goes to show how stupid we can be! Second of all, who the f*ck are the americans to give an ancient sport a new name? Especially if you think that they speak a language that originated the modern day football: English. You don’t go around inventing new words for a language that isnt yours!!

  • Muy Retardo

    Can’t believe I am the first to say… SORANUS???

    Sounds like he wanted to put the speculum somewhere *other* than the vagina…

    Tee hee.

  • Mtatazela

    It boggles my mind that the production of soap-like materials dates back to around 2800 BC,but one can’t breathe inside a modern London underground train ?

  • nuriko

    cool… :D

  • A fascinating collection !

  • Iain

    Mom 424 is on the right lines about football – it evolved rather than was invented. What we have now for Soccer, American football, rugby, Aussie Rules etc. are 19th century ‘codifications’ of a variety of styles and traditions dating from time immemorial.

    I’d also like to say that I love both regular football and American football. Debates about their relative merits – ‘toughness’ etc. usually end up being incredibly asisnine.

  • mom424

    Iain: Agreed about the foolishness of that particular argument. Just from observation and a bit of participation I’d say that the hits are much harder and the body abuse is worse in American football but the level of fitness and finesse required to participate in European football (soccer) is higher. For me, even as a kid, North American football ftw. All that running with no payoff. I’m much more of a smash-bang type anyway.

    fyi – I watched an amazing special on one of our better (read CBC produced) news programs. The life expectancy for retired North American football players is like 57 or something ridiculously low. They did autopsies on quite a few of these football players and found that they all suffered brain damage. Brain damage that made them unable to cope with real life – depression, failed business ventures, drug/alcohol abuse, not to mention Parkinson’s disease. Their deaths were directly caused by varying things; heart attack, liver disease, suicide, or kidney failure. Indirectly caused by demonstrable brain damage. It’s getting better now but too often players themselves don’t report their concussions and the team Doctors turn a blind eye.

  • CHAOS!

    To be absolutely honest with you, this was a disappointing list. At least for me, because i already knew about them.

  • deeeziner

    Item # 3-Processed rubber–The ancient Meso-Americans also used a thinned down rubber sap for multi purpose glueing, and often used it in their sandal making for increased lifespan of the shoes soles.

  • bucslim

    I guess I’d rather have yellow teeth than pee on my toothbrush in the morning. And if pee is supposed to whiten your teeth, why, dear readers, is pee yellow?

    New Crest Whitestrips – Now With the Whitening Power of Pee!

    • Douche

      FUCK YOu

  • Steelman

    “the US is not the whole world, and shouldn’t pretend to be.”

    Ahh, jealousy raises its ugly head once again.

  • General Tits Von Chodehoffen

    crimanon Im going to stick to my original opinion that you should choke on a dong. I didnt start shit with you, I still know football beats the shit out of soccer, I dont give a damn what you think, Ill stick with my beliefs on America, and you might want to get the sand out of your asshole.

  • edenchanges

    The Romans had a signalling device that was as effective as the telegraph for relaying short messages!

    Stephen Hart

  • Maggot

    50 lo: oh, i watched the first 20 minutes or so of outside-girl’s show, and i couldn’t bear it anymore!

    Lol I didn’t even make it thru 20. It was unwatchable. The annoying laugh made it worse. And it didn’t help that my wife was chirping in my ear every two minutes: “can we change the channel now?” heh

    hey she moved into heff-land at 17

    I caught that too, when she mentioned she was 22, I did the math and thought hmmm, was she a minor when she first posed…?

  • Iain

    Mom – you’re a beacon of sensible thinking as usual. I always wondered if 424 (a soccer formation) meant you were a soccer mom? If so, I’d suggest a change to 442 or 433 as you’re likely to get outnumbered in midfield.

  • samohts

    intresting list…but i knew they were ancient…maybe execept toothpaste

  • Iain

    One point about American football that a lot of fellow Brits don’t get, is that all that armour probably makes it much more dangerous. It frees up players to make the kind of devastating contact that they wouldn’t contemplate without the armour. Padding won’t protect your legs and ankles if a 300 pound armoured behemoth goes through you. In rugby for instance, there’s a trade off between the damage you deliver and the damage you take delivering it.

    In a similar vein, there have reportedly been more deaths with the ‘protection’ of boxing gloves than there ever were in the days of bare knuckle boxing – the same trade off applies.

  • sof

    FYI, in Canada, it’s called Soccer.

  • TEX

    59 deeeziner
    Funny coincidence – I was just reading about Mesoamerican ballgames.
    I have been to several Pok-Ta-Pok playing fields in that general area. I was going to post tying #3 to #10 and mention that rubber ball games go back to about 1400BCE in North Central America/ Southern Mexico.
    The rubber balls were solid and heavy – strangely, most indications are that they hit or return or passed between bounces with their hips, which were protected with a wood and or leather yoke or girdle (wiki – nearly 500 years ago Spanish chronicler Diego Durán reported that some bruises were so severe that they had to be lanced open. He also reported that players were even killed when the ball “hit them in the mouth or the stomach or the intestines”).
    There are many stone reliefs and pictographs depicting the game, but no definitive writings on the rules or specifics.

  • El Santo

    Fantastic list! Thoroughly enjoyed it. :) I liked the global spectrum; too often people forget the innovations developed in India.

  • InfearNO

    Intresting but apart from the speculum none of them came as a shock. I’m a total Discovery Channel nut though

  • Nic

    hmmm interesting list… never realised how old toothpaste was!!!

  • TEX

    A tie in between #1 and #6 perhaps?
    I see wood ash in the toothpaste photo and the mentioning of alkali in making soap.
    I once read that in olden times women knew how to make their own wood ash soap. They would save all wood and hearth ashes, place them on a long thin V-shaped trough, tilt the trough slightly and then slowly trickle water down it and catch the drippings at the far end in a pot. They would boil down the solution and end up with a white residue they called pot ash (potassium carbonate – the alkali) which they mixed with various fats or oils to produce soap. (pot ash – potas_sium, get it?)

  • loved reading it. thanks

  • I’m surprised they had toothpaste and soap back then! Good to know, thanks interesting list here

  • Mabel

    That was kind of neat. I knew some but not all of those.

    In Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children series, she has the character of Ayla doing several things here, like the stitches. It’s kind of funny that she has her main characters inventing everything, like a needle and an atl-atl. But she really knows her research.

  • nc

    Ok. I have to point this out. According to #4 a person by the name of Soranus is the first person to write about the speculum. His name is Sore Anus! That has to be a joke.

    • nc: amazingly it is true – Soranus of Ephesus was an Ancient Greek gynecologist. Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction :)

  • Historyguy

    I think most people knew these… I mean was anyone really shocked that maps, soap, shipyards dated back that far? Unless the worlds education system is worse then I ever imagined, I would hope most knew this stuff.

    On a side note- I thought the other 10 ancient inventions lists were good.

  • deeeziner

    69 TEX–My recent readings on the subject come from Aztec by Gary Jennings. Although his works are fictional, he made a point of foot traveling the locales he wrote about.

    In his travels he made a point of learning from the modern day counterparts of the indigenous people that he depicted in his tales.

    Between their stories of the olden ways, and extensive research through archive records, he weaves a fantastic tale filled with tidbits of not so common info.

    Another detail regarding the rubber ball game play of the ancients in Mexico– The ultimate winning goal of the game was to direct the ball through a vertically fixed ring on the side walls of the court. It was well elevated, about 10 foot tall, and to make such a goal was an instant win, regardless of previous score.

    Standard scoring though depended upon a series of stone arches, moved by special handlers, their placement at any time determined through an intricate set of playing rules.

    These arches were carved with fine bas-relief, and are considered to be quite the collector’s item.

    Liquid latex was also applied to the body padding of the players. This helped absorb the blows of the heavy rubber ball, and added an extra bounce as the play did not allow the use of the hands.

    Hmmm..Your tie in?

  • deeeziner

    On a side note–How did the common ancients clean a chimney before the advent of the chimneysweep?

    By dropping a live squawking, flailing chicken down the chimney.

    Hopefully when there was no fire stoked in the hearth.

  • bobby

    This list and the previous one about ancient inventions are total bullshit. I already knew that were ancient inventions.

  • Flu-Bird

    Wow the guy with the umbrella kept dry when it rained and ahh soap CLEANSLINESS IS NEXT TO GODLINESS BUT STILL NO KITCHEN SINK

  • spacemans hairdo

    I would have loved to see some of those ancient football matches. Maybe someone needs to start an ancient sports festival or something similar.

  • Freshies

    No suprises hear really. I would have guessed most of these would have been around before christ, especially maps.

  • bigski

    It would be more ironic if his name was Sorvaginus of Ephesus.

  • segues

    80 deeeziner: I saw, and walked, the ball court at Chitzen-Itza. I was an incredible experience (as was every experience there). I did not know that fact about the game, somehow it didn’t come up anytime, so thanks for the information.

    I did come across, though not there, people who appeared to be, and claimed to be, Mayan. Small of stature, with very distinctive facial features, they looked exactly like the bas reliefs and statues of the Maya in the temples and sporting arenas. I can’t vouch for their authenticity, but they had the look.

  • Jayadev

    I feel ashamed to modern science and archeologist searching for old days inventions. A single comment to them. Please refer Indian Scripts, writings – you can find an age where these science are at extreme.


  • TEX

    Segue – there are thousands and thousands of Maya still in existence – thank goodness. I don’t doubt that if you were in Chichen Itza you more than likely saw a few, though they could have been Toltec Itza descendants. There are many different groups in southern Mexico and C.A. that are undoubtedly direct descendents of the Maya or even the Olmec. I’ve seen members of Petén Itza near Flores, the Chontal near Campeche (some Olmec blood?), and the Lacandón in Chiapas. The Lacandón are a hoot. Since they live in a very wet area of the plano forests, they have adopted plastic raincoats and rubber boots as their tribal attire.
    I say I’ve “seen” them because I felt it would be rude to approach them. They seem to be very shy, private, people.
    (if you haven’t already – sometime read the Quiché Maya sacred book “Popul Vuh”, it’s a short read and a terrific story – is one location, there are other interpretations – I highly recommend anyone with interest in Mesoamerican culture read this)

    Deeeziner – many Mayan (pok-ta-pok) ball courts do not have rings, not sure about the Aztec (tlachtli) courts, but I think ”I” shaped courts with end zones were a common feature, which implies goal points were a big factor in scoring. Like spacemans hairdo implied – wouldn’t it be great to go back in time and see one of the “big” games (when is the time machine going to come?!).

  • Randall


    There are indeed still Mayans. In fact, MODERN Mayan culture is the specialty of a friend of mine who teaches at another college. She’s down there right now, in fact, for her sabbatical, on a research jaunt.

  • segues

    TEX, Randall, I am grateful for the information. I’m excited not just that my gut feeling was accurate, but that such a culture still exists in Mexico.
    Of course, my experiences were in late 1991 and early 1992, but I can still see them as clearly in my minds eye as if it were yesterday.
    I saw most of “my” Mayans in Zacatecas, in the Yucatan jungle, at Tulum, and at Chitzen-Itza. I ordinarily would have gone on to Chiapas, but the day we landed in Zacatecas was the day the uprising in Chipas began. Since the local news had an almost total ban on news from there, and all our news was coming second-hand from phone calls from the U.S. no one knew the truth of the situation.
    The ever present Mexican army did not inspire confidence…otoh, I did drive through the Yucatan alone in an open Jeep, so I suppose there must have been enough confidence to do so.
    The Mayan people were obviously different from the Mexicans and the Indians. I wouldn’t call them physically beautiful, according to what we have been taught is beautiful, but they exuded a simple strength and pride which made them beautiful.
    You wouldn’t believe the conditions under which they lived, and yet the families all seemed to overflow with love. I could go on and on.
    I do want to go back.

  • someone

    Actually I never thought any of these inventions were new. While this list isn’t inaccurate, I don’t think it has the rightful title.

  • Kris

    regarding the football/soccer debate – in certain rural areas here (Ireland), football is used exclusively to refer to Gaelic (GAA) and soccer for the “foreign game”, so it’s not just Americans who are guilty of hijacking words!

  • Frankie

    Hmmm, anyone heard of Vikings?
    What did they travel the high seas in?
    Probably ships right.
    Where did these ships come from? Presumably not from shipyards given that EVERYBODY believes they are such a modern invention…
    Did anyone actually think that shipyards hadn’t been round for ages??
    And that is just a bad example. What about the ancient ANCIENT Greeks and co.? They had ships too. Triremes anyone?
    Surely people aren’t that stupid.

    • Swag Master

      ^i agree….seriously? what about maps, too? there are roman and even greek maps like everywhere, including stories, so no one thought they were modern whatsoever. Shipyards were used for the ships that were deployed in Troy know, that incredibly famous ancient story that millions of people have read and understand they used Shipyards and Maps

  • norkio

    Is it just a sick coincidence that the first author to discuss a speculum is named Soranus?

  • Dave

    You sir insult me, I knew all of those inventions were ancient.

  • rinne

    unfortunately i wasn’t really thinking any of the above inventions were modern…
    nowadays many people think the modern age thinking is much better than the ancient times, but i dont really think it is so. it’s more like the modern age has proper education while the ancient times has less, so now we improve much faster than a long time ago, thats it.

  • rebi

    what about batteries? the first batteries had chemicals and were made thousands of years ago

    • Swag Master

      except the fact that batteries weren’t used until 100 years after electricity was invented…the word “battery” actually comes from the usage of artillery in a group, as in a gun battery.

  • cripz

    ewan qouh xa inu

  • shailey

    #9 #8 #5, amazing discoveries, good to know that they are originated from India. :)there are lots more, pls post it here…

  • Kitkat

    toothbrusehes and toothpaste. what a relief…

  • kook

    @HAL9000 (4):
    football is the european way for saying soccer…



  • Amanda

    My name is Amanda and I’m working as a segmentproducer for an upcoming television show! I am interested in using some of these photos for the segment I am working on! If yoi own these photos (or know who does) please let me know and I will pass along some more details!

  • carol

    i thought that when i search on mesoamerica i’ll not get any thing and ………….. i am amaxed at what all they made

  • Swag Master

    good list, interesting, but i’m almost positive no one thought that maps or shipyards were modern inventions..also, to add to your Football description, when the ancient britains killed the danish invaders, they used to kick around their heads like a football

  • cive2011

    Cement and concrete were also what helped build the roman empire and is what holds many of the still standing ancient structures and roads together, however, it was lost after the Roman empire and was rediscovered in modern times.

  • Joe

    Maybe you just thought they were modern? Lack of education doesn’t make a good list.

  • Bitu

    wow this is simply great yaah…

  • Kim Allen

    It was kind of silly to put maps on this list. Pretty much anyone who made it through high school knows that maps aren’t a modern invention.

  • i never thought maps were modern…