Ten Things the Ancients Did Better than Us

Ten Things the Ancients Did Better than Us

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9. Astronomy

Ancient Astronomy Knowledge

From star constellations painted on ancient Greek ceramics to Native American rock art depicting solstices , star charts in ancient Japanese tombs , Australian Aboriginal dreamtime stories reflecting known astronomical events , and a 10,000-year-old megalithic calendar in Scotland, there is no doubt that ancient civilizations around the world possessed an extraordinary understanding of the cosmos and its movements. But just how they were able to so precisely and accurately record cosmological events without the technology we possess today still eludes scientists in many cases.

What is certain is that recent discoveries have revealed just how advanced ancient cultures were when it came to astronomical knowledge, and that they were far from the primitive people they were once thought to be.

10. Weapons

Greek Fire

While there is no doubt that modern-day weapons are far more superior to their ancient counterparts in their ability to unleash mass death and destruction, there exist a number of powerful ancient weapons that still elude scientists as to their construction and capabilities.

Greek mathematician, engineer, inventor, and astronomer, Archimedes (287 - 212 BC) is reported to have created a heat ray weapon (sometimes called the ‘death ray’) to defend against ships attacking Syracuse, an historic city in Sicily. According to 2nd century AD author Lucian and centuries later, Anthemius of Tralles, the weapon was made of large reflectors (possibly made from polished bronze or copper), which were used to focus sunlight onto approaching ships, causing them to catch fire.

Although its existence has been hotly debated among historians, a number of tests have accurately proven that such a weapon is possible. In 1973, the Greek scientists Ioannis Sakkas set up 70 mirrors with a copper coating, which were pointed at a plywood model of a Roman warship at a distance of 50 meters. When the mirrors were focused accurately, the ship burst into flames within seconds.

By April Holloway


I am pretty impressed the Roman cement was way more durable than ours is today. However, I don't think that it had to do entirely with the amount of lime or how hot it was baked at. That is because they also added things like ox blood and horse hair to their mixture to make it more durable.

M.Alphan Namlı's picture

Peru has been facing a severe water crisis as chronic problems, such as polluted water supplies, and environmental change combine to undermine the water security of the entire country. However, a new plan has been put forward by Lima’s water utility company, Sedapal, to revive an ancient network of stone canals that were built by the Wari culture as early as 500 AD, in order to supply the population with clean, unpolluted water.

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Alphan Namli

The first sentence of this article makes me wonder if the writer is herself only two decades old. Please grow up. Perhaps you should spend time in your local library reading material on these subjects that was published five, twenty and yes even 50 decades ago!! My!! What wondrous articles you could write then!!! Please keep writing - but check a few books before you do - you'd be amazed(apparently) at what those of us alive forty to five hundred years ago knew.

While ancients did some things fine, better is something more controversial

  1. Hydro technology? Yes in some points. Like unpowered water transferr. Though why to do so in modern times when we have power pumps and pressurized pipes. Damming technology nowadays is far in advance any ancients could ever  have dreamed about.
    2. Steel. Modern metallurgy is more science than art. We have finely tuned temperatures, finely tuned additives and so on.  For example: Try making light weight gun barrel from ancient steel and you would quickly be very sorry.
    3. Concrete, yes Romans did long lifed concrete, though modern buildings are usually intentionally made short lived. If we really wanted we could make long life concrete. And even our limited age stuff has superior strength. As it is usually rebarred and pre-tensioned.
    4. Roads. Pre-modern roads needed to withstand quite light loads. Modern passenger car weights more than most of animal-powered carts, and 60-ton trailer trucks way much more. That kind of loads generally also degrade road bedding fast. As gravel in bedding tends to pounded to sand by masses involved. And road builders tend to have limited budgets, so they cannot be done with all available technological finesse. 
    9. Astronomy: Yes ancients could finely follow movements of stars and planets, but what they knew cannot really be compared with modern knowledge of cosmos. 10. Weapons: Modern weapons while they can deal mass destruction in unprecedented scale, they also can deal nearly surgical accuracy from vast ranges. And beam weapon mentioned in article can be easily reconstructed and surpassed. Even solar powered one. As modern parabolic mirrors can project more intense head over bigger range. And artificially powered high power laser could easily ignite wooden ship over great range.
Tsurugi's picture

I get the point you're making, but I think you're using a somewhat short-sighted definition of "better". For instance, the beam weapon. Yes, I could make a high-powered, highly accurate laser weapon and fry you on the spot, IF I had an army of technicians, factories, power plants, engineers, and physicists to help me out. But long before I could arrange all of that, you could have fried me with your much simpler arrangement of mirrors. So which one is "better"?


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