13 Ancient Inventions That Scientists Still Can’t Crack
The longer scientists research our ancient heritage, the more questions arise. It seems that the ancient world might be very different from how we imagine it.
Bright Side put together 13 items from the distant past which prove that our ancestors possessed knowledge and skills far more advanced than we once believed.
13. Colombian golden airplane, 4th-7th centuries AD
The Colombian golden airplane refers to Quimbaya artifacts. Scientists believe that these items are no more than the stylized recreations of birds and insects. However, there are theorists who claim that the airplanes represent ancient flying machines. It was also proved that enlarged replicas of these artifacts can actually fly.
12. Roman dodecahedron, 2nd-3rd centuries AD
About a hundred such items have been found all over the world: in Italy, the UK, France, Germany, Hungary, and even in Vietnam. Speculated uses of the dodecahedron include candlestick holders, dice, gauges to calibrate water pipes, or even a fortune-telling device.
11. Nimrud lens, 750-710 BC
This optical lens made of crystal rock was unearthed at the Assyrian palace of Nimrud, in modern-day Iraq, in 1850. The lens is equivalent to a 3X magnifying effect. Some scientists believe that it was part of a telescope or had a decorative function.
10. Baghdad battery, c. 2500 BC
The battery consists of terracotta pots containing a copper cylinder housing a single iron rod. Replicas of these pots filled with electrolytes could produce a voltage of approximately 2 volts. Perhaps the ancient Babylonians were aware of the galvanizing method and used the item to electroplate gold onto silver objects. However, skeptics claim that these pots were used as storage for scrolls.
9. Phaistos Disc, 2700-1400 BC
The Phaistos Disc was discovered in the Minoan palace of Phaistos on the island of Crete in 1908. The origin of the disc and the meaning of its signs are still unclear because the clay the disc is made from is not found anywhere on Crete, and the signs don’t have enough background to be deciphered.
8. Egyptian pyramid construction techniques, 2667 BC
Scientists still cannot come to an agreement about which construction techniques were used to build the Egyptian pyramids. There are a few different construction hypotheses. One of them claims that the stones were not actually carved but made of concrete right at the construction place. However, this method does not explain the huge natural granite stones weighing over 10 tons.
7. The tombs inside the Great Pyramids of Giza
Egyptologist Stephen S. Mehler and other researchers suggest that the hallways and chambers inside the Great Pyramids were originally constructed for something other than a pharaoh’s tomb. Just take a look at the complex construction of the ceilings, the perfect acoustics of the 5-story-high halls, and the absence of art. There’s no tomb like this in the whole of Egypt. Ancient Egyptians left us no indication as to the purpose of this construction.
6. Sabu Disc, 3100-3000 BC
This stone disc was discovered in the tomb of Sabu in the village of Saqqara in Egypt. Since no analogs of this disc have been found so far, it is very hard to say what its purpose was. Our guess is that it’s definitely not a plate, or a lantern, or a wheel. What’s yours?
5. Antikythera mechanism, 100 BC
This ancient device was recovered from the Antikythera wreck off the Greek island of Antikythera in 1901. It is a complex clockwork mechanism composed of at least 30 meshing bronze gears housed inside a wooden box.
This mechanism is often called an "ancient Greek computer" because it can predict astronomical positions and eclipses for calendar and astrological purposes. It also tracks the cycle of the ancient Olympic Games.
4. Iron pillar of Delhi, 415 AD
Being one of the major sightseeing attractions of Delhi, this pillar is notable for the fact that it’s been almost unaffected by rust for its 1,600-year existence. Some hypotheses claim that the pillar was made from a meteorite, however, this proved to be wrong. It seems likely that ancient Indian ironsmiths achieved a high level of skill in the extraction and processing of iron. With this method, they created an even oxide layer, which served to protect the pillar from the effects of the Delhi climate.
3. Flexible glass, 14-37 AD
An unknown craftsman invented a flexible glass that couldn’t be broken. He made a drinking bowl out of it and brought it to the Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar as a gift. Ceasar appreciated the gift and beheaded the inventor for fear that such a material could undermine the value of gold and silver.
2. Zhang Hang’s seismoscope, 132 AD
This seismoscope was produced by the remarkable Chinese inventor Zhang Hang. When an earthquake approached, Zhang’s device dropped a bronze ball from a dragon head into the mouth of a toad sitting below. The device had a swinging pendulum inside which was connected to the dragon heads with levers.
1. Nebra sky disk, c. 1600 BC
This bronze disk with the golden symbols of a sun, a lunar crescent, and stars was found near Nebra, Germany, in 1999. It was initially suspected of being a forgery, but now it is widely accepted as authentic. This device provides close observation of the yearly course of the sun and the angle between its rising and setting points at the summer and winter solstice, making it the oldest "portable instrument" to allow astronomical measures.