Ancient Inventions (1400s and Earlier) Part 1

Have you ever wondered where some of the things we use on a daily basis come from? Do you ever think ‘who came up with the idea for this’? Many people are unaware that some of the most commonly used objects and inventions were the brainchilds of ancient inventors dating earlier than the 1400s, throughout. In this article, we will take a look at a couple of ancient inventors, including the catapult with a history traced back to 399 BC.


The instrument used to assess the altitude of objects within the sky (such as the stars or the sun) was called an astrolabe and ancient Greek astronomers first used it about 200 BC. Later on, the sextant replaced the astrolabe.


When you watch ancient war-themed movies, many soldiers rigged catapults to heave heavy objects, arrows, and ball of fire towards their enemies during combat. The catapult was able to cover a large distance, which helped armies effectively attack fortresses and castles. In ancient Greece, Dionysius the Elder (of Syracuse) invented the catapult in about 399 BC. Later, it would be the Romans, who would add wheels to the invention to make it easier to transport. The catapult was also known as the ballista and served as a major weapon for more than 1,000 years. In the years to follow, a double-armed catapult (also dubbed the trebuchet) was invented during the Middle Ages by Mariano Taccola of Siena (about AD 1400).


One of the oldest toys known to children all over the world is the yo-yo, which has been used for more than 2,500 years. The first to utilize the toy were the ancient Romans, who fashioned the trinkets from wooden and metal. As for the name, the title originates from the Tagalog language (of the Philippines), which means, “to come back.”


How would we be able to tell what direction we are traveling if it wasn’t for the earliest known compass (a gift from China) that was invented during the Han Dynasty (2nd century BC-2nd century AD)? The materials used to fashion the earliest compass includes lodestone , a magnetite ore with natural magnetic properties. Upon a bronze disk, a spoon-shaped piece of lodestone was attached and the lodestone always pointed to the north. At first, the earliest compass was not used for navigational purposes, but instead, served divination purposes (including Feng Shui), where people relied on the invention to figure out where to place their buildings.


That timeless children’s toy known to accommodate the younger generation on trips to the park or beach was invented about 2,500 to 3,000 years ago. While the invention is believed to have originated in China, other locations such as Malaysia and Indonesia have made claims to being the first to invent the toy. To back up the claim, some researchers suggest that the earliest kites were products of a large leaf attached to a long string, where a particular Indonesian leaf would make the described item.