Ancient Technologies that We Can’t even Match Today

Ancient Technologies that We Can’t even Match Today

June 7, 2018 3 By Aditya Rajput

Ancient Technologies that We Can’t even Match Today

Modern humans are the best humans. Just look back at those primitive troglodytes from hundreds of years ago: what a bunch of idiots. Probably don’t even know how to work an iPhone. Truly, we are superior in every way, save for beard-growing abilities. Or are we? Historians are digging up evidence that indicates some ancient humans had their shit together in ways modern humanity can still barely manage

1.Heat Ray Weapon

Greek mathematician Archimedes (d. 212 B.C.) developed a heat-ray weapon that defied the skills of Discovery Channel’s “Mythbusters” to replicate in 2004. Mayor described the weapon as “ranks of polished bronze shields reflecting the sun’s rays at enemy ships.”

Although “Mythbusters” failed to reproduce this ancient weapon and declared it a myth, MIT students succeeded in 2005. They combusted a boat in San Francisco harbor using the 2,200-year-old weapon.

A heat-ray weapon unveiled in 2001 by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) used microwaves to penetrate “a victim’s skin, heating it to 130 degrees Fahrenheit, creating the sensation that one is on fire,” explained Mayor.

Archimedes may have used mirrors acting collectively as a parabolic reflector to burn ships attacking Syracuse. The 2nd century AD author Lucian wrote that during the Siege of Syracuse (c. 214–212 BC), Archimedes destroyed enemy ships with fire. Centuries later, Anthemius of Tralles mentions burning-glasses as Archimedes’ weapon. The device, sometimes called the “Archimedes heat ray”, was used to focus sunlight onto approaching ships, causing them to catch fire. In the modern era, similar devices have been constructed and may be referred to as a heliostat or solar furnace.

By Finnrind (original); Pbroks13 (talk) (redraw) - Image:Archimedes Heat Ray conceptual diagram.png, CC BY-SA 3.0,

source : By Finnrind (original); Pbroks13 (talk) (redraw) – Image:Archimedes Heat Ray conceptual diagram.png, CC BY-SA 3.0,

This purported weapon has been the subject of ongoing debate about its credibility since the Renaissance. René Descartes rejected it as false, while modern researchers have attempted to recreate the effect using only the means that would have been available to Archimedes. It has been suggested that a large array of highly polished bronze or copper shields acting as mirrors could have been employed to focus sunlight onto a ship.

A test of the Archimedes heat ray was carried out in 1973 by the Greek scientist Ioannis Sakkas. The experiment took place at the Skaramagas naval base outside Athens. On this occasion 70 mirrors were used, each with a copper coating and a size of around five by three feet (1.5 by 1 m). The mirrors were pointed at a plywood mock-up of a Roman warship at a distance of around 160 feet (50 m). When the mirrors were focused accurately, the ship burst into flames within a few seconds. The plywood ship had a coating of tar paint, which may have aided combustion. A coating of tar would have been commonplace on ships in the classical era.

2.Roman Concrete

Roman concrete, like any concrete, consists of an aggregate and hydraulic mortar – a binder mixed with water that hardens over time. The aggregate varied, and included pieces of rock, ceramic tile, and brick rubble from the remains of previously demolished buildings.

Gypsum and quicklime were used as binders. Volcanic dusts, called pozzolana or “pit sand”, were favored where they could be obtained. Pozzolana makes the concrete more resistant to salt water than modern-day concrete. The pozzolanic mortar used had a high content of alumina and silica. Tuff was often used as an aggregate.

Concrete, and in particular, the hydraulic mortar responsible for its cohesion, was a type of structural ceramic whose utility derived largely from its rheological plasticity in the paste state. The setting and hardening of hydraulic cements derived from hydration of materials and the subsequent chemical and physical interaction of these hydration products. This differed from the setting of slaked lime mortars, the most common cements of the pre-Roman world. Once set, Roman concrete exhibited little plasticity, although it retained some resistance to tensile stresses.

The setting of pozzolanic cements has much in common with setting of their modern counterpart, Portland cement. The high silica composition of Roman pozzolana cements is very close to that of modern cement to which blast furnace slag, fly ash, or silica fume have been added.

The strength and longevity of Roman marine concrete is understood to benefit from a reaction of seawater with a mixture of volcanic ash and quicklime to create a rare crystal called tobermorite, which may resist fracturing. As seawater percolated within the tiny cracks in the Roman concrete, it reacted with phillipsite naturally found in the volcanic rock and created aluminous tobermorite crystals. The result is a candidate for “the most durable building material in human history.” In contrast, modern concrete exposed to saltwater deteriorates within decades.

Compressive strengths for modern Portland cements are typically at the 50 MPa level and have improved almost ten-fold since 1860. There are no comparable mechanical data for ancient mortars, although some information about tensile strength may be inferred from the cracking of Roman concrete domes. These tensile strengths vary substantially from the water/cement ratio used in the initial mix. At present, there is no way of ascertaining what water/cement ratios the Romans used, nor are there extensive data for the effects of this ratio on the strengths of pozzolanic cements.

3.Greek Fire: Mysterious Chemical Weapon

Greek fire was an incendiary weapon used by the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire that was first developed c. 672. The Byzantines typically used it in naval battles to great effect, as it could continue burning while floating on water. It provided a technological advantage and was responsible for many key Byzantine military victories, most notably the salvation of Constantinople from two Arab sieges, thus securing the Empire’s survival.

The impression made by Greek fire on the western European Crusaders was such that the name was applied to any sort of incendiary weapon, including those used by Arabs, the Chinese, and the Mongols. However, these were different mixtures and not the same formula as the Byzantine Greek fire, which was a closely guarded state secret. Byzantines also used pressurized nozzles or siphōns to project the liquid onto the enemy.

Greek fire was first used in naval engagements where streams of the flaming liquid were fired under pressure towards enemy ships. The ships which usually carried Greek Fire were of the dromon type, a fast-sailing vessel which could also be propelled using oars. The exact design of the firing device is not known except that it was made from bronze tubes and included a syphon pump and swivelling nozzle. The apparatus must have been complex because an example and the necessary liquid fuel were once captured by a Bulgar force but they could not manage to actually use it. A 12th century CE illuminated manuscript, the Madrid Skylitzes, contains an illustration of one of Michael II’s (r. 820-829 CE) ships shooting Greek Fire from a long tube towards a ship of Thomas the Slav during the latter’s siege of Constantinople in 821-822 CE. In 2006 CE a full-size replica was constructed by John Haldon using reconstructed parts and Crimean oil. The endeavour was a success, firing intense flames 10 to 15 metres distant which were capable of incinerating anything in their path in seconds.

The dramatic effect of Greek Fire and the method of spraying it, according to the 6th century CE Byzantine historian Theophanes, “caused enemies to shiver in terror” (Bagnall, 2984). Just about anything on board an enemy vessel that came into contact with the liquid was immediately set ablaze – rigging, sails, men and even the ship’s hull. Worse, there was no way of putting out the fire as water had no effect on it. A peculiar quality which made the weapon even more shocking was that it burned especially well on water. There was very little defence against it either – covering the ship in soaked hides, maintaining a safe distance or attacking during storms were all attempted without much success.

4.Ancient Metal Plating

We know that people of the middle ages and earlier had the ability to coat materials with thin films of metal like gold and silver. In fact, their methods functioned even better than the ones we use today. We still haven’t caught up to the middle ages. But it gets better: the Iron Pillar is a column in the Qutb Complex of Delhi. It was built around A.D. 400 and enjoys thoroughly mocking archaeologists and metallurgists, because it’s 1,600 years old and it has not corroded yet. Compare that to your 1994 Ford Festiva and you might start to see what an accomplishment that truly is.

Studies of the Iron Pillar show that its composition is unusually high in phosphorous, which seems to have shielded the metal underneath from the ravages of nature. It basically nurtures a thin film of harmless rust that gets metallic Stockholm Syndrome and fights off deeper, more damaging rust. That’s not an accident: earlier iron works are lacking that phosphorous, while several later structures were forged in the same fashion.

5. Damascus Steel – Another Lost Ancient Technology Product

Damascus steel was a type of steel used for manufacturing sword blades in the Near East made with wootz steel. These swords are characterized by distinctive patterns of banding and mottling reminiscent of flowing water. Such blades were reputed to be tough, resistant to shattering, and capable of being honed to a sharp, resilient edge.

The steel is named after Damascus, the capital city of Syria. It may either refer to swords made or sold in Damascus directly, or it may just refer to the aspect of the typical patterns, by comparison with Damask fabrics (which are themselves named after Damascus).

The original method of producing Damascus steel is not known. Modern attempts to duplicate the metal have not been entirely successful due to differences in raw materials and manufacturing techniques. Several individuals in modern times have claimed that they have rediscovered the methods by which the original Damascus steel was produced.

The reputation and history of Damascus steel has given rise to many legends, such as the ability to cut through a rifle barrel or to cut a hair falling across the blade

For 2,000 years, the finest steel in the world was known as Damascus steel, which were known for their distinctive patterns, extreme toughness, and ability to be honed to the sharpest of edges. The legends that sprang up around Damascus steel claimed it cut a strand of silk in half as it fell to the ground and even cut through other swords without losing its sharpness. These stories outstripped the steel’s actual abilities, but not by much.

The exact method of producing Damascus steel was a trade secret among Middle Eastern swordsmiths, although we’re fairly sure the steel was made from ore deposits originating in India and Sri Lanka. These deposits likely began to run out in the early 1700s, bringing an unceremonious end to a metalworking tradition that dated back twenty centuries. Exactly why the knowledge of how to make Damascus steel disappeared so completely and totally is difficult to determine, but researchers have suggested the unique properties were the result of very precise trace impurities of elements like tungsten or vanadium in those specific ores, and there was no point trying to make Damascus steel with anything else.