Top 10 Modern Ideas That Ancient People Used First


There are a lot of everyday things that many of us wrongfully believe were invented in modern times. This is understandable, since many of these objects require sophisticated forms of technology, or were only introduced to the public in the 19th or 20th century.

However, as surprising as this might sound, a lot of supposed “modern” ideas were actually invented and used by ancient civilizations thousands of years ago. Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll gain a new kind of respect and admiration for the ingenuity and intelligence of ancient people.

10. Prosthetic Limbs


Prosthetic limbs are a great source of hope for a lot of disabled people around the world. With the use of these limbs, amputees can function normally again. They may look like they’ve been invented in the 20th century, but do not let their seemingly-complex mechanism and structure fool you. They’ve been around since before Jesus Christ was born!

Archaeologists have unearthed a rigid material, dated back to the fifth Egyptian Dynasty (2750-2625 BC) that could easily support broken bones. Aside from that, in 1858, researchers discovered an artificial limb made of wood and copper in Capri, Italy. It was dated back to 300 BC. Of course, these primitive prosthetic legs were nowhere as good or efficient as the ones we have today, but they certainly were ahead of their time.

Their real development began when Ambroise Pare, a French surgeon, introduced amputation to the medical world. Since then, numerous advancements in the science of making prosthetics have been made. For example, in 1863, Dubois Parmelee introduced an improvement to the earlier design of prosthetic limbs by attaching “a body socket to the limb with atmospheric pressure.” In 1898, another development was introduced when Dr. Vanghetti came up with prosthetic limbs that can be controlled through muscle contraction.

9. Condoms


Condoms allow people to have sex without the fear of STDs or unwanted pregnancy. Some groups, like the Catholic Church, might not be in favor of using condoms, but it’s undeniable that their introduction to the public has helped saved thousands, if not millions, of lives around the world.

It was in the 1980s, when the public and the government became aware of AIDS, that condoms became popular and highly essential. However, that was not when condoms were invented. Not even close, in fact. It turns out that condoms were a regular part of ancient civilizations’ sex life since as far back as 1000 BC. Unlike today, their condoms weren’t made of latex or polyurethane. They were made of leather, oiled silk paper, or thin hollow horn, and were often used and reused until they broke apart. It wasn’t until the 15th century that Gabrielle Fallopious, an Italian doctor, suggested the use of condoms made from linen sheath, in order to protect the wearer from acquiring syphilis.

8. Toilets


Can you imagine a world without toilets? There would be chaos, war, death, and no place to read your favorite book. Toilets make our lives convenient, comfortable, and civilized.

Modern toilets were first introduced to the public in the 1800s. Thomas Crapper is credited for inventing the modern flush toilet, though this isn’t true. Real credit belongs to Sir John Harrington, the godson of Queen Elizabeth I. In 1596, he came up with the first flush toilet. However, his invention was only used in royal homes, and it was Crapper who introduced the modern toilet to the public. This lead many people to falsely believe that he invented it.

Of course, neither man can truly take credit, as toilets have been around for thousands of years. Experts have discovered certain civilizations that date back as far as 3000 BC that were using flush toilets to take care of their dirty business. For example, the people of the Harappan civilization of India, had toilets in their homes.

7. Toilet Paper


Speaking of toilets, no modern day bathroom would be complete without one essential item — toilet paper. This simple, yet highly indispensable invention was only introduced in the UK and America in the 1800’s, and it only became popular to the masses in the 1900’s when indoor toilets became widely used. So what did our ancestors use before the toilet paper became commercially available? Well, anything they could set their eyes on, such as wood shavings, sand, leaves, sea weed, moss, hay, ferns, seashells, apple husks, wool, hemp, lace, and even rocks.

One civilization however, had it all figured out. As early as the 6th century AD, the Chinese were using toilet paper to complete their bathroom ritual. It’s important to note though, that their toilet paper was used mostly in China’s Imperial courts, and in some rich Chinese households. It wasn’t for a good long while that the use of toilet paper was adopted by ordinary Chinese citizens. It became so popular and indispensable in ancient China that, by the 14th century, merchants from the Zheijiang province were producing 10 million packages of toilet paper a year! Clearly, the idea didn’t stink.

6. Batteries


Alessandro Volta is credited for inventing the first modern day battery. In 1800, he successfully built the first voltaic pile, which was made up of copper and zinc plates. Before Volta, scientists from the 1700’s were conducting experiments to produce and store electricity, though they were unsuccessful. It was Volta who succeeded in creating a device that could produce consistent, manageable, and portable electricity.

However, before any of those people were even thought of, people from the ancient past were using batteries successfully. The Parthians, a group of people that thrived around 250 BC in modern day Iraq, are considered to be the first users and inventors of battery. Unlike Volta’s battery, the Parthians didn’t use copper and zinc plates. Instead, what they had was a clay jar filled with vinegar. Inside was an iron rod and a copper cylinder. Clearly, compared to Volta’s voltaic pile, the Parthian battery was very primitive. Nonetheless, it worked effectively enough for the time.

5. Chrome


People use chrome plating for many purposes, such as making a surface harder and sturdier, providing resistance against corrosion, and making cleaning and maintenance far easier. Chrome plating technology is relatively new in that the first American patents for this invention were only given out in 1926, to Colin Garfield Fink. Aside from an American patent, there is also a German patent for chrome plating, issued to E. Liebrich in 1924.

However, the 1974 discovery of Qin Shi Huang Di’s tomb in Shaanxi, China, proved that chrome plating isn’t a modern-day marvel. It turns out that the ancient Chinese were using chrome on their weapons more than 2,000 years ago. When archaeologists discovered Huang Di’s tomb, they were amazed to find the biggest collection of terracotta figures in the world, along with various kinds of weapons, such as arrowheads, battle axes, crossbows, and spears. They were amazed to find out that everything in that tomb was preserved via chrome plating technology.

4. Breath Mints and Toothpaste


While many of us might think that oral hygiene products are a fairly new thing, since oral hygiene itself wasn’t taken seriously until just a few hundred years ago, many of us would be wrong. As it turns out, the ancient Egyptians, they of pyramid-making fame, were doting on their teeth thousands upon thousands of years back.

The Egyptians were very particular about their oral health, primarily because much of their population was suffering from various kinds of oral diseases. In order to conceal the resulting bad breath, the Egyptians invented the first breath mint. Its ingredients, in case you ever want to make your own, consisted of myrrh, cinnamon, and frankincense. These fragrant spices were then boiled with honey and molded into a little ball.

The Egyptians succeeded in keeping their mouths smelling fresh and clean, but they knew that concealing bad odor wasn’t going to solve their oral problems. So they came up with the first toothpaste to address this issue. Of course, it wasn’t as pleasant or as sophisticated as the paste we use today. Nonetheless, it did the job. Just in case you want to make your own toothpaste as well, the Egyptian recipe consisted of ox hooves, pumice, ashes, and burned eggshells.

3. Plastic Surgery


Nowadays, many people undergo plastic surgery to become more attractive, or to keep themselves from getting older. With all the sophisticated technology needed to perform this kind of medical procedure, it’s easy to assume that plastic surgery is a relatively new field. However, this is wrong. Eight centuries before Christ was born, Hindu doctors were already performing and perfecting this delicate medical procedure.

But unlike today, ancient Hindu doctors performed plastic surgery for practical reasons, and not for aesthetics. In Indian culture, the nose is considered a symbol of pride. During battles, warriors would often target and damage this delicate part of the body. Also, Hindus who have committed crimes, such as adultery, were punished with mutilated schnozzes. The plastic surgeons would then reconstruct the damaged noses and restore them to their former glory. Aside from noses, ancient Hindu plastic surgeons also performed surgeries on damaged earlobes.

2. Vending Machines


Vending machines are everywhere these days. From mid-afternoon snacks to cigarettes to lottery tickets, vending machines have made our lives a lot easier and convenient. One thing vending machines are not though, is modern. In fact, they have been around for thousands of years, and you’d be surprised to find out what the first vending machine was originally intended for.

Heron of Alexandria, a Greek professor and inventor who lived in the first century AD, invented the first vending machine as a way to dispense holy water and keep it away from thieves. Yes, people were stealing holy water, as it was common back then for worshipers to take more than what they paid for, because while that Moses guy might’ve been all “thou shalt not steal,” Zeus never said a damn word for or against it. To combat this problem, Heron came up with a brilliant design for a machine that would release just the right amount of holy water that the temple goers had purchased. Heron’s vending machine was very simple in design, yet it proved to be extremely effective in stopping temple thievery.

1. Dildos


Dildos might not be as indispensable as toilets or as revolutionary as batteries, but they sure provide a lot of fun and pleasure to many couples and lonely people. In addition, they’ve been around longer than any one item discussed thus far.

In 2005, the oldest known dildo was discovered in a German cave. It’s made of stone, is 20 cm long and 3 cm wide, and is believed to be approximately 28,000 years old! In 2010, another dildo was unearthed in Sweden, this one a mere 6-8,000 years old. The ancient Swede’s version is made of wood and is considerably smaller—10.5 cm long and 2 cm wide.

Some experts suggested that, aside from sexual use, these dildos might have been used as chipping tools as well. In addition, archaeologists have also admitted that they are uncertain whether women, men, or both sexes were the primary users of these ancient dildo-like objects. Guess we’ll just have to use our imaginations.

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  1. i wonder how that ancient vending machine works.. anyway this post has been an interesting experience 🙂

  2. Really interesting, especially the toothpaste, plastic surgery and vending machines