7 Advanced Ancient Technologies Beyond Modern Understanding

7 Advanced Ancient Technologies Beyond Modern Understanding

We have lost the secret to making some of the most advanced ancient technologies in history, and despite all our current technology, our ancestors from thousands of years ago can still baffle us with their ingenuity. 

In fact, some of these Advanced Ancient Technologies were so far ahead of their time that we have only recently developed their modern equivalent. Here are some examples.

1. The Greek fire

Greek fire was supposedly invented by a Syrian Christian refugee named Calínico, originally from Heliopolis. Some authors think that Callínico received the secret of the Greek fire of the alchemists of Alexandria.

Byzantine naval engineers of the 6th century used all their ingenuity when using the weapon, and equipped the ships with hydraulic devices that, actuated by a hand pump, burned the decks and sails of enemy ships with fire.

On the other hand, the sailors had ceramic containers filled with Greek fire that they threw on enemy ships, like hand grenades

The Greek Fire

This technological advantage was responsible for several important Byzantine military victories, especially the salvation of Byzantium in two Muslim sieges, thereby ensuring the continuity of the Empire, thus constituting a brake on the expansionist intentions of Islam, and avoiding the possible conquest of Europe.

The impression that the Greek fire produced on the Crusaders was of such magnitude that the name came to be used for all types of incendiary weapons, including those used by the Arabs, Chinese, and Mongols. 

However, they were different formulas from the Byzantine one, which was a jealously guarded state secret, the composition of which has been lost. Therefore, its ingredients are the subject of much debate. Some of the following ingredients have been proposed: crude oil, quicklime, sulfur, and saltpeter.

What distinguished the Byzantines in the use of incendiary mixtures was the use of pressurized siphons to launch the liquid at the enemy.

It should be noted that the term “Greek fire” has been in general use since the Crusades; in the original Byzantine sources it receives various names, such as “sea fire”, “Roman fire”, “war fire”, “liquid fire” or “processed fire”.

Finally, this ancient technology is so famous that even the Game of Thrones series showed it in several of its chapters and called it “wildfire.”

Wildfire In Game Of Thrones

2. Vitrum flexile (Flexible Glass)

Flexible glass appears in history as a supposed lost invention that existed during the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar (between AD 14 to AD 37).

According to ancient texts, the craftsman who invented the technique brought a drinking bowl made of flexible glass before Caesar and he threw it to the ground, Rather than breaking the glass only had a small dent. The inventor easily repaired it with a small hammer. After he swore to the emperor that only he knew the manufacturing technique, Caesar ordered his beheading, fearing that such material could undermine the value of gold and silver.

Vitrum Flexile 7 Advanced Ancient Technologies Beyond Modern Understanding
Bust of Emperor Tiberius.

In 2012, the glass manufacturing company Corning introduced its flexible ” Willow Glass “. Heat resistant and flexible enough to roll up, it has proven especially useful in solar panel manufacturing.

If the unfortunate Roman glazier invented the flexile vitrum, it seems that he was thousands of years ahead of his time.

3. The antidote to all poisons

A supposed “universal antidote” to all poisons was said to have been developed by King Mithridates VI of Pontus (reigned 120-63 BC) and perfected by Emperor Nero’s personal physician.

The original formula was lost, explained Adrienne Mayor, a folklorist and science historian at Stanford University, in a 2008 article titled Greek Fire, Poison Arrows & Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World. But ancient historians claimed that among its ingredients were opium, pitted snakes, and a combination of small doses of poisons and their antidotes.

The valuable substance was known as Mithridates, named for King Mithridates VI (Mithridaticus antidotus)

Mayor pointed out that Sergei Popov, a former principal bioweapons researcher in the Soviet Union’s massive Biopreparatprogram who defected to the United States in 1992, was attempting to make a modern Mithridates.

4. Ray Weapon

The Greek mathematician and inventor Archimedes (d. 212 BC) developed a heat ray weapon that was known to be the terror of Roman invaders.

7 Advanced Ancient Technologies Beyond Modern Understanding
Painting by Giulio Parigi depicting the burning of a Roman nave using a burning mirror during the siege of Syracuse (Uffizi Gallery, Florence

According to tradition, within his works in the defense of Syracuse, Archimedes created a system of burning mirrors —probably through rows of polished bronze shields— that reflected sunlight, They used to concentrate it on enemy ships in order to set them on fire.

This invention challenged the skills of the Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters, who attempted to replicate the weapon in 2004. And although the docuseries failed to reproduce this ancient weapon and declared it a myth, the MIT students succeeded just a year later, burning a ship in San Francisco harbor with a 2,200-year-old gun.

5. Roman Concrete

The vast Roman structures that have lasted for thousands of years are testament to the advantages Roman concrete has over concrete used today, which shows signs of degradation after 50 years.

Researchers have worked in recent years to discover the secret to the longevity of this ancient concrete. Thus they found that one of the secret ingredients was pozzolana (volcanic ash) as a binder, which generally made concrete more resistant to saltwater than modern concrete.

Caesarea Maritima is the first known example of having used Roman concrete technology under the sea on such a large scale.

An article published in 2013 by the University of California-Berkeley News Center announced that researchers for the first time described how the extraordinarily stable compound calcium-aluminum-silicate-hydrate (CASH) binds to the material. The manufacturing process would generate less carbon dioxide emissions than the modern concrete manufacturing process.

Some disadvantages of its use are, however, that it takes longer to dry and, although it lasts longer, it is weaker than modern concrete.

6. Pre-Columbian plasticine stones

According to the famous English traveler and explorer Percy Harrison Fawcett, the Tiwanaku knew the secrets of a plant that grew in the Amazon rainforests and whose sap softened the rocks.

Other accounts of travelers and explorers such as Hiram Bingham (who is credited with the modern “discovery” of Machu Picchu), for example, relate the phenomenon of the softening of iron horseshoes and spurs of the same material, when the horses traveled over a plateau where certain plants grew.

7 Advanced Ancient Technologies Beyond Modern Understanding
Sacsayhuamán, Cusco, Peru.

Around 1983, Father Jorge Lira, a Peruvian priest expert in Andean folklore and its traditions, carried out an experiment with some native plants. For fourteen years this Catholic priest had studied the legend of the ancient Andeans and, finally, managed to identify a certain shrub that the native inhabitants called Jotcha as the plant that, after being mixed and treated with other vegetables and substances, was capable of converting the stone into the mud.


“The ancient Indians mastered the technique of massification,” Father Lira affirmed, “softening the stone, which they reduced to a soft mass that they could easily mold.” but it was impossible for him to make it return to its initial hard state, so he finally decided that his experiment had failed.

It is believed that the substance that Lira used in this experiment would have been extracted from a certain bush, similar to the plant that the peasants – as we said – called Jotcha, and whose botanical name was Andean Ephedra. 

However, the father died in 1988 and the secret of the true substance and its use was taken to the grave, and so far no one has managed to identify such a strange plant.

7. Damascus steel

The origins of the name assigned to this type of steel remain controversial today. However, it seems certain that the word refers to the swords made in the past in the vicinity of Damascus, Syria, in the period from 900 to 1750.

Damascus steel was a kind of alloy that had both the qualities of toughness and flexibility, a combination that made it a special material for the construction of good swords. It is said that the first Damascus steel swords were found by the Europeans during the Crusades, at this time they earned their reputation for being able to cut a piece of silk in the air and to be able to cut a rock without losing its edge.

The technique for making this steel dates back to blacksmiths in India and Sri Lanka, perhaps 100 BC, who developed something known as “wootz steel”, steel made with very high carbon content, in an unknown purity and strength. At the time, glass was added during iron smelting and heated with charcoal. The crystal acted as an agent that made the impurities in the mixture flow allowing them to rise to the surface during cooling.

7 Advanced Ancient Technologies Beyond Modern Understanding
Left: A Damascus blacksmith, c. 
1900. Right: close-up of a 13th-century Persian-forged Damascus steel sword

Thousands of steel mills were found in the Samanalawewa area of ​​Sri Lanka that produced carbon steel until the beginning of the year 300. These steel mill furnaces were located in such a way that the winds from the west, the Monsoons, caused the necessary suction to be able to blow and heat the oven. Sri Lanka’s steelmaking sites have been Carbon 14 dated to AD 300.

The technique created on the indica island spread slowly throughout the world until reaching Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan throughout the 900s and finally to the Middle East around 1000, where the process was refined – either by making its own steels or working the wootz steels purchased in India.

The exact process is unknown today, but it is known that in manufacturing, carbides came to precipitate in the form of microparticles arranged in layers or bands in the body of the blade. The carbides, which are harder, provide this mixed characteristic of hardness and flexibility, ideal for swords.

via Epoch Times

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