Special Report

Ancient Inventions You Thought Were Modern

Back in the 1990s, most people wouldn’t have believed that soon, everyone from elementary school children to grandparents would be walking around with a hand-held device that serves as a computer, mobile phone, and camera. Cell phones have rapidly shaped modern society, and other advanced technology has the potential to change our lives dramatically. (Here are the most useful appliances invented in the last 100 years.)

Some seemingly modern luxuries, however, have been around for longer than you’d think. Central heating, indoor plumbing, and automatic doors, for example, were all invented over 2000 years ago. Ancient civilizations around the world, from Central and South America, to the Mediterranean, to China had bustling urban centers where innovation was necessary to help society run smoothly. 

24/7 Tempo has compiled 25 ancient inventions you thought were modern by reviewing numerous articles and archaeological reports to determine the first incarnation of inventions that are still commonly used today. Many of these inventions were originally used by the elite and royalty, only becoming more commonplace with time. 

A few of the inventions were planned on paper but likely never made it to implementation in their creator’s lifetime, while others — such as perfume and toothpaste — have been used ever since, with their base formulas remaining remarkably similar to the originals. (Some technologies, on the other hand, quickly sink into obsolescence. Here are modern inventions we really don’t use any more.)

Click here to see ancient inventions you thought were modern