Special Report

Ancient Inventions You Thought Were Modern

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Door lock
> When: 2000 B.C.

The oldest known door lock was discovered in the ruins of a palace near Nineveh, the ancient capital of the Assyrian Empire in Mesopotamia. The lock mechanism consisted of a wooden bolt with several holes in it that was used to secure the door, and a series of wooden pegs that filled the holes, preventing the bolt from being pulled out. This was the precursor to a type of lock known as a pin tumbler, which was common in ancient Egypt.

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Cataract surgery
> When: 5th century B.C.

Although cataract surgery has been depicted in ancient Egyptian art and mentioned in Babylonian texts, the first known method of successfully treating cataracts dates back to 5th century B.C. India. Known as couching, the treatment involved dislodging the cataract with a curved needle and pushing it to the side, which restored limited but unfocused vision to those who were near blindness.

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Eye makeup
> When: 4000 B.C.

The earliest known remnants of eye makeup have been found in archaeological sites dating to predynastic Egypt.These remnants consist of malachite (a copper-based green mineral) and galena (a lead-based black mineral). The use of black and green makeup around the eyes became common in Egyptian upper classes, and galena eye shadow eventually came to be known as kohl in Arabic.

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Democracy
> When: 507 B.C.

Often considered a defining feature of modern life, the concept of democracy as we know it dates back to ancient Greece, where the Athenian leader Cleisthenes implemented a governmental system called “demokratia,” or “rule by the people.” Demokratia consisted of three separate governing institutions: one that wrote laws, one that represented each of the Athenian tribes, and one that arbitrated civilian cases.

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Newspaper
> When: 131 B.C.

The Acta Diurna, which translates to “daily acts” was a series of Roman public notices that were carved into stone or metal and posted daily in prominent places beginning in 131 B.C. Eventually, the format moved to handwritten notices on papyrus, making them the first newspaper in the world. Covered topics included legal decisions, military victories, grain prices, and notable deaths and births.

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