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Paper, Chocolate, and 9 Other Great Things Invented by Ancient Civilizations

Science in The World presents you: things invented by ancient civilizations!

We go to the supermarket every week and come back home with different kinds of chocolate, paper to write our thoughts and to-do lists on, or we put makeup on our faces so we can enhance the beautiful features mother nature has blessed us with.

But have you ever thought of the fact that some of the most ordinary items we use on a daily basis were actually invented by ancient civilizations? That’s right, and history taught us that plenty of modern society’s most cherished items, ideas, and institutions, as well as objects that we might not live without, can trace their fantastic origins back to the magnificent ancient world.

I already told you about some of the things that we’re going to talk about today, such as chocolate and paper, but if you want to discover other things invented by ancient civilizations, you’ll have to read this article until the end to find out! Are you ready to dive deep into history and learn more about our ancestors and their ideas? Then let’s begin!

things invented by ancient civilizations
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1. Eye makeup

Nowadays, women wear makeup to make them feel more beautiful and confident, to enhance some of the traits they have, or to hide some things that they’re not comfortable with.

But many years ago, ancient Egyptians thought that makeup was a way to not only improve their physical appearance but also to receive the power of divinity. This means that one of the first things invented by ancient civilizations was makeup, and their favorite look was the smokey eye.

Back in 4000 B.C., ancient Egyptians started to make kohl to line their beautiful eyes by mixing galena with soot, a metallic blue with a mineral that was normally black or gray.

If you take a look at the Egyptian paintings and statues, you’ll see that they also wore green eye makeup, and the way they achieved this gorgeous hue was by mixing malachite, another important mineral, with galena.

The reason why Pharaohs, both men and women, wore green eye makeup was that it was a symbol of Ra, the god of the sun and the father of all creation, and also a symbol of Hor, who was the god of kingship, protection, and healing.

Another reason they had makeup around their eyes was the fact that it was used to communicate about social status and the importance of an individual in society. Some sources also say that ancient Egyptians wore makeup because they believed it had healing powers, such as protecting the wearer from bad things.

Did you know that makeup was one of the things invented by ancient civilizations? That will surely change my entire makeup routine.

2. The marathon

Have you ever run a marathon? As it turns out, the first human to ever do such a thing was a Greek soldier who ran from Marathon to Athens, which was a distance of around 26 miles. This happened in 490 B.C., and the reason why that man did such an impressive thing was that he was required to bring news of the Athenian victory over the Persians in the Battle of Marathon.

The entire journey was too much for him, and after he delivered the meaningful message, the soldier lost his life. Over the many centuries that followed, the story of the Greek soldier became conflated with that of a more popular Greek soldier, a man named Pheidippides.

A while before the Battle of Marathon took place, brave Pheidippides wanted to warn the other Greeks of the Persian invasion, so he ran from Athens to Sparta. His journey wasn’t easy because he had to run around 155 miles of uneven terrain in just two days.

The story says that Sparta was in the middle of a religious holiday when Pheidippides arrived, and they weren’t able to get ready for the fight, so they lost the battle.

However, after many, many years, the first modern marathon took place in 1896 at the Olympic Games in Athens, and the one who won was, as you can guess, a Greek runner named Spyridon Louis.

In conclusion, regardless of which legend you think is true, one thing’s for sure: the first man to run a marathon was a Greek and the things invented by ancient civilizations are pretty impressive.

3. Newspaper

The things invented by ancient civilizations keep amazing me because, many times ago, people were so creative and curious that they came up with several things that we still use today.

A great example is the newspaper as we know it today, which was invented in ancient Rome around 131 B.C. The Acta Diurna, which means daily acts, was a gazette that presented social and political events to interested people.

If you wanted to know what was happening in your society, there was plenty of news regarding military victories, games, births, gladiatorial bouts, deaths, and other stories that were considered important and were written on stone or metal and then posted in areas that were highly trafficked by people, like the Roman Forum.

After a while, during Julius Caesar’s first consulship, the Acta Senatus started chronicling all the important activities of the Roman Senate. This can be considered the prototype of the modern newsreader, as we know it today because the Acta Diurna continued to be published under the Roman Empire, after 27 B.C.

Can you imagine how our lives would’ve looked like without these fantastic things invented by ancient civilizations?

4. Zero

This is more of a concept than one of the things invented by ancient civilizations, but zero is quite new in human history, although it has its roots in ancient periods.

When the ancient Babylonians started using the Sumerian counting system around 300 B.C., people came up with the idea of using a symbol, such as zero, as a placeholder in order to show the difference between 10 and 100, for instance, or to show the absence in one column of another number, such as in 2019.

But around A.D. 350, in ancient Mesoamerica, the Maya thought about using zero as a placeholder independently. They wanted to use the symbol 0 in their more complicated calendar systems, but just like the Babylonians, they didn’t really think of zero as a number itself and didn’t use it in equations either.

Many years passed by, and the symbol zero was seen as a number of its own in the 7th century in India, when astronomer Brahmagupta wrote a couple of rules regarding the usage of zero in mathematical equations and operations. So we can say that zero was one of the things invented by ancient civilizations that actually went through a long journey before becoming the one that it is today.

5. Paper

You might not think about the origin of paper when you grab a notebook to write down your thoughts or your grocery list, but paper is also one of the things invented by ancient civilizations.

Its journey began in 3000 B.C. when Egyptians came up with a unique technique for making paper from the pith of the papyrus plant, which was pretty common along the bank of the Nile. They took long strips and wove them together, then weighted them down to form a thin but strong sheet.

However, these aren’t the only things invented by ancient civilizations, because Egyptians also invented writing utensils, such as pens that were made out of cut reeds. These were very strong and durable to write on papyrus, and the much-needed wink was formed by mixing soot and other organic materials available with vegetable gum and beeswax.

The things invented by ancient civilizations still exist today, so we can say that these people knew exactly what they were doing. Just think about it: there are still papyrus sheets that are written in Egyptian hieroglyphics, and they’re still in good form and readable, even after thousands and thousands of years have passed.

6. Democratic government

We think of the Democratic Party, and we compare it with the Republican one, but have you ever wondered where it comes from? This type of party is another one of the amazing things invented by ancient civilizations.

The popular word “democracy” comes from the Greek term demokratia, which means “rule by the people”. Both the word and the concept were introduced to the population in 507 B.C. by the ruler of Athens, a wise man named Cleisthenes.

When he developed this, he also stated that democracy should be composed of 3 separate institutions: the assembly (ekklesia), which was responsible for writing laws and dictating foreign policies; the second one was the boule, which consisted of a council of representatives that was chosen by the people from different Athenian tribes; the last institution was called the dikasteria, and it was a well-known court system.

Even though the meaning of the word demokratia means rule by the people, in reality only a couple of people were able to participate in this type of politics because participation was limited to only male citizens and they had to be over the age of 18.

Even though this system only lasted until 460 B.C. because that was the time of General Pericles and his aristocracy, we can say that the Democratic government is one of the things invented by ancient civilizations and is still popular today.

things invented by ancient civilizations
Photo by Sean Pavone from

7. Concrete

You probably know that one of the most impressive things invented by ancient civilizations was actually concrete, and honestly, I heard many people say that the bridges and buildings that were built by the Romans are still some of the most durable ones that have ever existed.

Known as opus caementicium, or the incredible Roman concrete, this substance was first developed around 2,100 years ago and helped create some of the most durable and fantastic architectural buildings. The frenzy began with Augustus, a brave man who was the first Roman emperor, in 27 B.C.

The Romans were brilliant people, and they knew how to get things done. In order to make their buildings last and not spend a lot of time adjusting them, they combined limestone and volcanic ash to form mortar.

When that was done, they would combine the substance obtained with big chunks of volcanic tuff or brick so they could form the basic material needed for aqueducts, roads, buildings, bridges, and any other structures that were necessary at the moment.

Some of the most impressive things they built are still in amazing shape today, and I talk about the Colosseum and the Pantheon. However, researchers ran some tests and discovered that Roman concrete is weaker in composition compared to modern cement but is incredibly long-lasting, and it’s still somehow intact even after hundreds and hundreds of years of exposure to the sun, seawater, severe weather conditions, and other things that could provoke damage.

So, what do you think about the things invented by ancient civilizations? I think that they’re some of the best creations ever, and you can see why I say so.

8. Chocolate

We all love chocolate, and I’m pretty sure that you’ll find a new love for it once you know these facts. As you already know from the introduction of this article, this delicious dessert is one of the things invented by ancient civilizations.

Chocolate comes from the beans of the cacao tree, which was first cultivated more than 3,000 years ago by the Toltec, Maya, and Aztec peoples of ancient Mesoamerica.

They used the fruit of this tree, the cocoa bean, to create a delicious beverage that was considered to boost their mood, give them energy, and put them in a frisky mood at the same time.

The Maya thought that the cacao tree was special and sacred, and they considered the cocoa beans so valuable that they even used them as currency.

Later on, chocolate was brought to Europe in the 16th century when Spanish conquistadores, who were looking for silver and gold in the New World, found it and brought it with them. That was the beginning of a craze that still exists today, am I right?

I told you that these things invented by ancient civilizations changed our lives forever.

9. The compass

You travel everywhere you want with the help of GPS, right? You just insert the place you want to arrive at and then start driving or walking to the destination. It’s easy and convenient because you don’t have to analyze the stars or open a map to find the direction. You just grab your phone out of your pocket, activate the GPS, open Google Maps, and go, but that’s thanks to the things invented by ancient civilizations.

Thousands of years ago, the things invented by ancient civilizations were actually the ones that would shape the world we live in. And when it comes to the GPS, the item that started this amazing world travel exploration was the compass.

Without this impressive and magical item, many people passionate about exploration and geography would be lost, and the connections and things they discovered would never come to be. It might sound like an exaggeration, but without the compass, the word would’ve been totally different.

Sources say that the first compass was most likely made in China sometime around 200 B.C. and was made of lodestone. However, some researchers say that these things invented by ancient civilizations were actually created for spiritual purposes. But in 1050 C.E., explorers came to the conclusion that the lodestones could actually help them navigate, and this is exactly what they did.

I think the compass is one of the most brilliant things invented by ancient civilizations! What are your thoughts on this?

things invented by ancient civilizations
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10. The clock

Another one of these impressive things invented by ancient civilizations was the much-needed clock. Can you imagine what the world would’ve been like if there wasn’t any way we could tell time?

Scientists discovered that the first clock was invented around 2000 B.C. by the Sumerian people. However, there were plenty of devices that could help people tell the time over the centuries, but it was the Sumerians who invented the 60-minute and 60-second systems that we still use today.

The first clock prototypes tracked the movement of the sun or water to find a way to tell the time. During those times, people also used time sticks, hourglasses, and candle clocks to appreciate the minutes and hours that went by, and the next one that was created was the mechanical clock. This item was powered by water, and it had an escapement mechanism that commutated the gears, which is also part of these amazing things invented by ancient civilizations.

11. The Antikythera mechanism

There are many great things invented by ancient civilizations, and the Antikythera mechanism was one of them. Experts say that this device is the earliest example of an analog computer, and in around 87 B.C., Greeks came up with the idea of inventing something that would help them determine the dates of important events several years into the future.

This brilliant invention used over 30 gear wheels to help keep track of astrological and local events, like the Olympic Games. This type of engineering complexity would not be equaled for at least another 100 years after the Antikythera mechanism was invented.

What do you think about these impressive things invented by ancient civilizations? If you want to know more about these fantastic things invented by ancient civilizations and the way these people lived, check out this book from Amazon, because it’s amazing!

And if you want to read something else from Science in The World, here’s a fantastic article for you: 6 Remarkable Stories About the Father of the Atomic Bomb: J. Robert Oppenheimer


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