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Sunday, March 3, 2013

8 Uses Of Medieval Technology In The Modern World


Despite living in a technologically advanced and increasingly digitally integrated world, it's surprising just how many technologies that we still use today have been around since medieval times, or even earlier.

For example, the Chinese first created fireworks right back in the seventh century and we're still using their discovery today. So what other technologies have really stood the test of time and have a place in modern society, despite their ancient roots?

Artisan Technologies

Many of the ancient crafts and arts that are experiencing a resurgence today actually have their roots in far more ancient practices, many which date back hundreds of years.

These traditional crafts include willow weaving, thatching for roofs, glass blowing, brick making and blacksmithing. Many of these crafts were thought to be dying out in the eighties and nineties, as mass consumerism and a culture of 'buy and dispose' came into play, facilitated by a wave of cheap overseas imports.

However, today these ancient and traditional crafts and technologies are reaching new markets, with many people keen to pay extra and support these old skills. This is a superb example of how medieval technologies and arts are still in use today, providing a strong sense of British heritage.


Medical Implements

The ancient Greeks and Romans developed some of the medical implements that provided the origins of those in use today. They were further developed in medieval times, to include the tools and implements used by dentists as well.

These include surgeon's knives, suture tools and even pliers for removing bad teeth. The technology may have vastly improved as the years passed but the basic tools are still recognizable from their ancient predecessors.


Travel and Transport

Ancient man first discovered the wheel and by medieval times great ships were used by Britain to rule the waves and facilitate trade and war. As well as the vast naval fleet, people were using horses and carriages and taking advantage of the humble wheel when they traveled.

Again, this is a great example of how ancient and basic technologies are still used today, whether we're now driving a car or taking the ferry or a cruise ship.



In medieval times, books were reserved for the clergy and educated classes only. Printing presses were hugely expensive and setting was a complex and skilled job, usually reserved for religious and scientific books or political tomes.

Today, we may have moved more towards digital communication, but the art of typesetting has also seen a comeback, particularly in the arts and creative sectors. There are still occasions when the ancient methods of typesetting are also required for ceremonial or legal purposes and many people actively seek out old-fashioned type for its beauty and aesthetic qualities.


Medieval homes and industries were powered by furnaces and fire. And today we still use stoves and furnaces in both of these contexts, harnessing the power of fossil fuels to heat and power our homes and businesses.

Of course, we are also moving towards greener technologies and this is set to continue. We now need to develop these technologies further and greatly advance them.

However, interestingly, water power has been used since medieval times for powering grain mills, for example and this simple but effective technology is still also in use today.


This is another ancient and simple technology which works without fail. Scales are still with us today and many of them resemble the ancient models with the recognisable balanced weights and counters. These are used in a variety of situations, such as weighing bullion or scientific materials, as well as cooking ingredients.



We've come some way from believing the world to be flat, but telescopes have been around in some form since before medieval times (particularly in Arab and Asian countries). It's true that the capabilities of telescopes may have greatly advanced, but the basics still exist.


Ink Pens

Samuel Pepys was one of Britain's greatest diarists just after the medieval period and his ink-quilled papers still exist today. Ink-filled pens are also still available and used in a number of ways, such as calligraphy, the law, various ceremonial services and the creative arts. It's fascinating to imagine that a humble pen design is still as relevant today as it was hundreds of years ago.

And, of course, these are just eight examples. The more you look around and dig deeper into the history of some of the appliances and tools that we take for granted, the more we find that earlier technologies preceded our modern 'discoveries'. Even the basic calculator is simply an electronic version of the ancient abacus and abacuses are still used across the world today as an easy way to count and keep track of basic transactional sums.

Along with technologies, many of our current medicines, health approaches and even fashions are still influenced by ancient customs and wisdom. And this knowledge gives a real sense of just how important historical continuity is to our world and its development.

Who knows where technology will take us next? Many historians believe that it's essential to look to the past in order to know which direction to take in the future. So it may well be that the technologies of the ancient world continue to inform and steer the people of the future.
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This post was contributed by Conosco; London based suppliers of fixed-price IT support for 10 years.

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