The dates listed in this section refer to the earliest evidence of an invention found and dated by archaeologists (or in a few cases, suggested by indirect evidence). Dates are often approximate and change as more research is done, reported and seen. Older examples of any given technology are often found. The locations listed are for the site where the earliest solid evidence has been found, but especially for the earlier inventions, there is little certainty how close that may be to where the invention took place.
The Lower Paleolithic period lasted over 3 million years, and corresponds to the human species prior to the emergence of Homo sapiens. The original divergence between humans and chimpanzees occurred 13 (Mya), however interbreeding continued until as recently as 4 Ma, with the first species clearly belonging to the human (and not chimpanzee) lineage being Australopithecus anamensis. This time period is characterized as an ice age with regular periodic warmer periods – interglacial episodes.
The dawn of Homo sapiens around 300 kya coincides with the start of the Middle Paleolithic period. Towards the middle of this 250,000-year period, humans begin to migrate out of Africa, and the later part of the period shows the beginning of long-distance trade, religious rites and other behavior associated with Behavioral modernity.
c.320 kya: The trade and long-distance transportation of resources (e.g. obsidian), use of pigments, and possible making of projectile points in Kenya
c. 200 kya: Glue in Central Italy by Neanderthals. More complicated compound adhesives developed by Homo sapiens have been found from c. 70 kya Sibudu, South Africa and have been regarded as a sign of cognitive advancement.
170-83 kya: Clothing (among anatomically modern humans in Africa). Some other evidence suggests that humans may have begun wearing clothing as far back as 100,000 to 500,000 years ago.
164-47 kya: Heat treating of stone blades in South Africa.
50 ka has been regarded by some as the beginning of behavioral modernity, defining the Upper Paleolithic period, which lasted nearly 40,000 years (though some research dates the beginning of behavioral modernity earlier to the Middle Paleolithic). This is characterized by the widespread observation of religious rites, artistic expression and the appearance of tools made for purely intellectual or artistic pursuits.
49–30 ka: Ground stone tools – fragments of an axe in Australia date to 49–45 ka, more appear in Japan closer to 30 ka, and elsewhere closer to the Neolithic.
47 ka: The oldest-known mines in the world are from Eswatini, and extracted hematite for the production of the red pigment ochre.
The beginning of bronze-smelting coincides with the emergence of the first cities and of writing in the Ancient Near East and the Indus Valley. The Bronze Age starting in Eurasia in the 4th millennia BC and ended, in Eurasia, c.1300 BC.
bef. 3200 BC: dry Latrines in the city of Uruk, Iraq, with later dry squat Toilets, that added raised fired brick foot platforms, and pedestal toilets, all over clay pipe constructed drains.
bef. 3000 BC: Devices functionally equivalent to dice, in the form of flat two-sided throwsticks, are seen in the Egyptian game of Senet. Perhaps the oldest known dice, resembling modern ones, were excavated as part of a backgammon-like game set at the Burnt City, an archeological site in south-eastern Iran, estimated to be from between 2800 and 2500BC. Later, terracotta dice were used at the Indus Valley site of Mohenjo-daro (modern-day Pakistan).
c. 2200 BC: Protractor, Phase IV, Lothal, Indus Valley (modern-day India), a Xancus shell cylinder with sawn grooves, at right angles, in its top and bottom surfaces, has been proposed as an angle marking tool.
c. 2000 BC: Water clock by at least the old Babylonian period (c. 2000 – c. 1600 BC), but possibly earlier from Mohenjo-Daro in the Indus Valley.
1400 - 1200 BC: Concrete in Tiryns (Mycenaean Greece). Waterproof concrete was later developed by the Assyrians in 688 BC, and the Romans developed concretes that could set underwater. The Romans later used concrete extensively for construction from 300 BC to 476 AD.
The Late Bronze Age collapse occurs around 1300-1175 BC, extinguishing most Bronze-Age Near Eastern cultures, and significantly weakening the rest. This is coincident with the complete collapse of the Indus Valley civilisation. This event is followed by the beginning of the Iron Age. We define the Iron Age as ending in 510 BC for the purposes of this article, even though the typical definition is region-dependent (e.g. 510 BC in Greece, 322 BC in India, 200 BC in China), thus being an 800-year period.[nb 5]
5th century BC: Cast iron in Ancient China: Confirmed by archaeological evidence, the earliest cast iron is developed in China by the early 5th century BC during the Zhou Dynasty (1122–256 BC), the oldest specimens found in a tomb of Luhe County in Jiangsu province.
By the 3rd century BC: Water wheel. The origin is unclear: Indian Pali texts dating to the 4th century BCE refer to the cakkavattaka, which later commentaries describe as arahatta-ghati-yanta (machine with wheel-pots attached). Helaine Selin suggests that the device existed in Persia before 350 BC. The clearest description of the water wheel and Liquid-driven escapement is provided by Philo of Byzantium (c. 280 – 220 BC) in the Hellenistic kingdoms.
3rd century BC: Gimbal described by Philo of Byzantium
4th century: Roman Dichroic glass, which displays one of two different colors depending on lighting conditions.
4th century: Mariner's compass in Tamil Southern India: the first mention of the use of a compass for navigational purposes is found in Tamil nautical texts as the macchayantra. However, the theoretical notion of magnets pointing North predates the device by several centuries.
4th century: Simple suspension bridge, independently invented in Pre-Columbian South America, and the Hindu Kush range, of present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan. With Han dynasty travellers noting bridges being constructed from 3 or more vines or 3 ropes. Later bridges constructed utilising cables of iron chains appeared in Tibet.
4th century: Fishing reel in Ancient China: In literary records, the earliest evidence of the fishing reel comes from a 4th-century AD work entitled Lives of Famous Immortals.
400 AD: The construction of the Iron pillar of Delhi in Mathura by the Gupta Empire shows the development of rust-resistant ferrous metallurgy in Ancient India, although original texts do not survive to detail the specific processes invented in this period.
7th century: Porcelain in Tang dynastyChina: True porcelain is manufactured in northern China from roughly the beginning of the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century, while true porcelain was not manufactured in southern China until about 300 years later, during the early 10th century.
10th century: Fire lance in Song dynastyChina, developed in the 10th century with a tube of first bamboo and later on metal that shot a weak gunpowder blast of flame and shrapnel, its earliest depiction is a painting found at Dunhuang. Fire lance is the earliest firearm in the world and one of the earliest gunpowder weapons.
10th century: Fireworks in Song dynastyChina: Fireworks first appear in China during the Song Dynasty (960–1279), in the early age of gunpowder. Fireworks could be purchased from market vendors; these were made of sticks of bamboo packed with gunpowder.
13th century: Hand cannon in Yuan dynasty China: The earliest hand cannon dates to the 13th century based on archaeological evidence from a Heilongjiang excavation. There is also written evidence in the Yuanshi (1370) on Li Tang, an ethnic Jurchen commander under the Yuan Dynasty who in 1288 suppresses the rebellion of the Christian prince Nayan with his "gun-soldiers" or chongzu, this being the earliest known event where this phrase is used.
1608: Telescope: Patent applied for by Hans Lippershey. Actual inventor unknown since it seemed to already be a common item being offered by the spectacle makers in the Netherlands with Jacob Metius also applying for patent and the son of Zacharias Janssen making a claim 47 years later that his father invented it.
1822: Thomas Blanchard invents the pattern-tracing lathe (actually more like a shaper). The lathe can copy symmetrical shapes and is used for making gun stocks, and later, ax handles. The lathe's patent is in force for 42 years.
1851: George Jennings offers the first public flush toilets, accessible for a penny per visit, and in 1852 receives a UK patent for the single piece, free standing, earthenware, trap plumed, flushing, water-closet.
1879: Joseph Swan and Thomas Edison both patent a functional incandescent light bulb. Some two dozen inventors had experimented with electric incandescent lighting over the first three-quarters of the 19th century but never came up with a practical design. Swan's, which he had been working on since the 1860s, had a low resistance so was only suited for small installations. Edison designed a high-resistance bulb as part of a large-scale commercial electric lighting utility.
1888: Heinrich Hertz publishes a conclusive proof of James Clerk Maxwell's electromagnetic theory in experiments that also demonstrate the existence of radio waves. The effects of electromagnetic waves had been observed by many people before this but no usable theory explaining them existed until Maxwell.
1912: The first commercial slot cars or more accurately model electric racing cars operating under constant power were made by Lionel (USA) and appeared in their catalogues in 1912. They drew power from a toy train rail sunk in a trough that was connected to a battery.
1915: The first operational military tanks are designed in Great Britain and France. They are used in battle from 1916 and 1917 respectively. The designers in Great Britain are Walter Wilson and William Tritton and in France, Eugène Brillié. (Although it is known that vehicles incorporating at least some of the features of the tank were designed in a number of countries from 1903 onward, none reached a practical form.)
1928: Frank Whittle formally submitted his ideas for a turbo-jet engine. In October 1929, he developed his ideas further. On 16 January 1930, Whittle submitted his first patent (granted in 1932).
1948: Basic oxygen steelmaking is developed by Robert Durrer. The vast majority of steel manufactured in the world is produced using the basic oxygen furnace; in 2000, it accounted for 60% of global steel output.
1953: The first video tape recorder, a helical scan recorder, is invented by Norikazu Sawazaki.
1954: Invention of the solar battery by Bell Telephone scientists, Calvin Souther Fuller, Daryl Chapin and Gerald Pearson capturing the sun's power. First practical means of collecting energy from the sun and turning it into a current of electricity.
1959: The MOSFET (MOS transistor) is invented by the Egyptian Mohamed Atalla and the Korean Dawon Kahng at Bell Labs. It is used in almost all modern electronic products. It was smaller, faster, more reliable and cheaper to manufacture than earlier bipolar transistors, leading to a revolution in computers, controls and communication.
1963: The first electronic cigarette is created by Herbert A. Gilbert. Hon Lik is often credited with its invention as he developed the modern electronic cigarette and was the first to commercialize it.
1982: A CD-ROM contains data accessible to, but not writable by, a computer for data storage and music playback. The 1985 Yellow Book standard developed by Sony and Philips adapted the format to hold any form of binary data.
1989: Karlheinz Brandenburg would publish the audio compression algorithms that would be standardised as the: MPEG-1, layer 3 (mp3), and later the MPEG-2, layer 7 Advanced Audio Compression (AAC).
2000: Sony develops the first prototypes for the Blu-ray optical disc format. The first prototype player was released in 2004.
2000: First documented placement of Geocaching, an outdoor recreational activity, in which participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, took place on May 3, 2000, by Dave Ulmer of Beavercreek, Oregon.
2007: First Kindle introduced by Amazon (company) founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who instructed the company's employees to build the world's best e-reader before Amazon's competitors could. Amazon originally used the codename Fiona for the device. This hardware evolved from the original Kindle introduced in 2007 and the Kindle DX (with its larger 9.7" screen) introduced in 2009.
2007: The term "cli-fi" was coined in 2007 or 2008 by Dan Bloom, an English teacher and former journalist. "Cli-fi" is short for "climate fiction" and describes an emerging literary genre that expresses concerns about climate change. The term has been retroactively applied to a number of works.
2014: The first known "NFT", Quantum, was created by Kevin McCoy and Anil Dash in May 2014, that explicitly linked a non-fungible, tradable blockchain marker to a work of art, via on-chain metadata (enabled by Namecoin).
↑ Dates for inventions are often controversial. Sometimes inventions are invented by several inventors around the same time, or may be invented in an impractical form many years before another inventor improves the invention into a more practical form. Where there is ambiguity, the date of the first known working version of the invention is used here.
↑ Earthen pipes were later used in the Indus Valley c. 2700 BC for a city-scale urban drainage system, and more durable copper drainage pipes appeared in Egypt, by the time of the construction of the Pyramid of Sahure at Abusir, c.2400 BCE.
↑ Shell, Terracotta, Copper, and Ivory rulers were in use by the Indus Valley civilisation in what today is Pakistan, and North West India, prior to 1500 BCE.
↑ the uncertainty in dating several Indian developments between 600 BC and 300 AD, due to the tradition that existed of editing existing documents (such as the Sushruta Samhita and Arthashastra) without specifically documenting the edit. Most such documents were canonized at the start of the Gupta empire (mid-3rd century AD).
↑ A 10th century AD, Damascus steel blade, analysed under an electron microscope, contains nano-meter tubes in its metal alloy. Their presence has been suggested to be down to transition-metal impurities in the ores once used to produce Wootz Steel in South India.
↑ Although it is recorded that the Han Dynasty (202 BC – AD 220) court eunuch Cai Lun (born c. 50–121 AD) invented the pulp papermaking process and established the use of new raw materials used in making paper, ancient padding and wrapping paper artifacts dating to the 2nd century BC have been found in China, the oldest example of pulp papermaking being a map from Fangmatan, Gansu.
↑ Semaw, S.; M. J. Rogers; J. Quade; P. R. Renne; R. F. Butler; M. Domínguez-Rodrigo; D. Stout; W. S. Hart; T. Pickering; S. W. Simpson (2003). "2.6-Million-year-old stone tools and associated bones from OGS-6 and OGS-7, Gona, Afar, Ethiopia". Journal of Human Evolution. 45 (2): 169–177. doi:10.1016/S0047-2484(03)00093-9. PMID14529651.
↑ Wadley, Lyn (1 June 2010). "Compound‐Adhesive Manufacture as a Behavioral Proxy for Complex Cognition in the Middle Stone Age". Current Anthropology. 51 (s1): S111–S119. doi:10.1086/649836. S2CID56253913.
↑ Gregor, Thomas. Anxious Pleasures: The Sexual Lives of an Amazonian People. University Of Chicago Press (1987). p. 106 "Today we know that the bullroarer is a very ancient object, specimens from France (13,000 B.C.) and the Ukraine (17,000 B.C.) dating back well into the Paleolithic period. Moreover, some archeologists, most notable Michael Boyd—notably, Gordon Willey (1971,20) and Michael Boyd (Leisure in the Dreamtime 1999,21)—now admit the bullroarer to the kit-bag of artifacts brought by the very earliest migrants to the Americas."
↑ Moulherat, C.; Tengberg, M.; Haquet, J. R. M. F.; Mille, B. ̂T. (2002). "First Evidence of Cotton at Neolithic Mehrgarh, Pakistan: Analysis of Mineralized Fibres from a Copper Bead". Journal of Archaeological Science. 29 (12): 1393–1401. Bibcode:2002JArSc..29.1393M. doi:10.1006/jasc.2001.0779.
↑ Possehl, Gregory. "Meluhha". In: J. Reade (ed.) The Indian Ocean in Antiquity. London: Kegan Paul Intl. 1996a, 133–208
↑ Cierny, J.; Weisgerber, G. (2003). "The "Bronze Age tin mines in Central Asia". In Giumlia-Mair, A.; Lo Schiavo, F. (eds.). The Problem of Early Tin. Oxford: Archaeopress. pp.23–31. ISBN1-84171-564-6.
↑ Shiffman, Melvin (5 September 2012). Cosmetic Surgery: Art and Techniques. Springer. p.20. ISBN978-3-642-21837-8.
↑ Mazzola, Ricardo F.; Mazzola, Isabella C. (5 September 2012). "History of reconstructive and aesthetic surgery". In Neligan, Peter C.; Gurtner, Geoffrey C. (eds.). Plastic Surgery: Principles. Elsevier Health Sciences. pp.11–12. ISBN978-1-4557-1052-2.
↑ Rao, N. Kameswara (December 2005). "Aspects of prehistoric astronomy in India"(PDF). Bulletin of the Astronomical Society of India. 33 (4): 499–511. Bibcode:2005BASI...33..499R. Retrieved 11 May 2007. It appears that two artifacts from Mohenjadaro and Harappa might correspond to these two instruments. Joshi and Parpola (1987) lists a few pots tapered at the bottom and having a hole on the side from the excavations at Mohenjadaro (Figure 3). A pot with a small hole to drain the water is very similar to clepsydras described by Ohashi to measure the time (similar to the utensil used over the lingum in Shiva temple for abhishekam).
↑ David S. Anthony, The Horse, The Wheel and Language: How bronze age riders from the Eurasian steppes shaped the modern world (2007), pp. 397-405.
↑ Hoernle, A. F. Rudolf (1907). Studies in the Medicine of Ancient India: Osteology or the Bones of the Human Body. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.
↑ Wendy Doniger (2014), On Hinduism, Oxford University Press, ISBN978-0199360079, page 79; Sarah Boslaugh (2007), Encyclopedia of Epidemiology, Volume 1, SAGE Publications, ISBN978-1412928168, page 547, Quote: "The Hindu text known as Sushruta Samhita is possibly the earliest effort to classify diseases and injuries"
↑ Meulenbeld, Gerrit Jan (1999). A History of Indian Medical Literature. Groningen: Brill (all volumes, 1999-2002). ISBN978-9069801247.
↑ Frankel, Rafael (2003): "The Olynthus Mill, Its Origin, and Diffusion: Typology and Distribution", American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 107, No. 1, pp.1–21 (17–19)
↑ Ritti, Tullia; Grewe, Klaus; Kessener, Paul (2007): "A Relief of a Water-powered Stone Saw Mill on a Sarcophagus at Hierapolis and its Implications", Journal of Roman Archaeology, Vol. 20, pp.138–163 (159)
↑ "Reserve Bank of India - Publications". In ancient India, loan deed forms called rnapatra or rnalekhya were in use. These contained details such as the name of the debtor and the creditor, the amount of loan, the rate of interest, the condition of repayment and the time of repayment. The deed was witnessed by a person of respectable means and endorsed by the loan-deed writer. Execution of loan deeds continued during the Buddhist period, when they were called inapanna.
1 2 Joseph F. O'Callaghan; Donald J. Kagay; Theresa M. Vann (1998). On the Social Origins of Medieval Institutions: Essays in Honor of Joseph F. O'Callaghan. BRILL. p.179. ISBN978-90-04-11096-0. Developed in China between the fifth and fourth centuries BC, it reached the Mediterranean by the sixth century AD
↑ Schnitter, Niklaus (1987): "Verzeichnis geschichtlicher Talsperren bis Ende des 17. Jahrhunderts", in: Garbrecht, Günther (ed.): Historische Talsperren, Verlag Konrad Wittwer, Stuttgart, Vol. 1, ISBN3-87919-145-X, pp.9–20 (12)
↑ Schnitter, Niklaus (1987): "Die Entwicklungsgeschichte der Bogenstaumauer", Garbrecht, Günther (ed.): Historische Talsperren, Vol. 1, Verlag Konrad Wittwer, Stuttgart, ISBN3-87919-145-X, pp.75–96 (80)
↑ Hodge, A. Trevor (2000): "Reservoirs and Dams", in: Wikander, Örjan: Handbook of Ancient Water Technology, Technology and Change in History, Vol. 2, Brill, Leiden, ISBN90-04-11123-9, pp.331–339 (332, fn. 2)
↑ Sleeswyk AW, Sivin N (1983). "Dragons and toads: the Chinese seismoscope of BC. 132". Chinese Science. 6: 1–19.
↑ Needham, Joseph (1959). Science and Civilization in China, Volume 3: Mathematics and the Sciences of the Heavens and the Earth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp.626–635. Bibcode:1959scc3.book.....N.
↑ Ritti, Tullia; Grewe, Klaus; Kessener, Paul (2007): "A Relief of a Water-powered Stone Saw Mill on a Sarcophagus at Hierapolis and its Implications", Journal of Roman Archaeology, Vol. 20, pp.138–163 (140, 161)