Turn Up the Heat! 3 Modern Day Inventions Used by Ancient Civilizations

The world is full of technology designed to make tasks easier and life more comfortable, such as computers, microwave ovens, refrigeration and jets. It's easy to revel in the complexity and ingenuity of such devices, and do not associate some of them with our early ancestors such as the Greeks and the Romans. Incredibly, there are some inventions we enjoy today that were already being used in ancient times. Here are three that may surprise you.

Baghdad Battery

Dry cell batteries power toys, electronics, and other gadgets. Inside each battery, a simple yet clever design converts stored chemical energy into electrical energy:

  • A zinc anode produces a negative charge
  • A graphite cathode creates a positive charge
  • Ammonium chloride paste serves as an electrode

Clay jars unearthed near Baghdad dating to around 250 BC could be an early version of our dry cell battery. The clay jar contained an iron rod surrounded by a copper cylinder. The top was sealed with bitumen. When filled with vinegar, lemon juice or other electrolytic solution, the battery was capable of producing tiny amounts of electricity. Later experiments hooking 10 replica batteries together produced 4.5 volts.

Volcanic Concrete

In total, concrete covers enough surfaces in the United States equal to the size of the state of Ohio. However, were were not the first to utilize concrete as a building material, nor are we sure it will last 2000 years.

Roman harbors made of concrete are still being studied by engineers and geologists simply because they are mostly intact after 2000 years of exposure to seawater and wave action. Concrete from Pozzuoli Bay in the Bay of Naples dating from 37 B.C. is actually made of a special mixture of lime, rock, and volcanic ash. To construct an underwater harbor, this mortar was placed into wooden forms. Seawater triggered a chemical reaction, cementing it all together. The resulting bond is exceptionally strong, enough for us to still study it today.


The original version of central heating, the Roman hypocaust produced and circulated heat under the floors in Roman homes, and public baths and other buildings. The temple of Ephesus used the hypocaust as early as 350 B.C. Hypocausts improved both hygiene and living conditions of ancient Romans lucky enough to possess one, but were labor intensive and expensive, needing fuel and slaves to operate.

Located in the basement of a dwelling, the hypocaust was constructed by raising the ceiling of the hypocaust above the ground on pilae stacks, or squat pillars. Layers of tile and concrete followed. Hot air and smoke from the furnace sat in this enclosed area, warming the floor. Airtight flues in the wall carried the smoke up and out of the dwelling, warming walls and preventing carbon monoxide poisoning.

To learn more about modern innovation that can improve your home, contact companies like Custom Comfort.