Imagine finding a device that can calculate astronomical events with remarkable precision, a battery that can produce electricity without wires, a manuscript that no one can decipher, or a metal object that has no apparent function. These are some of the ancient inventions that still puzzle scientists today, despite decades of research and analysis.
The Antikythera mechanism, for example, is a complex device made of bronze gears and dials that was found in a shipwreck off the coast of Greece in 1901. It dates back to the second century B.C. and is considered the world’s oldest known analog computer. It could predict eclipses, phases of the moon, positions of planets and stars, and even the dates of the Olympic Games. How did the ancient Greeks design and build such a sophisticated machine? Who used it and for what purpose? How did it end up in the bottom of the sea?
Another intriguing invention is the Baghdad battery, a set of clay jars containing iron rods and copper cylinders that were discovered in Iraq in the 1930s. They date back to the first or second century A.D. and are believed to be capable of generating electric currents by adding an acidic liquid, such as vinegar or lemon juice. Some researchers have suggested that they were used for electroplating, medical treatment, or religious rituals. But others have doubted their authenticity and functionality, arguing that they were just storage vessels or artifacts of coincidence.
The Voynich manuscript is another mystery that has baffled scholars for centuries. It is a handwritten book of about 240 pages that contains illustrations of plants, animals, stars, and human figures, as well as an unknown script that has defied all attempts to decipher it. It was probably created in the 15th century in Europe, but its origin, authorship, and meaning remain unknown. Some have speculated that it is a secret code, a herbal manual, a hoax, or even an alien message.
The Roman dodecahedra are another enigma that has puzzled historians and archaeologists. They are hollow bronze objects with 12 pentagonal faces, each with a circular hole in the center. They also have knobs on each corner and vary in size from 4 to 11 centimeters. They date from the second or third century A.D. and have been found across Europe, especially in areas that were part of the Roman Empire. But their function and significance are still unclear. Some have proposed that they were used as candle holders, dice, surveying instruments, knitting tools, or religious symbols.
These are just some of the ancient inventions that still challenge our understanding of the past and present. They show us how ingenious and creative humans have been throughout history, but also how much we still have to learn about their cultures and civilizations.