12 Modern Things That Have Been Around Long Before We Existed

12 Modern Things That Have Been Around Long Before We Existed

12 Modern Things That Have Been Around Long Before We Existed:

We like to think that we live in a unique time, where technology is shaping society so quickly that it’s unparalleled in human history. And in some ways, we’re right; no other era has made technology obsolete as fast as we have (if you’d like to feel old, try asking your younger relatives about VCRs)

But we aren’t as different from our ancestors as we sometimes think. Victorians took selfies, cavemen used psychoactive plants to get high, there’s ancient graffiti insulting someone’s mom on the ruined walls of Pompeii. In other words, people have always been people.

Even the technologies that we prize are sometimes way older than our modern use of them. There were no prehistoric computers (that we know of), but inventions from alarm clocks to designer knockoffs predate the last millenium. Read on to discover twelve things that are probably older than you think, and see how many of them you can guess!

1. Fast Food: Studying the ruins of Pompeii, archaeologists found that most houses in the ancient Roman city didn’t have formal eating areas or dishware. What’s more, they found the remains of restaurants with a big counter in the middle of the room, which was thought to have been where food was served. Essentially, the Romans ate out so much they didn’t even have plates at home, which is a relatable fact if I’ve ever seen one.

2. Automatic Doors: Everyone sometimes pretends that they’re a Jedi, opening automatic doors with the Force (Right? Right?!). But not everybody knows that automatic doors predate the Star Wars movies, movies in general, and even science fiction! Back in the first century AD, Greek priests had doors run by Hero’s early prototype of a steam engine, meaning that they could open without being pushed. But the doors weren’t to make it easier for them to get into their temples. The priests would pretend that the doors opened by magic, reinforcing the people’s belief in the god of their choice. Which proves that as old as automatic doors are, they still aren’t older than people trying to look cool opening them.

3. Plastic Surgery: Cosmetic surgery may be trendy, but it’s hardly new. The Indian surgeon Sushruta, working in 600 BCE, wrote one of the oldest-known books on surgery. The precisely-detailed Suśruta-saṃhitā has instructions on how to perform reconstructive surgery, which means that plastic surgery is quite literally older than plastic!

4. Rap Battles: If you ever need to argue with snobby friends who insist that rap isn’t REALLY art, tell them about its extensive history. In 15th and 16th century Scotland, poets would practice “flyting,” an exchange of poetic, on-the-fly insults where the audience got to decide the winner. Unfortunately, few of them have survived, so there’s no way to know whether anyone ever flyted about their opponent being covered in their mom’s spaghetti.

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5. Designer Knockoffs: The Vikings are the last people you’d expect to be obsessed with brand names, but they made an exception for cool swords. At the time, Ulfberht made the best swords around, and even archeologists today can’t crack their secret. That didn’t prevent other swordmakers from trying to cash in on the craze; today’s chemical testing proves that many of the “Ulfberhts” left today are well-made fakes.

6. Flamethrower:  We still don’t know the secrets of this sixth-century Greek weapon, but we do know its origin. A Syrian engineer, fleeing to Greece as a refugee, invented a chemical mixture called Greek Fire. The unknown mixture was so volatile that even water wouldn’t put it out, and it stuck to surfaces, burning as it went. The Greeks fired it out of hand-pumped devices, giving them a huge and terrifying advantage. The moral of the story is … uh, if you don’t let in refugees, someone else will, and then they’ll use your super cool inventions to burn your ships in war?

7. Alarm Clocks: The painful sting of the snooze button has been with humanity for millennia. Plato had one of the first ones in 400 BC, a water clock that made noises to tell him when to start class. No word on how the students knew when to show up.

8. Welfare: Certain politicians are quick to say that people didn’t rely on state support in the “good old days,” but clearly, they haven’t read their history far back enough. In around 123 BCE, a tribune (politician) named Gauis Gracchus brought in a law where a certain amount of wheat was available to families for half the market price. The emperor Trajan also set up a welfare program, called alimenta, aimed at looking after poor children. Perhaps the naysayers would prefer Spartan society, where the weak were left out on mountaintops to die?

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9. Sunglasses: Well, the old models certainly weren’t Ray Bans, but they were definitely sunglasses. In 12th century China, judges would wear glasses with lenses made of smokey quartz in the courtroom. But it wasn’t to protect them from the sun; it was to ensure that people couldn’t see their eyes while they were deciding on a verdict. Even from the beginning, sunglasses were all about the aesthetic.

10. Submarines: Most history buffs know that submarines date back to the American Civil war, but fewer know that they’re only a little younger than Shakespeare. In 1620, a Dutch boatmaker working for King James I built a covered rowboat that was capable of submerging itself under the waters of the Thames. It’s a pity Shakespeare died a few years before: imagine the plays he could have written!

11. Contact Lenses: In 1888, doctor Adolf Eugen Fick made the first contact lenses…out of glass. Needless to say, they didn’t catch on at the time. Although, on the bright side, it would have been hard to accidentally fall asleep with them in (Mom, if you’re reading this, I never fall asleep with my contacts in! And I floss twice a day!)

12. Young People Ruining Everything: The next time your older relatives start complaining about millenials, let them know that they’re part of a time-honoured tradition dating back to at least the ancient Greeks. According to an alleged Socrates quote (courtesy of his student, Plato) the youth of the time were guilty of, “luxury, bad manners, contempt for authority, disrespect to elders, and a love for chatter in place of exercise.” Whew! At least they didn’t take selfies, am I right?

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