ANCIENT DISCOVERIES: Cars and Planes
This incredible documentary examines a number of surprising archaeological finds that have led historians to new conclusions about the technology invented by ancient peoples to get them from A to B. It is well known that sophisticated shipping technology was prevalent throughout the Classical world, but few historians have questioned how ancient people travelled overland, or moved their building materials and goods. It is now clear that our ancient ancestors developed complex systems to solve their transportation problems.
Archaeologists recently uncovered a four mile long ancient railway. Built in Greece in the sixth century BC, it connected the Gulf of Corinth with the Minoan Sea. The railway consisted of limestone blocks, cut with two parallel grooves five feet apart to hold the wheels of transport vehicles. Small warships or empty cargo vessels were pushed along the track on large trolleys by their crews and slave gangs. In 1961, remains of a mechanical device used to load the ships on the trolleys were discovered. This railway pre-dates our modern concept of train travel by two thousand years.
Ancient people also experimented with vehicles that could move under their own power. There are references to Chinese ‘wind cars’ dating back to the sixth century. One philosopher, Kaots’ang Wu-Shu, constructed a carriage driven by the wind which was able to carry thirty men and travel hundreds of miles in a single day. Experts estimate that these vehicles travelled at thirty miles per hour – much faster than the first steam railways of the nineteenth century.
References in Renaissance documents also indicate that rocket cars were first designed six hundred years ago. In two manuscripts written by the Venetian engineer Giovanni Fontana, two exciting vehicles were described. The first was a ‘self-driving’ carriage, pulled by systems of cogs and ropes connected to the wheels. The second vehicle was a jet-propelled car. The car would be driven forward on its two rollers by a gunpowder-based fuel. There is no evidence of the car actually being built, yet it seems that the ancients had the imagination to conceive and experiment with fuel-powered cars.
We also reveal that evidence of possible flying machines goes all the way back to ancient Greek, Egyptian and Chinese societies. Tombs in Abydos, Egypt, are adorned with hieroglyphics shaped remarkably like a modern helicopter. Experts contend that an artefact found in a tomb in Saqqara is a model of an Egyptian airplane.
These glimpses of the possibilities of ancient flight have proved inspirational to modern inventors. For example, in fourth century China, a helicopter top called the ‘bamboo dragonfly’ was a common toy. It was en extremely complex machine. Sir George Cayley, the father of modern aeronautics, studied the Chinese helicopter top in 1809 – Its design was so successful, it would be used as a basis for modern aeronautics 1,400 years after its invention.
Forgotten through the ages, these machines are stunning examples of ancient societies’ skill and determination to find ways to transport themselves. Using sophisticated technologies that have previously been thought of as modern, they created incredible machines and laid the foundations for civilisation as we know it today.
you can watch the documentary here....