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Old Egyptian hieroglyphs on an ancient background.

Ancient inventions we still use today

Egyptian hieroglyphs | Image: Shutterstock

Ever wondered where some of your everyday objects come from. Well have a look at some of these ancient inventions that we still use today.


Nowadays, if you have bad breath and are planning on making plenty of conversation you can just pop in some chewing gum or a mint and the problem is solved.

But what did the Ancient Egyptians do when they had an important mummification consultation and their breath smelt like they were dead already?

It turns out, much the same thing. They boiled a mixture of herbs and spices like frankincense, myrrh and cinnamon and then mixed in some honey. With a quick chew on one of those pellets, they were sorted and could breathe easy again.

Alarm Clocks

Today, a lot of people tend to use their mobile phones or a digital alarm clock to get themselves up on a morning for work, but those inventions all have their roots in one thing – a device that can make a lot of noise at a certain time.

And one of the first such devices was owned by philosopher Plato, way back in 428-348 BC. Plato used a large water clock with a sound similar to a water organ to let him know when his lectures would begin at dawn.

The first mechanical alarm clocks appeared in the 15th Century, and were set by pushing a pin into one of a series of holes on a clock face.

Door Locks

We take the fact we can just lock our front doors at night for granted nowadays, with our tiny keys and delicately formed lock mechanisms.

But it turns out the Ancient Egyptians had a remarkably similar thing, just quite a bit bigger. Way back in 4,000BC, the Egyptians had a tumbler lock which was two feet in length.

A large bolt was attached to the door and connected with pins, each with a different pattern. The key was unique to the lock, and the whole mechanism was made out of wood.


You might associate concrete with huge industrial buildings or modern motorways, but it was being used by the Romans 2,100 years ago for construction.

Using a mixture of slaked lime and volcanic ash, known as pozzolana, they made a paste which when mixed with some volcanic rocks made a strong building material.

Pozzolana even set quickly in water, meaning water based builds were a possibility all the way back then. It might have been a little weaker, but it is certainly as close as you could get to modern cement in the ancient world.


We use or read from paper almost every day, and we owe that privilege to the ancient Chinese. Cai Lun of the Eastern Dynasty, who lived from 25AD to 220AD, invented the world’s first big paper production using rope, rags, fish nets and tree bark.

The word paper originates from papyrus, a thick plant material most associated with the Egyptians, but it was the Chinese who first crafted paper for specialised writing and printing use and spread it to the world through the lucrative Silk Road.