Alarm Clocks, Mints, and Other Ancient Inventions We Still Use Today

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1. Paper

While we are encouraged to use less paper or at least recycle it due to environmental concerns, Americans still use more than 2 trillion trees a year for paper and other products made of wood. Papermaking has been a practice since at least A.D. 105 , according to some Chinese records. But recent archeological evidence dates papermaking to two centuries earlier. However, although not made from wood per se, you can go back in time even further. Ancient Egyptians found a way of writing on papyrus paper around 3000 B.C.

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2. Mints

Poor dental health was common in ancient Egypt because of bread. They used stones to grind down the flour, a process that led to sand and small rocks remaining in the bread, and eventually making their way to people’s teeth, slowly rotting them. With no dentists yet, the Egyptians came up with a way to at least deal with the bad breath. The first mints were a mixture of frankincense, myrrh, cinnamon, and honey. Eventually, ancient Egyptians invented toothpaste.

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3. Perfume

Long before Chanel No. 5 there was incense some 4,000 years ago. People burned different resins and wood at religious ceremonies, which is the only time this form of perfume was used. Eventually, priests relinquished their exclusive rights, and citizens started to soak in scented oils just for pleasure. The credit to the first liquid perfume, however, goes to ancient Greece, also some 4,000 years ago. In fact, the oldest perfume factory was excavated in Cyprus, located southeast of Greece.

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4. Odometer

Odometers, which measure the distance traveled by a vehicle, are still among the most widely used instruments in the world. They used to be mechanical. A Roman architect and engineer, Vitruvius, is often credited with inventing the odometer in 15 B.C. What he designed was a large wheel in a small frame, similar to how a wheel is mounted on a wheelbarrow. “When it was pushed along the ground by hand it automatically dropped a pebble into a container at each revolution, giving a measure of the distance traveled. It was, in effect, the first odometer,” according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

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5. Compass

The compass is one of the most important tools in the history of navigation. While people in urban areas are not very likely to carry one in their bags, it is very helpful for hikers and other adventurers going into the wild. Many historians think that China’s Han Dynasty, around 200 B.C., gave the magnetic compass to the West. They were first to develop a sophisticated compass. The needle was actually an iron spoon that was magnetized with ore, making it point south or north.