Simple discoveries that would radically change ancient times or middle ages?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by SeaCambrian, Oct 5, 2018.

  1. David II Well-Known Member

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    This could prevent a lot of plagues... gosh imagine Europe without black death
     
  2. Masked Grizzly Well-Known Member

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    From a food point of view it would have been interesting seeing ancient Europe discover Wheat Gluten as a Meat Substitute. Especially within Christendom where not only were the lower classes unable to afford meat, but the upper classes at certain times were already resorting to eating illusion food that imitated meat in ingenious ways (along with cheese and eggs), in addition to the consumption of meat being forbidden for a full third of the year for most Christian sects with all animal products (including eggs and dairy products) apart from fish being generally prohibited during Lent / etc. - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheat_gluten_(food)

    Another would the survival and continued popularity of Murri, a fermented Barley-based condiment that has been compared to soy sauce. - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murri_(condiment)
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2018
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  3. Carnivorous Vegetarian Unknown Member

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    Good uses for gunpowder in antiquity could be found in construction, and surface or underground mining.
     
  4. mrmandias Regent

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    I have a soft spot for Newton's Radio.

    I'd love to hear more about optics. Link to the thread, or repeat some of that stuff here?
     
  5. Marc reformed polymath... Donor

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    This a re-post, with a few slight additions (set in italics):

    Optics. It's well within the science and technology of the Mediterranean world circa 1st through 4th century CE to develop first, working lenses to radically improve personal sight (eyeglasses - this has to be by itself one of the greatest utilitarian improvements in the quality of life), to telescopes which while it gives a battlefield military edge, for a while, more importantly it allows the Romans to create a very functional telegraphy system - with all the implications about command and control, military and political. (and that particular usage would be transmitted and adapted very quickly by others - 19th century style semaphore lines across vast stretches of Eurasia.)
    Claudius Ptolemy was setting the groundwork for a science of optics in the 2nd century CE, but it wasn't built upon until the 12th century, and then slowly.
    Then, rapidly, the astronomical revolution which, well, think what happens to faith and natural philosophy, among other things. Pliny the Elder peering through a telescope; Saint Augustus not wanting to believe his eyes...
    The microscope, another revolution happening at the same time, with even more disruptive consequences. (although, it could stay as a novelty for some decades or more before its implications hit home)
    In a few centuries, Rome's society, culture, and politics are transformed - utterly so.

    I doubt that anything could compare to what a optical technology - which does not require a whole lot of tech - would do to the Classical world.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
  6. Albert.Nik Well-Known Member

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    Would terraforming be possible? I've heard there were attempts made in the past.
     
  7. metalinvader665 Well-Known Member

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    Not in the sense most would use the word terraforming, but humans consciously or unconsciously altering their environment has been a thing since humans evolved, like the extensive use of fire for hunting which had long term environmental consequences and probably helped kill the ice age megafauna.

    But maintenance and expansion of Roman forestry would be very important in most of the Mediterranean.
     
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  8. Albert.Nik Well-Known Member

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    I mean like using Norias to grow things where one cannot,use animal labour to do larger landscape projects and like that.
     
  9. EWilanO Well-Known Member

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    The animal collar would change things significantly. It would allow animals to haul more weight and also to draw better ploughs.
     
  10. Philip One L only

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    Irrigation? Check.
    Swamp draining? Check.
    Land clearing? Check.
    Slope terracing? Check.

    What do you have in mind as terraforming?
     
  11. Albert.Nik Well-Known Member

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    On a larger scale. Animals put to use for large transportation,Norias used in the deserts,Soil being terraformed to create new fields,canals built,etc.
     
  12. Richard V Well-Known Member

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    Knitting was invented bizarrely late, in Egypt in the Middle Ages, and transmitted to Europe by the Muslims later. Would be quite a boon to the ancient Greeks and Persians if they knew of it.
     
  13. Sam R. Well-Known Member

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    Generalise Western European monastic enclosure to noble lands, get open fields and advanced rotation with crop sharing rather than serfdom/poor law/latifunda, potential boot point for capitalism. (Which will result in a second enclosure with a poor law of course).

    Hops.
     
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  14. CountDVB Dual Emperor of the Aztech and Maychanical Empires

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    What else do you think could've been simple but interesting?

    Maybe some sort of earleir alternate to the Dewey Decibil System
     
  15. oshron Emperor of Rplegacy

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    *library employee eye-twitch*
     
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  16. lefthandhummingbird Well-Known Member

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    I don't think an improved system of categorisation would help much at a time when twenty books would be considered a very respectable collection.
     
  17. LSCatilina Vassican Labosiotos Vergagnatos

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    It's one of the technological clich├ęs of Roman agriculture that horse collars of Antiquity were inefficient and that heavy plough is some sort of technological super-discoveriesBasically XIXth and XXth reconstitution were made with the idea that for literraly centuries Romans went with the most inefficient and unlikely models of harnessing animal power until everyone got an epiphany : I'm sure you see the problem there : Ancient Harness Systems is an interesting source if you're interested.
    In facts, animal collars of Antiquity, while perfectible (and generally perfected) were fairly adapted to Mediterranean basin soils, which were relatively light to work and adapted to bullocks-driven carts as horses weren't really either that widespread as a rustic workforce, neither really as strong or usable for agriculture as nowadays (breeding selection just began to be systematized on this perspective).

    You'd argue that heavy/moldboard ploughs certainly were an advance and required harnessing a greater charge capacity from animals. The problem being that moldboard were known during Roman times, but fairly limited to Britain, parts of Northern Gaul and Roman Germania. The issue being, there too, that the local soils were less adapted to Mediterranean farming, and as all Northern Europe benefited from tolls able to work more heavy potential farmland. Meanwhile, and roughly until the late XVIIIth and XIXth century, Mediterranean agriculture remained on a largely oxen-driven, basic moldboard ploughs without real issues because they were adapted tools.

    Historical farming isn't just about technological discoveries that popped up and changed everything in the gamemap, but was too concerned about the nature and necessities of soils : sometimes what was beneficial for whole regions was but a fart in the desert for others. Again, not that Roman agriculture wasn't perfectible, just that it was simply not the same priorities and necessities than implied Northern European farming.

    The same could be said about biennal to triennal crop-rotation (the former remained a basic feature of Med./southern Europe agriculture into the XIXth), use of horses : not that theyweren't objectively historically decisive for the development of European agriculture, but that mattered because Northern Europe soils were basically undevelloped for most of Antiquity (Barbarians used to import grain from Rome because they didn't have much interest farming difficult soils; while in the late Middle-Ages, Poland was a main grain exporter).
     
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  18. LSCatilina Vassican Labosiotos Vergagnatos

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    That said, earlier development and use of codex instead of volumen (one nook that you read yourself, contrary to tens of rolls of papers you were read to by someone else) would certainly be as a change in intellectual and scholarly habits than IOTL : more facilities to borrow or access sources, silent (possibly more focusing) study, easier to store, etc.

    You didn't have to wait but some centuries IOTL for codex to be widely adopted as for information-keeping and scholarly use and scrolls being considering like trash (literally : a good part of them were found in ancient trash piles).
    Think of the difference between before and after the computers in the XXth, in terms of how it changed things for people.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2018
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  19. VictorLaszlo Well-Known Member

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    The ancient Romans had a kind of visual telegraph, they used flag signals with differently coloured flags held in the left and right hand and either raised or not to code letters to convey messages from one watch tower to another and to cavalry forts along the limes and Hadrian's wall.
     
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  20. VictorLaszlo Well-Known Member

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    And it's a prerequisite for the invention of the printing press. As long as you have no cheap material to print on the purpose of the printing press, i.e. to reproduce written sources cheaply, kind of defeats itself and literally no one is going to invest to invent it. It is no coincidence that IOTL Gutenberg invented the printing press merely a few decades after paper started to be produced locally and no longer had to be purchased from the Venetians at cutthroat prices.
     
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