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Application of Ancient Technology?

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Hello All,

I am the brother of a farmer, and I work in Museums. This being the case, I have worked with, around, under or on many historic technologies in my 15 years in the field. These include the basic trades all the way up to simple mills, carts, wagons, gadgets, weapons, etc, ad infinitum. This familiarity has given me a great amount of respect for ancient engineers and farmers; how they solved problems and addressed their needs.

What I am looking for is a bit out of the ordinary as far as I can tell: Do any of you apply ancient technology to your farms? If so, how ancient, and how applied? If not, Why? Had you thought of doing so until it was mentioned here?

There are hundreds of thousands of items out there on ancient technologies, from principals to applications, Books to operational examples. I can't believe they are all being ignored, and I hope to have my suspicions confirmed.

Thank you for your time,
Steve, the Antiquarian

AudreyB's picture

Hi Steve,

I was curious as to whether you have a list of these resources and if so, would you be willing to share them with this community? It would be helpful if you could even point us in the right direction.

Thanks, Audrey

Woodssj's picture

Hello Again from the mildly ancient world,
There are, of course many examples. Some of these actually give more than jut a mechanical description or example, but plans for their construction as well. A Comprehensive list would take several years to compile exclusive of newly emerging material. I can, however, give a place to start looking.

Google Books is a wonderful thing. Look for the Following texts:
Mortimer, John. The Whole Art of Husbandry (London, UK: 1708) = The illustrations of tools, and especially the Persian Wheels start on pages 43, 48, 64, 103, 138, 283, and many others. Further, those looking for feed formulas will find them in the same text, with recommendations for cures to all sorts of distempers of farm critters. Truly an awesome book, and My Go-To source for any Agricultural Questions I get at my site.

Bowler, Metcalf. Treatise on Practical Agriculture and Practical Husbandry. (Providence, RI: 1786) = Similar to Mortimer, but geared to North American issues. Also, a good study of the effects of the Drill Plow (a mechanical planting apparatus) on improving yields.

Letters and papers on Agriculture, Planting, Etc. Vol. II (Bath, UK: 1783) = Lots of information here, in each volume, on every subject.

The Repertory of Arts and Manufactures, Various Volumes (London, UK: Various Dates 1790s) = Great stuff of all natures for the late 18th to early 19th century.

Have fun looking and building.

More to the point of my original question, Had you thought of using Ancient Mill Technology? Granary Designs? Irrigation Systems? Plows? Feed Formulas? Animal Medications? Hand Tools? Pesticides? Did these sources, or any others, for that matter, occur to you as a viable way to find what you were looking for?

I am curious, intrigued, and expecting to start a farm with my brother at some juncture based on the idea of a proofing-ground for these artifacts as they apply to the modern world. I think they could handily solve a few problems for us in an inexpensive, easily built and operated manner.

Woodssj's picture

I am sorry for the delay in this response, I have been kept from such extra pursuits by family and the process of joining the US Air Force. However, I again find myself with spare time, and contribute something somewhat useful here. Anyone need a harrow inexpensively?

Ancient harrows were simple constructions of wood framing, mostly around four by four inches. these were built into a twelve by twelve square, with several crossbars of similar dimentions. these bars were drilled with approximately three quarters to one inch holes about six to eight inches apart for mounting dowels which extended 8-12 inches below the cross members. A section of decking secured to the top allowed the addition of weights such as stones for a deeper drag into the soil.

Woodssj's picture

Some of you are looking for threshing and winnowing machines? Look here!The book entry is free online, public domain. It will give you everything you need to figure these systems out. Below is my poor description I used to give the general idea to a curious visitor a long time ago.

  1. Sproule, John. A Treatise on Agriculture (Dublin, Ireland: 1842) books.google.com (accessed 20121206) pp 92.

Plans: The winnowing machine first developed in China several thousand years ago is remarkably simple, consisting of a funnel, two vents, a fan and a crank in a very basic housing. Soon after its introduction to the western world in the late 18th century it was widely adopted as far more efficient than the basket-and-paddle methods commonly used in the rest of the world since the dawn of agriculture. The design is, in fact, so simple that a description alone should be sufficient for a clever man to replicate the machine. Inside a box about 5 feet long, one foot deep and three feet tall at one end is a vent on the bottom right. Inside on the right end is a paddle-type fan powered by a crank extending outside the case. Inside is a baffle to funnel the wind generated toward a vent opposite that described. Another set of baffles on the left of the machine leads grain and chaff from a funnel on top through a chute which ends just above the left side vent. Another funnel extends out the bottom of the machine below the grain chute, and allows the heavier grain to be collected, while the chaff is blown out the side vent during operation. The entire machine is made of wood, and as simply as possible. It can be mounted on legs for convenience of operation or built into a barn or granary wall.