Engineering Timeline BC

Engineering Timeline AD

Please note that the following table may well be missing some important developments. We would be pleased to receive comments, corrections and suggestions.

Engineering Timeline BC
2,000,000 – 10,000

Stone Age Palaeolithic


Flaked stone, wood, bone, leather and vegetable fibre tools, hunter gatherers.
First evidence of structures of stones to hold branches of trees, huts of mammoth bones and animal hide tents. A structure of stones with mud packed walls and timber roof found in Czech Republic dates from around 23,000 BC.
Some evidence of dugout canoes 900,000 BC. Cave paintings mostly of animals around 30,000 BC.
Religious rituals such as burials showing a concern for the dead that transcends life, emerged possible 300,000 BC with the earliest known shaman (intermediary between natural and supernatural worlds) buried around 30,000 BC.
20,000 – 6,000 

Stone Age Mesolithic


Polished and ground stone tools,
Earliest known battle in Egypt.
Rock paintings in Spain around 5,000 BC depict battles between archers
20,000 Earliest arithmetic and map making on clay tablets
15,000 First recording of narrative stories in cave paintings
10,000– 2,000

Stone Age Neolithic


Skilled farmers who domesticated plants and animals and made a range of tools for tending, harvesting and processing of crops for food such as sickle blades (some in baked clay), grinding stones, and pottery.
Earliest depiction of a wheel 3,500 BC.
Ornaments such as beads and statuettes have been found.
Use of the adze fashioning wood for shelter with structures such as mud bricks (some plastered and painted with scenes of humans and animals, timber long houses using wattle and daub.
Clothing of animal skins with wool cloth and linen spun by using spindle whorls (a disc or spherical object fitted onto a spindle) and looms developed during this period.
Petroglyphs (symbolic image engraved on stone) were a form of pre-writing symbols.
8,000 First recovered dugout canoe now in a Dutch museum.
6,500 First known smelting of lead in Turkey possibly by accident from ores in a wood fire
6,000 Possible earliest sun dials in Babylon
5,500 First representation of sailing boats in Kuwait
5,000 Egyptian farming in the Nile Valley
5,000 First evidence of copper smelting in Serbia probably in a pottery kiln as camp fire temperatures too low.
4,750 Assyrian lunar based calendar begins
3,500 Written language
2,500 – 800

Bronze Age

First copper-tin bronzes around 3,200 BC
3,200 Reed boats sailed on the Nile in Egypt
3,100 Rowing oars used for steering boats in Egypt
2,900 Possible use of pigeons to carry messages in Egypt
2,500 Tillers used to steer rowing boats
2,500 Great Pyramids at Giza built and set out using elementary geometry
2,500 Stonehenge set out in position using peg and ropes
2,500 Hieroglyph writing on clay tablets by scribes to keep records and texts were catalogued and kept in special rooms as early libraries
2,500 Calendar by the Sumerians of Babylon with 12 lunar months rounded to 30 days with an extra month every 4 years to match the seasons
2,250 First irrigation dam
2,000 Tin was being mined to produce bronze which became the metal of choice for swords, daggers, axes, spears and armour. Also used for chisels, saws, nails, shears, knives, needles and pins, jugs, cooking pots, mirrors and harnesses for horses
2,000 Decimal system (i.e. counting based on 10) used in Egypt and Crete and handed down to Greeks and Romans
2,000 Some evidence of a bloomery for producing cast iron in China
2,000 Measurement was based on a hollow cube with a side the length of a human foot. The foot was the unit of length. The amount of water to fill the cube gave the units for mass and volume. The time for the water to drain from the cube gave a unit of time as a water clock.
2000 Horse drawn chariot Egypt
1,800 Alphabet in use among Semitic people in the Levant
1,500 Shadow clocks or sundials in Egypt and Babylon
1,250 Library at Thebes

Iron Age

The use of iron to make tools including weapons. Possible iron working in Egypt and Africa. Most early processes were smelting iron ore in a bloomery (a type of furnace with charcoal) producing a small quantity of porous mass of iron and slag called a bloom which could be worked by hammering and forged into wrought iron.
1,160 The Turin Papyrus map of a 15km stretch of Wadi Hammamat near Luxor, Egypt – the only surviving topographic map from ancient Egypt
1,000 Iron ploughshare in Asia Minor
776 Stadium built at Olympia, Greece.
750 Assyrian king Sennacherib built stone canal and aqueduct to Ninevah in what is now Iraq.
750 Greek alphabet
750 Length of Roman lunar year has 10 months
700 Pigeons used to carry messages in Greece
590 Pythagorus proved his theorem
515 Persian Emporer Darius constructed a canal linking the Nile to the Red Sea
515 First evidence of use of a crane in Greece
500 Herodotus describes a Persian postal system established by Darius that has riders stationed along a road
500 Darius builds a network of roads with a 2,000 mile road from Susa to Sardis
500 Lathe in common use for wood turning
500 Engineer Eupalinos built an aqueduct to supply fresh water to Samos, Greece.
350 First written evidence of compound pulley system in Mechanica by Aristotle
312 The first Roman road links Rome to Capua
307 Library of Alexandria, Egypt created by Ptolemy I Soter, a Macedonian general. Most of the books were papyrus scrolls.
300 Euclid produces The Elements which contain what we now call Euclidean geometry.
263 Pliny (23-79 AD) records first Roman sundial
250 Library of Pergamum, Turkey housed some 200,000 volumes according to Plutarch (46 – 120 AD) and credited with being the home of parchment (derived from charta pergamena).
240 Leap year introduced into the Egyptian calendar
220 Qin Shi Huang standardised Chinese weights and measures
206 Magnetic compass used for divine purposes during the Han Dynasty
480-323 Encaustic painting developed by Greek artists using techniques borrowed from ship-painters incorporating wax – the wax/pigment mixture had a particularly strong adhesive quality.
25 Vitruvius publishes his 5 books of architecture including rules of thumb and details of cranes, weapons etc
Introduction of winch and pulley in Greece

Engineering Timeline AD