The Mothers of Invention: Explore the History of Asian Innovation


From pottery, farming to weaving and writing, some of the most fundamental innovations of civilisation were created by Asians. Asian Geographic uncovers some of the most important inventions that were instrumental to the modern world we live in.


c. 18,000 BC

The oldest piece of pottery discovered was found in Jianxi, a district of Henan, China, and dates to about 18,000 BC. The earliest attempts at pottery were not fired; instead, the clay was pressed into a mould and then sun-dried. As a result, early pottery was not very durable. All that remains of these ancient relics are crumbly bits of pots and figurines. The first fired pottery was simply placed in a pit, and a bonfire was built around it. Pit-firing began around 10,000 BC. The kiln, an enclosed oven specifically designed for firing pottery, was invented in Mesopotamia around 1,500 BC.

Modern Numbers


The numbering system used today in the Western world was first developed around 500 AD by Indian mathematician and astronomer, Aryabhata I. His system was improved upon around 600 AD by Arab mathematician, Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, who introduced the “positional zero” – zeroes used to indicate multiples of 10. For most applications, this system soon replaced the cumbersome Latin system of Roman numerals. Once scholars could easily distinguish among one, 100, and 10,000, maths and science advanced in leaps and bounds.


The Wheel

c. 3,500 BC

The first known depiction of a wheeled vehicle is a Sumerian pictograph from around 3,500 BC. Archaeologists are not sure whether the wheel evolved from wooden rollers or tree trunks used to move blocks of stone, or from the potter’s wheel, which was then adapted to new use. Lighter, more sophisticated spoked wheels first appeared in the second millennium BC, also in the Middle East.


c. 3,000 BC

How do you capture the stream of sounds we call speech, and render it into a record? It is thought that the first people to write words down were the Sumerians – living in what is now Iraq – inventing a writing system comprised of syllables sometime around 3,000 BC. Much like modern Chinese writing, each symbol in Sumerian represented a syllable or idea, which was then combined with other symbols to form whole words and sentences.

{ Syria }


c. 9,000BC

Humans are thought to have gathered the seeds of wild grasses for food for thousands of years. Around 11,000 years ago, someone in the Middle East realised that they could save some of the grass seeds and plant them. This allowed people to grow a food supply in a location of their choosing. The first archaeological evidence of cultivation is farmed wheat from Abu Hureyra, a Fertile Crescent site in present-day Syria.

Check out the rest of this article in Asian Geographic No.122 Issue 6/2016 here or download a digital copy here


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