11 Technological Inventions that Revolutionised Mediaeval Era

The Middle Ages reportedly started in 500 A.D and lasted up to 1450 A.D. If you dig deep into different history books, this particular era is mentioned as Dark Ages. Famine, Feuding, plague, and the Crusades were all over the time of the Middle Ages.

However, the wheel of civilisation continued, and the education power remained with the churches in the West. Most clergies got the chance to receive an education. Also, the suppression of learning and knowledge was there in the Middle Ages.

Still, the Far East and West countries were ahead of their time regarding innovations and modern technology. A renaissance of technological advancements hit the Middle Ages from architecture to agriculture.

Let’s review a few inventions from the Middle Ages around the globe to check out how they shaped civilisation and helped mankind.

1. The Printing Press

As you might have already heard, Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the fifteenth century. However, experts from Laptop Repair Service verified that movable type system was invented much before in China.

A Chinese innovator named Bi Sheng invented the first movable type printing press during the Northern Song Dynasty. And, the timeline is believed to be somewhere around 1040 A.D. Now, you can guess how much our world would have been different without printing press technology.

2. Heavy Plough

European farming was introduced to the havoc of productivity due to a heavy plough around the 9th century. Before the invention of the heavy plough, farmers used the scratch or ard-plough for agriculture. And, they were not suitable agricultural tools for northern Europe’s heavy soils.

Heavy ploughs made agricultural tasks easier with their asymmetric ploughshare that can cut the soil horizontally. Its coulter took care of the vertical soil cutting. In addition, the attached mouldboard assisted in turning aside the cut sods to pave a deep furrow.

Not to mention, this invention became remarkable as it enhanced the chances of getting fertile soil. Thus, it was possible to produce crops in areas with clay and hard soils. The production of more crops led to great economic growth and advancements in trade and cities.

3. Astrolabe

The studies of the movement of different celestial bodies were never possible without Astrolabe in the mediaeval ages. Astronomers and navigators used Astrolabes to study and measure the position of stars, including the sun.

The earliest Astrolabes were discovered in Moorish Spain around the 12th century. Then, the Astrolabe reached wider Europe from Spain and over time, it became one of the most reliable devices for astronomical uses.

4. Paper Money

Can you believe China was the proud inventor of paper money in the Middle Ages? The first government-approved paper money as a currency appeared in China around 1023.

Previously, private enterprises used to make paper money in the Szechuan province in the 10th century. Marco Polo shed light on China’s paper money system, but Euro was not ready to adopt the concept in that timeline.

It was 1601 when Sweden started printing paper currency. Thus, China was ahead in paper money as a currency, and we are still using it!

Related reading: The Benefit Of Using Technology In Education

5. Mechanical Clock

It all started with the innovation of the verge escapement around 1300 A.D. Later, it spread all over Europe and made the invention of mechanical clocks possible. A verge escapement refers to the mechanism of a mechanical clock.

In addition, the mechanism controls the clock’s rate by letting the gear train it forward at regular and paced ticks or intervals. However, the first mechanical clocks appeared in Europe in 1280. Mechanical clocks were the standard devices for keeping track of time until the pendulum clock came up in 1656.

6. Spinning Wheel

Reportedly, India developed spinning wheels between the 5th and 10th centuries A.D. Evidence was there that spinning wheels reached China around 1000 A.D. On the other hand, the Middle East and Europe got to know about spinning wheels around 1400 A.D.

Earlier, the hand-spinning technology worked by drawing out individual fibres from a mass of wool on a distaff or twisted together. This would form a continuous strand, and then the strands would be wound on a second stick.

Undoubtedly, the spinning wheel replaced the hand-spinning tool. Later, the spinning wheel got a series of improvements and adaptations. Thus, it became one of the most powerful and mechanised tools to lead the industrial rebellion.

7. Gunpowder

Did you know that gunpowder was invented in mediaeval times? Gunpowder is a chemical composition of potassium nitrate, saltpetre, charcoal, and sulphur. According to anonymous research and validated proofs, we learned that Chinese monks were behind the invention of gunpowder.

However, the intention behind the invention of gunpowder was probably devising medicines. The formula of gunpowder reached the Middle East during the 13th century. Then, traders and crusaders brought gunpowder to Europe soon enough.

On the other hand, Sir Roger Bacon experimented with gunpowder to obtain the best ratio of its ingredients. That’s why Sir Roger Bacon is credited with giving the modern formula of gunpowder and its making process in detail.

8. Hourglass

The hourglass concept emerged back in the 8th century A.D. in Europe. Still, there was only proper evidence of using an hourglass at the beginning of the 14th century. 

However, hourglass first appeared in the ship inventories of Europe. Most probably, hourglasses and their accuracy remained unaffected by the bobbing waves of the ocean.

They became available by the end of the 15th century, and they were everywhere, including churches, ships, and industries. Hourglasses were the first reusable, precise, and reliable tools for timekeeping.

9. Eyeglasses

Ancient ages introduced mankind to magnifying glasses. However, the invention of wearable eyeglasses was in the 13th century in Italy. The first definitive mention of eyeglasses popped up in Opus Majus by Sir Roger Bacon. Moreover, he clarified the scientific explanations of using corrective lenses.

The earliest version of eyeglasses came into existence in about 1268. Mostly, scholars and monks used them. They used to hold them in front of their eyes or balance them on their noses.

10. Windmills

Archaeologists discovered the first evidence of using windmills in 1219, and that too in China. Previously, windmills powered water pumps and grain mills. After the Crusades, the windmill concept reached Europe.

We found the European-designed windmills to be documented in 1270. Those mills had a central post and 4 blades connected to it. In addition, windmills used a ring gear and cog to work on the central shaft’s horizontal motions and turned them into vertical ones. Then, the vertical motion of the wheel or grindstone pumped water or ground grains.

11. Numbering System

The Western world got to discover the Hindu-Arabic numbering system in 1202. The credit goes to the prominent Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci. He composed Liber Abaci or ‘The Book of Calculation’.

There he mentioned the Hindu-Arabic numbering system and also introduced the Fibonacci series. This is another essential technological improvement in the Middle Ages.

Related reading: The Rise of Healthcare Technology: 5 Key Trends in 2023


Mentions of the above inventions have clarified that the Middle Ages laid the foundation for numerous technologies we still use today. Be it the Astrolabe or the windmill, the mediaeval ages have transformed the whole world.

Over time, countless adaptations might have outdated those Middle Ages innovations, but they can never wipe out their legacy. Studying these innovations will help us understand the root of creativity and technological advancement of those who led the society before us.


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