Our medieval mythbusters article has had us inspired to look for great medieval inventions. Here is five of our favourites.

1. Water Mills

Water, water everywhere!

Water, water everywhere!

Though they were invented hundreds of years before the Middle Ages, their numbers exploded during this time. By around 1000 A.D. there were tens of thousands of mills harnessing river and tidal power throughout England, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. The technology invented by the Greeks was further refined during the Middle Ages and was used to power tanneries, blast furnaces, forge mills, and paper mills which evolved into the machinery used in today’s factories and facilities.

2. Mirrors

Prior to the mirrors we know today, looking glasses were simply highly polished strips of metal. First mention of a mirror was made in 1180 by Alexander Neckham who said “Take away the lead which is behind the glass and there will be no image of the one looking in.”

3. The Spinning Wheel

What goes up, must come down, spinning wheel, watch it go 'round.

What goes up, must come down, spinning wheel, watch it go ’round.

The original of the spinning wheel are still quite debated and although many believe that it was first invented in India, no proof exists. It was during the Middle Ages that the spinning wheel first made its way to Europe through the Middle East. Before its existence, the method used for weaving was hand spinning where individual fibers were first drawn out of wool that was held on distaff and was twisted to make a strand. This strand was then wound on a spindle. To make this entire process easier, the spindle was first horizontally mounted so that it would be rotated easily. The wheel was turned slowly using the right hand while the distaff with the fiber was held at an angle in the other hand to create the required twist.

4. Spectacles

In 1289 in a Florentine manuscript entitled Traite de con uite

He's making a spectacle of himself...

He’s making a spectacle of himself…

de la famille, Sandra di Popozo wrote: “I am so debilitated by age that without the glasses known as spectacles, I would no longer be able to read or write. These have recently been invented for the benefit of poor old people whose sight has become weak”. Years earlier, Friar Roger Bacon wrote a description of lenses to make letters bigger in his Opus Majus (1268) – so it’s clear that the first spectacles were made somewhere between 1268 and 1289.

5. Horse Shoes

Horses are designed to live and roam in the wild. With human domestication in cities and the construction of roads this made horse transit difficult. The horseshoe which was invented sometime in the 9th century allowed this powerful steed to venture to non-grassy areas without harming their hooves. This would be extremely important in the growing city structures where consistent, effective transportation would be necessary to move goods and people.

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