While the Sumerian lunar calendar had been in use since about 2000 BCE, the invention of the Julian calendar — a reform of the earlier Roman calendar — by Julius Caesar in 46 BCE proved to be one of the most resilient and well used of all time. Indeed, it wasn’t until 1582 that it was superseded by the Gregorian calendar, which was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII. Today, the Gregorian calendar is internationally the most widely used calendar.
While papyrus scrolls and cuneiform tablets predated parchment, its creation was arguably far more important in the grand history of writing, as it paved the way to the development of the first book. Papyrus only came in scroll form and was relatively stiff, while parchment — being made from the scraped skins of animals — was smooth, flexible and more resistant to variable environments and atmospheres. This allowed multiple sheets of parchment to be sewn together into larger manuscripts.
It was the Ancient Chinese who first discovered the orientating effect of rare ore magnetite and, following this, they put it to use as a crude form of compass in the lodestone. It was more than 1,000 years later before a true navigational compass appeared — again devised in China. The compass was a remarkable milestone in navigation, removing the need for sailors to rely on landmarks and celestial bodies to plot a course and thereby mitigating the uncontrollable factors of overcast weather and darkness. The compass undoubtedly played a huge part in the Golden Age of Exploration during the 16th and 17th centuries.
The creation of the first sewerage system surely has to be one of the most fundamental life-bettering inventions of all time. Starting as simple, below-floor-level cesspits before evolving into brick-lined drains and, in more recent times, full-blown underground networks of tunnels and recycling centres, sewage systems have been an intrinsic part of civilisation since circa 2500 BCE. Excavated homes from the Indus Valley in Pakistan are some of the earliest to reveal the remains of connections to a large sewage drain.
Soap, in its most fundamental form, first emerged in Babylonia almost 5,000 years ago. This crude soap was a mixture of fat and ashes, which were boiled together in a big cauldron and then stored in clay pots. This emulsifying agent was later refined in Spain during the 19th century into the hard white soaps we are more familiar with today. Originally this new take on soap was made from olive oil and the ashes of the salsola plant.