Pottery (c13,000BC) – 1000 Inventions and Discoveries Having harnessed the power of fire, people were able to make pottery. The first potters only needed to find some soft clay, shape it, and then heat it in a fire. Because an ordinary fire did not heat the clay very evenly, the resulting pots were fragile and … Read more


Boomerang (c19,000BC) – 1000 Inventions and Discoveries Used by hunters in Africa, India, and Australia, the boomerang was originally just a heavy stick thrown at an animal to injure it and make it easier to catch. Over the centuries, the stick was reshaped so that it would fly farther and faster, and even return to … Read more


House (c28,000BC) – 1000 Inventions and Discoveries People started to build houses about 30,000 years ago, but most people lived in shelters or caves. They also built simple huts, in which they probably lived for some time before moving on to find food. At Dolnì Vestonice in the Czech Republic, archaeologists have found the remains … Read more


Rope (c30,000BC) – 1000 Inventions and Discoveries It is difficult to say exactly when people first started to make rope because few early examples have survived, except in bogs, where the acid water has stopped it from rotting. But some early drawings and sculptures show it in use. It has also sometimes been preserved as … Read more


Paintbrush (c30,000BC) – 1000 Inventions and Discoveries The artists who created the cave paintings at Altamira in Spain, Lascaux in France, and in other places, probably put colour on to the walls in several different ways, including spitting it out. Some of the effects they produced must have needed a paintbrush. At its simplest, this … Read more

Cave painting

Cave painting (c30,000BC) – 1000 Inventions and Discoveries Dramatic paintings made by people living more than 30,000 years ago lay forgotten until 1879, when a little girl, Maria de Sautuola, visited the caves at Altamira in Spain with her father. She noticed the huge paintings of animals high above her head. Since then, even earlier … Read more

Bow and arrow

Bow and arrow (c30,000BC) – 1000 Inventions and Discoveries Bows and arrows were depicted in cave paintings from 30,000 BC onward, but no actual examples survive today. By 18,000 BC, arrows were equipped with flint points, making them deadly to animals. Later, the bow came into use as a major military weapon and became deadly … Read more

Spear thrower

Spear thrower (c35,000BC) – 1000 Inventions and Discoveries By creeping along quietly, early hunters could often get close enough to an animal to throw a spear at it and kill it. But sometimes the animal would run away. What the hunters needed was a way of throwing spears from farther away. The spear thrower was … Read more

Handles for tools

Handles for tools (c35,000BC) – 1000 Inventions and Discoveries Attaching a wooden handle to a blade may not sound like a breakthrough, but it was. People could not hit things very hard with a tool held in their hands because it hurt. Nor could they swing the tool very quickly because their arms were too … Read more

Fish hook

Fish hook (c35,000BC) – 1000 Inventions and Discoveries The earliest method of catching a fish was with a piece of stone, pointed at both ends, baited, and tied to a line. This gorge, as it is called, simply jammed in the fish’s throat. The first real fish hooks were developed by the earliest “modern” humans, … Read more