Link to Tim Richardsons main page
GNED 117
As taught by 
Prof. Tim Richardson
Toronto, Canada

TECHNOLOGYis the application of science to make human lives better.

HISTORY is the study of past events; sometimes this is determined through a written record, sometimes through archeology.

HISTORY of TECHNOLOGY is the study of how science was applied, in the past, to advance civilization and make human lives progressively better.
Detailed Course Outline
Section One
  • Primitive Man
  • Egypt and Africa
  • Asia, China
  • Asia, Japan


 1 introduction 
Science and Technology - difference approaches 
Requirements and aspects of a Technological Society 

One of the earliest technological inventions: The Wheel. 
Archeologists say the wheel was invented somewhere 
in present-day Iraq or Iran around 3500 BC.

Since this class is taught in Canada, which is in North America, it would be respectful of us, when noting primitive technology, to mention the contribution of the North American native Maple syrup ! canoes ! 

Nativetech is a massive site, you are not expected to view all the links, just look at a few to get an understanding of some of the technologies applied by Native peoples in North America.

Long distance navigation of North American waterways by birchbark canoe had the consequence of allowing vast areas of the continent to be explored and mapped.

Try searching or other sites with words like "primitive technology" and you will be frustrated by a lot of false leads to personal web pages put up by survivalists trying to learn neolithic skills cause they fear the coming Y2K deadline. 
some sites though have interesting topics 
Class 2


Africa and Egypt



The Orion Theory

Egypt - structures and monuments
The Rosetta Stone understanding Egyptian writing
A party of French troops found a black basalt slab, near to the town of Rashid in 1799, inscribed in three languages. The slab was a tribute to the Egyptian King Ptolemy V, with the original heiroglyph, a more modern demotic script, and, the key to our knowledge of Ancient Egypt today, a Greek translation alongside carved in 196 BCE. The French returned control of Egypt to the English, and the Rosetta Stone, as it had become known, was taken to London, where it can still be seen as a prize exhibit in the British Museum, in Bloomsbury.

master page with many links to Sphinx discussions and various "who built the Pyramids" theories 

Controvery about the age of the Sphinx

A reasonable discussion from the Nova TV series which tries to estimate the reality of how many people needed to move X number of stones for building the pyramids

The Egyptian Government's Official Website on the 
Pyramids, by Dr. Hawass 
Undersecretary of the State for the Giza Monuments
Dr. Hawass' page on the workers who built the Pyramids

The Great Pyramid
Excellent web site featuring dimensions, pictures, and drawings explaining details of the pyramids
- includes cross sectional diagrams, eg.
This web site contains some sensational and controversial theories, but it does have some accurate "dimension" facts about the structure. (you may ignore the religious references the authors makes to Christiianity - we will not be covering that)
- read the sections titled
The Last "Wonder of the World"
Construction Unequaled by Modern Technology

Thirty times larger than the Empire State Building, the Pyramid's features are so large they can be seen from the Moon. 
Its base covers 13.6 acres (equal to seven midtown Manhatten city blocks), each side being greater than five acres in area. 
 Volume: A highway lane eight feet wide and four inches thick could be built from San Francisco to New York and put inside the Great Pyramid. The oldest large structure in existence, having been started 4,617 years ago, it is the sole remnant of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Some people have very extreme and unusual theories of the Pyramids.
For your interest/amusement, check
Interview with Alan F. Alford

The Osiris Shaft
This shaft was unveiled to the world on the FOX TV special. 
It opens in the causeway linking the Sphinx to the second pyramid. 

The Orion Theory

Terrance G. Nevin's web site dedicated to the proposition that the Great Pyramid is a rational (in the mathematical sense) structure, designed
and built by normal people.
2 From
photocopies were handed out of pages from the text

p. 26-29 which was the first 4 pages of Chpt Three
"Early Civilizations"

discussed the concept of a village
basics of metallurgy -importance for making tools
- copper
- bronze
about 3000 BC metallurgists learned to mix copper with arsenic and lead to produce bronze
- iron

2 Group
For class today you are going to be a survivor from another time period who is cast away into a previous period in history. 
You will draw on your personal knowledge, and the knowledge of the people in your group, to survive, and a create a sustainable society until you are rescued, or until you life out your remaining years

3 From
photocopies were handed out of pages from the text

p. 30 - 33 which was the first 5-8th  pages of Chpt Three
"Early Civilizations"

- good metal tools came after iron, 1500 BC
- effect of the Nile River in Egypt
- the Pyramids as tombs
- 100,000 laborers working three months
- two kingdoms, kingdom of the Nile Valley, Kingdom of the Delta
- arches and columns (p. 33)




Egyptian writing vs. Sumerian writing
- a consequence of the physical environment leading to the development of different methods
- in Egypt they had lots of tall reed grasses (papyrus) which they could make in to paper
- in Sumeria they began writing in moist clay - which was abundant in the river  valleys

check page 30 in
Children of Prometheus:A History of Science & Technology
                     by Author James MacLachlan 

Planned irrigation and mass cultivation of crops
Crop harvesting and mass storage

Egyptian timeline

  • Predynastic Period - Neolithic Period, ca. 5450-3850 B.C
  • Dynasty 0 
  • Early Dynastic Period (1st & 2nd Dynasties) 
  • The Old Kingdom (3rd - 8th Dynasties) 
  • First Intermediate Period (9th - mid11th Dynasties) 
  • The Middle Kingdom (mid11th - 13th Dynasties) 
  • Second Intermediate Period (14th - 17th Dynasties) 
  • The New Kingdom (18th - 20th Dynasties) 
  • Ramsesside Period (19th - 20th Dynasties) 
  • Third Intermediate Period (21st - 24th Dynasties) 
  • The Late Period (25th - 30th Dynasties) 
  • Greco-Roman Egypt - 30 B.C.-A.D. 395
  • Islamic Period 
A simple summary of the main facts of the pyramids at Giza.
The writer paints a "generous" portrait" of how the country felt about these projects.


There are very few internet references to African technology and buildings and structures, other than Egypt and the Pyramids. Got to
to see pictures and text describing buildings in the kingdoms of NUBIA 

3 Class

"Things they
would have 
to deal with
in building 
these structures"

The reason why we do not all agree on how the pyramids were built is because there are too many inconsistencies in the theories of who the workers were, the dates involved, the technology used, the mathematics involved, etc. Although we may not be able to - even in "modern" times to know how they built the pyramids, it is possible to develop an interesting list of things they would have had to deal with.

In class today we also took time in groups to make a list of problems and challenges that the Egyptians would have to overcome in constructing large stone projects like the Sphinx and Great Pyramid.

The items on this list - created by our students in class, include considerations in the categories of

  • economic considerations
    • eg. that the country was able to sustain an economy that could devote so many people to a project other than the critical activities of farming and trade
  • workers
    • eg. food - water
    • shelter
    • clothing
  • technical  and architectural considerations
    • eg. moving the stones !!
    • eg. advanced metallurgy to produce tools to cut and dress the stone
  • political considerations
    • eg. that the country must have been in a period of peace for a long time which allowed it to have a small army since a large army would take away from ther\ number of males that could be labourers
the full list is at
. These links to the right are not required reading, they are offered just for your interest Ancient Egyptian Virtual Temple
3 African science and technology history Other than Egypt and its great structures, little is known about African technology among mainstream historians - however there are a number of individuals who study different African technological and engineering contributions to Mediterranean, European and Middle Eastern  civilization 

"The story of Africa is marked by the rise of complex societies (chiefdoms and states), migrations, agriculture and pastoralism, and particularly diversity. The introduction of iron transformed the continent because it opened up potentials for agriculture. This led to expansion of populations accompanied by migration." Read more at, the web site of Mesa Community College ...
"Ghana was the earliest of the great empires. In the markets of its capital in the southeastern corner of what is now Mauritania, not far from the Senegal River, local entrepreneurs bartered the gold, ivory, and slaves of black Africa for the salt of the Sahara and for the horses, cloth, swords, and books of North Africa and Europe. Salt was worth its weight in gold. The empire of Ghana then controlled the major sources of Africa's alluvial gold."

The Iron Age south of the Sahara.
Early sub-Saharan Africans developed metallurgy at a very early stage, possibly even before other peoples. Around 1400 BC, East Africans began producing steel in carbon furnaces. The Iron Age itself came very early to Africa, probably around the sixth century BC, in Ethiopia, the Great Lakes region, Tanzania, and  Nigeria. Iron technology, however, only spread slowly across Africa; it wasn't until the first  century AD that the smelting of iron began to rapidly diffuse throughout the continent.

(steel was invented in the west in the 1700's).

"The oral traditions of African kingdoms usually start with a male founder who persuaded or forced people to accept his rule. There are many such legends where the founder-king was a blacksmith signaling the importance of iron in African kingdom evolution"

Ethiopian Binary Math

some miscellaneous information on ancient Africa
Africa 300 B.C ~ 500 A.D.
also check for a short point form list of the different African periods

African history web links



Asia, China

Chinese inventions

China's contributions to the West, shown in an easy to see Timeline

Chinese writing
The Invention of Paper, 105 A.D.
- excellent summary from  the web site of the Institute of Paper Science and Technology, Atlanta, Georgia
One of the reasons people in China were able to share knowledge of science, technology and navigation in the early stages of the country's development was because they had a writing system which allowed information to be shared.

- gunpowder - developed in China in 1000 A.D., introduced into Europe, by the Arabs in 1360
- 2 page web site explaining paper making, gunpowder and the compass - from the Franklin Institute On-line Museum
Chinese developed the first compass, which allowed navigation over large bodies of water out of sight of land - which allowed Chinese people to travel to other island nations in Asia.
- from Indiana University, East Asian Studies Center

Porcelain was first developed in China
and later became a key export to Europe.

- astronomy in ancient China, influenced by India
- the development of ploughs in ancient China and the influence on European agricultural Implements

Su-Sung and Chinese Water Clocks 1094 A.D.



Asia, China

Chinese Civil Engineering

A video on Chinese Bridge Building

This video discusses bridge building as it was during the Song dynasty.
This period was from 960 A.D. to 1279 A.D.
(Marco Polo arrived in China in 1275 A.D.)

During the time of the Song Dynasty there was a massive population increase which caused 2 related revolutions
1. a commercial revolution 
- based on the need for a food supply and the subsequent trade in grain and foods agricultural revolution 
- to increase the food supply which could be sold to people living in the growing cities
- they developed a new strain of rice which ripened more early, which allowed them to do 2 plantings in a year and harvest twice as much from the same piece of land
"The Song dynasty is notable for the development of cities not only for administrative  purposes but also as centers of trade, industry, and maritime commerce. " 

The ability of the country to expand was linked to the rivers
- an elaborate system of canals and bridges was built
- boats and barges carried rice and other trade all over the kingdom
- waterways good for boats, but prevented foot travel so a lot of small and medium sized bridges needed

China had lots of forests so wood was available for making houses
- wood was used in early bridge construction

"Rainbow Bridge"

the people in the video tried to recreat the "Rainbow Bridge" which was based on a drawing in an old Chinese painting
- it appears that the bridge has a span which is curved, yet made from straight timbers
- this raises the question of whether the Rainbow Bridge behaved with the properties of a "span", or an "arch"

Foundations of an Arch are different than a Span
- the job of a bridge is to transmit itsload to the foundation on each river bank
- arch bridges require very substantial foundations

In the video they research the properties of hemp rope versus bamboo rope and test bamboo rope for use in binding the members of the "Rainbow Bridge". As part of their research, they construct a small suspension bridge made of twisted bamboo rope.

Video also shows Chinese history in stone bridge construction
- longst bridge in China, with the longest span
- 35 foot span pushed the maximum that granite stone could reach without breaking under its own weight
- in order to have wider spans to allow bigger boats to pass under, Chinese needed to have a more sophisticated structure
- ergo, semi-circular stone arches

Stone Arches
- allowed for wider spans than wood beam or stone block
- but the high hump in the middle required a raised "approach"
- Chinese engineers solved this problem by flattening out the hump
- this put more pressure on the foundations on the river bank
- this design of the flattened arch was done 800 years before similar bridges were made in Europe



Asia, China

click here for several maps of China and region

- first, check the China maps page at

Master Web page with links from the University of Maryland

Historical setting http://.../setting.html
The Ancient Chinese Dynasties
- summary description on 2 pages
From the first prehistoric dynasty 2600 B.C. to the Warring States Period ending in 221 B.C.

China, as we recognize it today was unified for the first time in  221 B.C. The western frontier state of Qin conquered its neighbours and the leader of Qin titled himself as the First Emperor. They built a series of four walls to keep out enemies and when the walls were linked, it became referred to as The Great Wall.
read about this first Imperial Era at University of Maryland's page at

Purdue University's excellent web page on The Great Wall
general overview about The Great Wall

The USC-UCLA Joint East Asian Studies Center list of
Chinese inventions

- a very good brief summary of the Silk Road
- several maps of the Silk Road


Map of Japan
- from Indiana University, East Asian Studies Center
This one page from Indiana State Univ provides a helpful timeline of major events in Japanese history

One of the things limiting an understanding of ancient Japanese technology uses is the state of Japanese archeology.
 part of a speech by Dr. Jiro Harada from Eri Takase's extensive web site on Japanese culture.

Japanese Castles
Elaborate works of stone with complex fortifications to defend against infantry. The design of Japanese castle was primarily based on defending against "ninja" and other attacks by stealth.


Much of Japanese technology developed from military technology which had to do with feudal wars between the clans. 

- swords and steelmaking

John Lienhard's short commentary about
the art of Japanese sword making
He has an interesting perspective.
No. 57 Samurai Sword
The important thing to understand from reading this article is that the process of making Japanese swords was based on ritual - the Japanese did not have a solid scientific understanding of the principles they used and were only able to make copies of good swords each time by going through a long process of ceremony and ritual so that each weapon produced would be similar to the previous one.
While everybody knows about the role that Japanese  "ninja" play in the modern movies, it is very difficult to determine to what extent this group of people contributed to various weapons technology, and what part was myth. Some have suggested Ninja developed light gliders for travelling short distances, which, if true, would pre-date any "western" inventions of a similar sort. The problem with using the Ninja as an example of technology is that the culture was shrouded in secrecy and part of the "fear" they were able to project was based on hype that had no substance in reality.
Although it may be difficult to substantiate the role of the Ninja in some questionable inventions, one thing that can be verified and subtantiated is that the Japanese were the first nation to develop high quality steel weapons that had the diificult combination of strength & flexibility, combined with a very sharp edge. Japanese sword making progressed to a point, through ritual and ceremony, were it became known worldwide. Essentially, Japanese sword makers took red hot iron, and through a long process of heating, and re-heating, they hammered the lump of iron into a long shape while repeatedly immersing the iron in a charcoal fire to re-heat it. By putting the iron in charcoal, during this process, they actually were pounding carbon into the iron and in fact "mechanically" making pure steel.

Example of how one technology allows another technology to develop:

A skilled plane (or trimming wood flat and smooth) was introduced from China, to Japan in the 12th Century. The good plane made flat surfaces of boards possible, and thus, wooden bellows could be made securely air-tightened The good wooden bellows were a kind of revolution in
Japanese metallurgy. There was little livestock on Japanese farms so they did not have many hides of animals from which to make strong lether. In order to heat the iron very very high temperatures, you need good bellows that can supply a constant supply of oxygen. The fact that Japanese artisans were able to make these better quality bellows, allowed the sword makers to work iron at higher temperatures and make better quality blades. 

5 Biography
You are required to show the professor the name of the person you have chosen for your biography, and identify what sources and resources (online and offline) you have accessed, in order to find the information and complete the assignment.

Peter Landry of Nova Scotia has a huge web site werein there is an alphabetically ordered list of all the major scientists throughout history
Go to:
Written and hosted by John Lienhard and KUHF-FM, Houston, Texas: The Engines of Our Ingenuity was a series of radio broadcasts which have now been turned into web pages. Quite a number of these pages contain topics which are discussed in our course outline for GNED 117.
Chronology of Events Related to Technology 
- a 7 page timeline
compiled by 
Professor Stephen Dutch
University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
Dr. Silvestri has a massive web site that covers, chapter by chapter, Ancient World history. If you want to know about a particular period, here is a good place to look for simple facts in a good timeline order.
Spartacus Internet Encyclopedia of British History 1700 - 1900

Contains excellent links to topics related to the Industrial Revolution and has a list of Scientists and Engineers

Massive web site with links to virtually all areas of world history
- ancient/medieval history
- African history
- Chinese history
- History of transportation technology
- Historical buildings
With so many people worried about Y2K, there a number of sites on the WWW devoted to primitive technologies that people are interested in learning about - in case we get zapped back to the stone age and have to live without any modern technology. Anyway, this American site has interesting links to primitive technology web pages. This is listed here for your personal interest and is not part of the core outline of GNED 117.
"... of interest to students and collectors of European Dark and Middle Ages swords
and other edged weapons, with a particular focus on the swords of the Viking
This is listed here for your personal interest and is not part of the core outline of GNED 117.