50 Surprising Historical Facts From BCE (Before Common Era or Before Christ)

1 Yakhchāl


Persians figured out ways to collect and store ice and make it usable all year round in the desert by 400 BCE. They used a domed shaped structure called a Yakhchāl which used the principle of evaporative cooling to store ice and food.

2. Lions inhabited many areas of Europe until they were hunted to extinction around 100 BCE.

3. In 36 BCE, Roman statesman Marcus Varro wrote about germs, describing “minute creatures which cannot be seen by the eyes, which…enter the body through the mouth and nose and there cause serious diseases.” The germ theory of disease would not be accepted widely for another 1,900 years.

4. The Han dynasty of China drilled for natural gas, transported it in pipelines and gas containers and burned it in stoves in 200 BCE.

5. The Code of Hammurabi from 1754 BCE has 282 laws inscribed on a stone. It includes the concept of “eye for an eye” and “tooth for a tooth.” This is more than 500 years before the Torah.

6 Eratosthenes


In 200 BCE, Eratosthenes measured the Earth’s circumference to an accuracy of 98.4% by measuring the angle of the sun in two different cities.

7. While modern child-proof lids were invented in 1967, archaeologists discovered a container 20 years later that was opened using a similar twist-off method. The vessel was found in the Mayan ruins of Río Azul in Guatemala and they dated it back to 500 BCE. It contained chocolate.

8. Fart jokes have existed since at least 1900 BCE. A Sumerian quip about a woman farting in her husband’s lap is the world’s oldest recorded joke.

9. Researchers have found an ancient Babylonian tablet containing a list of Pythagorean Triples and dated it to 1800 BCE.

10. Broccoli is a human innovation and a man-made food, being a result of the selective breeding of wild cabbage plants that started around the 6th century BCE.

11 Eclipses


Anaxagoras (510-428 BCE) was the first person to correctly explain eclipses. He also theorized that the Sun was a star and that stars were burning rocks but the other stars are too far away to feel their heat.

12. The oldest living human-planted tree in the world with a known planting date is the sacred fig tree “Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi”, planted in 288 BCE. It is said to be the southern branch from the historical Sri Maha Bodhi at Buddha Gaya in India under which Lord Buddha attained Enlightenment.

13. The Great Sphinx of Giza is so old that its first restoration dates way back to 1400 BCE when it was already a thousand years old.

14. Abuse of the smoke signal is known to have contributed to the fall of the Western Zhou Dynasty at around 8th century BCE. King You of Zhou had a habit of fooling his warlords with false warning beacons in order to amuse his queen. When an actual rebellion occurred, no one came to the aid of the king.

15. The oldest D20 dice was uncovered in Egypt and dates back to around 30 BCE.

16 Armageddon


The first recorded battle in history was the Battle of Megiddo in 1457 BCE. It left such an impression on the Levantine people there that they believed the final battle of humanity would take place there as well. That’s where the word Armageddon comes from.

17. Archaeologists have found slingshot balls in Greece that are engraved with “Take that!” or “Catch!”, dating them back to 4th Century BCE.

18. Humans used crop rotation 8,000 years ago. As far back as 6000 BCE, farmers alternated planting crops each year. They did not understand the chemistry but knew that doing so kept the soil healthy for good harvests.

19. Despite being built in 280 BCE, the Colossus of Rhodes was approximately as tall as the Statue of Liberty.

20. Scurvy was documented as a disease by Hippocrates, and Egyptians have recorded its symptoms as early as 1550 BCE. The knowledge that consuming foods containing vitamin C is a cure for scurvy has been repeatedly rediscovered and forgotten into the early 20th century.

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21 Oldest Receipt

Oldest Receipt

This picture of an ancient tablet is actually a 5,000-year-old beer receipt. “Alulu beer receipt” records the purchase of the ‘best’ beer from a brewer around 2050 BCE from the Sumerian city of Umma in ancient Iraq.

22. The first recorded mention of altitude sickness was in 37 BCE when a Chinese official noted that a trade route to Afghanistan passed a mountain that caused sickness as travelers ascended it. In this report, this place was named “Big Headache Mountain.”

23. The ancient myths of Australian Aborigines portray the formation of geographical features in Australia, dating back to 10,000 BCE, with striking accuracy. The myths corroborate modern geological evidence, indicating they originated as firsthand accounts, preserved for millennia.

24. Almost 4,000 years ago (1981–1802 B.C.), ancient Egyptian teachers used red ink to correct spelling mistakes, just like today.

25. Scientists have discovered a 40,000-year-old bracelet in Siberia. It was made by an extinct human species called Denisovans. Homosapians did not produce bracelets of this technical sophistication until 10,000 years ago. It is one of the oldest pieces of jewelry ever discovered.

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