The middle ages were a time of constant war and fear. There were many new inventions involving war but there were also other inventions that have had a enduring impacts on future civilizations. This page will discuss the science and technology of the middle ages.

Castle Defense

Castles were first made out of wood. These Bailey castles were easy to destroy by fire so the stone castle was invented. These are much harder to build, take longer and are more expensive but were stronger than wooden castles.
Now, imagine you are a knight standing on the castle wall as the enemy is nearing. You have to rely on these lines of defense to stay alive...
  • The moat- A large trench surrounding a castle often filled with water to prevent digging under the walls. Also deterred enemy ladders and siege towers.
  • Archers and arrow loops- Narrow openings in the stone walls where the defenders of the castle shoot out arrows to the enemy. The arrows can be shot in any direction (up, down, to each sides, from the diagonal etc.) but the thin openings make it extremely difficult for the enemy/attacker to hit the defender.
  • Greek fire - A mixture of substances that were very flammable and stuck to whatever it was poured on. Defenders would pour it on enemies climbing on to the castle walls. Has an enduring impact of leading up to the modern flamethrower.
  • Murder holes-Were at the entrance of the castle and were holes in the stone where defenders would drop greek fire, hot oil or shoot arrows on the enemy.
  • Stone walls and drawbridge-Thick stone walls were barriers that protected the inhabitants. Drawbridges were used to prevent easy access into the castle. The drawbridge could be raised when an attack came and lowered when needed.

Castle attack

Many machines were invented to attack castles. These machines were heavy and cumbersome and were made at the scene of the battle so they wouldn't have to be moved far distances.
Now, imagine you are one of the attackers, you look around and see your army of war machines. You hope they are enough to take over the castle. You place your hope in these machines...

  • The trebuchet- A catapult like device that could fling rocks or other missiles at an almost straight trajectory.
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    Trebuchet (CC)
  • The mangonel -A catapult that flung whatever was put in the bowl at the end of the arm at an arched trajectory. Both these weapons lead up to the modern artillery that were used in many wars.
  • The battering ram- A weapon that was used to bash and break open castle walls or doors. It originally was just a log but it kept evolving into better versions. The final version of the battering ram was a log suspended with ropes inside a protective roof with wheels on the bottom. This has left an enduring impact because many law enforcement agencies such as the S.W.A.T team use smaller versions of battering rams to bash through the doors of houses.
  • There were many methods of taking over a castle. Castles could be directly attacked and destroyed by an enemy army or Treachery could occur where traitors would turn on the inhabitants in the castle. Another way castles were attacked is by seige. The attacking army would trap the people in the castle until the inhabitants starved to death.


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Chain Mail (CC)
Some defenders and Attackers had chain mail armor. It consisted of many metal rings linked together and it was made by a blacksmith. There are some advantages of using chain mail instead of regular plate armor. It is lighter, more flexible and cheaper that plate armor although plate armor offers more protection. It is an enduring impact becuse we still use it today. An example of it being used today is divers wear it to deflect the bites of sharks and other dangerous marine animals.

Major inventions

  • Heavy plough - One of the most important inventions. It allowed for increased food production which drastically promoted the growth of future peoples. The biggest change from the old mouldboard plow is that instead of runners the Heavy plow had wheels. It is an enduring impact because when farming today we use plows with the same basic design as the heavy plow.
  • Three field crop rotation -Another major invention/idea. Crops would be rotated over three fields so the soil wouldn't become infertile and so the minerals would replenish. This allowed a more and better production of produce because fields would be fertile when crops were planted and less land became infertile and unsuitable for farming. This is an enduring impact because today crop rotation is still used and it helps in the same way as it did in the middle ages.
  • Horse shoes were also invented in the middle ages. It allowed horses to be able to travel on hard rocky terrain so people could get the most use out of them. This is a enduring impact because from this point on, domesticated horses almost always had horseshoes put on.

Other inventions included:
  • The hour glass, the hour glass was one the few reliable methods of keeping track of time at sea.
  • The blast furnace, a blast furnace was a type of furnace that could reach higher temperatures.
  • Eye glasses, they have improved over the years but they still serve the same purpose.
Link to top ten middle ages inventions.

-Greg, 2012