How Did Firefighting Develop?

The London Great Fire of 1666 revolutionized firefighting

Firefighting began to be a focus only with the rise of very large cities such as Rome. Earlier cities, such as those in Mesopotamia or the Indus, likely developed ad hoc firefighting departments and respondent to events. As with other institutions, however, the history of firefighting is complicated and influenced by major technical and social change that occurred in different centuries.

Early fighting developed in the early urban societies of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Indus. Very likely, however, these were not dedicated fire departments but rather as volunteer or paid individuals who would be responsible in assembling a crew and extinguishing a fire in the city. Few archaeological remains have attested to such firefighters, but laws, such as those from Hammurabi’s law code, indicate they existed. There was a law that stated that a firefighter who stole from a burning house that he was responsible for would be punished by death by being thrown into the fire. The law makes it clear though that it is a volunteer that the law applies to. This does not mean there were no paid firefighters but it could mean volunteers may have volunteered because fires gave opportunity for theft.[1]

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How has the Role of Horses Changed in Human Societies?

By the 9th Century BC, Neo-Assyrians used horses to replace chariots.

Most studies suggest that domestication of the horse took place along the Eurasian steppe. However, it is not clear where exactly and most likely there were several independent domestication attempts. Interestingly, wild horses before domestication show a wide range of interspecies variation; however, it is believe that only one type of species became domesticated.[1] Most likely, the horse was domesticated by 4000-3500 BC. All domesticate horses are classified as Equus ferus caballus, with Equius ferus as being the species that domesticated horses derive from.[2]

Initial domestication may have been done as a means to develop horses as traction animals, or use in agriculture and plowing, and also for riding.[3] Probably at around the 3rd millennium BC, the horse began to spread across Eurasia and into China, Europe, and India. This could have been associated with the migration of Indo-European and Eurasian groups that were likely migrating across Asia during this time. These populations may have introduced horses, therefore, to new regions such as the Near East, India, and China.

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How Did Gold Become Desired by Ancient Civilizations?

Gold found in Varna Necropolis graves dated to 4600 BC

Gold is first known to have been acquired by ancient human societies in the 4th millennium BC, a time when copper and metals were beginning to be utilized more frequently. The use of gold expanded during this period because pyro-technologies improved. As pyro-technologies improved metals such as gold and copper became more flexible. In fact, when gold appears in the New World, it also appears to be associated with the early development of pyro-technologies, suggesting gold develops early as metallurgy developed. This likely also means gold, and its luster properties, were desired early on by societies able to master pyro-technologies to extract and create gold artifacts. Read more at

Engineering Victory during the Civil War: Interview with Thomas F. Army, Jr.

Union troops repairing a bridge during the Civil War.

Logistics win wars. Logistics is the coordination of complex operations such as moving, housing and supplying troops and their equipment. War is the ultimate test of any logistician. During the Civil War, the Union troops fought almost the entire war in the South. Thomas F. Army, Jr. argues in his new book Engineering Victory: How Technology Won the Civil War published by Johns Hopkins University Press that the Union’s engineering prowess during Civil War gave it an distinct advantage over the Confederacy. Due to a superior education system, Northern armies had individuals who could use scientific ingenuity and innovation to rapidly build and repair roads, bridges, railways. Unlike the Confederacy, the Northern armies lacked the home field advantage. Dr. Army’s delves deeply into a aspect of the Civil War that most other historians have only discussed in passing. Read more at

What was the evolution of water technologies like?

Terraces in Arabia

The history of water use and technologies to bring water to human societies is long, particularly in some of the world’s most arid regions where human settled societies first began. Technologies of water also evolved as other technologies developed and social organization and states changed. While we often think of Roman aqueducts as a great marvel, which they were, other complex water technologies, just as complex, existed before. Read more at 

How did Edwin Drake create the World’s first oil well?

Edwin Drake and his oil well

This article explores the creation of the world’s first oil well. Even though there was no one “first discover” of oil. Oil was known in antiquity when it was used to heal wounds. But by the middle of the 19th century methods for collecting oil from the ground had not changed for thousands of years. Edwin Drake’s oil fundamentally changed this process and dramatically increased oil production around the world. Instead of harvesting oil in a pail or sopping it up with rags and wrung out by hand over barrels, oil wells produced thousands of barrels of oil. The creation of the oil well fundamentally altered the course of the 20th century. Read more at