The BEST Episodes of Ancient Discoveries
Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!
Last Updated: May 11, 2020
Ancient Discoveries unearths new clues that connect the present with the past in more startling ways than we had ever imagined and posits that famous innovative thinkers like Archimedes, Ctesibius, Galen, and Heron discovered or invented numerous technologies and procedures previously thought to have been first imagined in just the last few centuries. In the ancient texts of Homer and the walls of Egyptian tombs lie tantalizing clues that are causing historians to re-think just how sophisticated centuries-old societies were. Drawings show that the Egyptians may have unlocked the secret to flight with primitive helicopter designs, and that the Chinese had a “wind car” in the 6th century AD that could transport them over land at up to 30 miles per hour. Even more amazing are 600-year-old designs from Italy for a Batmobile-like “rocket car” that appeared to be fueled by gunpowder. Mechanical maids that could fetch water for people on their own were created by the inventor Philos in the Third century, a concept we still struggle to perfect today! And discoveries about ancient machines of warfare give a new vision of what truly defined the Egyptian empire... Ancient Discoveries first appeared on The History Channel in late 2003 as a three-part documentary series based around an intriguing premise: that many technologies assumed to have been discovered or invented in the modern age were actually known to ancient civilizations thousands of years ago and the knowledge effectively lost during the Middle Ages. The show returned in 2005 for three more segments and evolved into a weekly series that began airing in January of 2007 to 2009.
#1 - Computing - Ancient Computer?
Season 1 - Episode 1 - Aired Dec 21, 2003
"Computing" covers the advancement of time-keeping techniques, from the classic sundial to Ctesibius's use of constant water flow and primitive gear mechanisms, leading up to what is known as the Antikythera mechanism. An isolated artifact discovered in the wreckage of an ancient cargo vessel, the mechanism's origin and use are largely a mystery, but its elaborate system of gears suggest an advanced early device for calculating the positions of the heavenly bodies.
#2 - Medicine - Galen, Doctor to the Gladiators
Season 1 - Episode 2 - Aired Dec 21, 2003
"Medicine" is mostly devoted to Galen, a Greek physician in the Roman Empire who pioneered numerous medical techniques, honing his craft on wounded gladiators and soldiers on the battlefield. The unique discovery in this episode is a human skull that implies an effort to perform a rudimentary type of brain surgery.
#3 - Ancient Cars and Planes
Season 3 - Episode 2 - Aired Jan 30, 2007
Many ancient inventors imagined - and sometimes even constructed - machines for transport that would not be out of place today. This captivating episode reveals surprising new information about transportation technology invented by our distant ancestors. You will marvel at railway cars built in Greece in the 6th century BC and at the fantastic thirty-passenger wind-car designed in 6th Century AD China. You will trace the strings of evidence that hint at flying machines in ancient Greece, Egypt and China thousands of years before the Jet Age.
#4 - Ancient Secret Agents
Season 6 - Episode 4 - Aired Dec 10, 2009
The systems by which ancient intelligence services transmitted messages over thousands of miles is investigated. Methods by which ancient spies sent secret messages are reviewed such as invisible ink made of human sperm and how they wrote on the inside of a raw egg. Discover how the ninja used explosives, not just darts and poisons. How a Roman James Bond used a suit made of cork to support him in full armor across a river is also explored.
#5 - Impossible Naval Engineering
Season 5 - Episode 2 - Aired Oct 30, 2008
Citizens of ancient Tyre use fire ships against Alexander the Great's besieging fleet; Roman Emperor Nero builds a death yacht to kill his own mother; a 15th-century weapon designed to pierce enemy hulls; ancient paddle-wheel boat.
#6 - Siege of Troy
Season 3 - Episode 1 - Aired Jan 23, 2007
In this episode, journey to the site in Turkey believed to be the location of the real Troy as ANCIENT DISCOVERIES analyzes one of the world's greatest historical battlegrounds for new clues. Uncover fascinating evidence illuminating Achilles' duel against Hector, the sailing of the vast Mycenaean fleet and the great wooden ship of Troy. Watch as we apply modern technology, archaeology and engineering to uncover the real story behind this legendary war.
#7 - Ancient Super Ballistics
Season 4 - Episode 3 - Aired Feb 11, 2008
Since the first time a rock was thrown in anger, mankind has endeavored to deliver larger, deadlier payloads further and faster. ANCIENT DISCOVERIES reveals how the science and technology of ballistics — a seemingly modern, cutting edge technology — actually dates back thousands of years to the ancient world. Using state of the art forensic techniques and the world's leading firearms experts, this groundbreaking show reveals the accuracy, power and range of ancient bullets, rockets and bombs.
#8 - Ancient Death Machines
Season 4 - Episode 4 - Aired Feb 25, 2008
ANCIENT DISCOVERIES digs for the roots of today's war machinery. Throughout history, military requirements — killing more effectively than the enemy — have driven the leading edge of technological innovation. Almost all technology on the planet today owes its origins to inventions driven by the imperatives of war. This episode surveys the ANCIENT DEATH MACHINES that have left a legacy on today's battlefield. From apocalyptic skyscraper siege machines to ancient landmines and flamethrowers which had the potential to extinguish hundreds of lives in minutes, ANCIENT DISCOVERIES puts the lethal tech of yesterday to the test.
#9 - The Ancient Mega-Fort
Season 6 - Episode 3 - Aired Dec 4, 2009
Explore the defenses of ancient forts and cities. Discover the invisible underground defensive systems of Cappadocia and how they proved so successful. Test the ancient Mayan killer bee castle defenses, and release bees in an attack. A replica section of the ancient Roman fort of Alesia is built. And the most impregnable walls in history - the multi-layered defenses of Constantinople are investigated and along with the type of cannon that destroyed them in 1453.
#10 - Secret Science of the Occult
Season 6 - Episode 13 - Aired Dec 28, 2009
In Mexico, explorers use a sacred ancient Mayan temple code to search for an occult underworld engineered in the depths of the earth--a mysterious site where no TV cameras have ever ventured. In Britain, investigators uncover the secret technologies behind a life size statue of Jesus Christ that miraculously came to life. Weapons experts reveal the science that saved a holy military order from certain annihilation in the bloodiest siege in history. In Greece, archaeologists solve the mystery of the oracle of the dead; an eerie sanctuary where flying ghosts appeared from the depths of hell.
#11 - Twisted Weapons of the East
Season 6 - Episode 9 - Aired Dec 18, 2009
The show travels first to India where they encounter martial artists wielding terrifying 6-foot-long (1.8 m) swords, a projectile that can sever the limbs of any enemies, and an ancient Indian booby trap which impales its victims as they sleep. In Egypt, how camels were turned into weapons of war are explored. Finally, through painstaking research, they construct the world's first unmanned weapon that went onto the battlefield over 2000 years ago.
#12 - Ancient Record Breakers
Season 6 - Episode 10 - Aired Dec 22, 2009
This episode explores some ancient world records that still stand today. The most valuable thing in the ancient world is still the most valuable thing today at 2000 dollars per gram. A replica of a 2000 year old jet engine is built and a weapons team finally reveals the only weapon in history that can shoot around corners. They review what was the fastest thing in the ancient world and explosives experts reveal that the first gun was made of fruit.
#13 - Rituals of Death
Season 6 - Episode 12 - Aired Dec 22, 2009
Travel to Egypt to discover the mysteries of the mummified crocodiles of Kom Ombo. We'll x-ray an ancient mummy that has held a secret for 2000 years, and reveal the lengths that people will go to to ritualize death. New discoveries at the site of the world famous terracotta army in China reveal incredible insights into the mind-state of the great first emperor of China and his people; and what they believed about death. In Britain, forensic scientists solve a year old murder using 15th century forensic science, as well as hundreds of mini-detectives--blowflies. And using virtual reality techniques doctors will now look inside the body of a victim during a live crucifixion to discover horrific new truths about the suffering on the cross.
#14 - Riots and Revolution
Season 6 - Episode 6 - Aired Dec 18, 2009
The show tracks down the secret manual that explained how the Vietnamese defeated not only the US in the 20th century, but the Mongols 700 years earlier. It reveals the largest booby trap in history, one that snagged an entire battle fleet, how king Mithridates used a substance called burning mud in his revolt against Rome, and how the terrorist booby-traps and letter bombs of today were invented hundreds of years ago.
#15 - Ancient Torture Tech
Season 5 - Episode 4 - Aired Nov 13, 2008
Revealing the terrifying truth behind torture; ancient inventors go to great lengths to develop precision devices to exact pain; the rack; burning at the stake; Vlad the Impaler.
#16 - Ancient Mining Machines
Season 5 - Episode 5 - Aired Nov 20, 2008
Unique technologies of ancient miners, including a Roman hydraulic system, sappers who could undermine castle walls and the 1689 origination of gunpowder mining in England.
#17 - Impossible Army Machines
Season 5 - Episode 6 - Aired Dec 1, 2008
The amazing successes and stunning failures of ancient military engineers influence today's weapons and tactics; an ancient Greek weapon is still used on aircraft carriers; rapid-firing Chinese catapult; Hannibal crosses the Alps.
#18 - Airborne Assault
Season 6 - Episode 1 - Aired Nov 5, 2009
Assault from the air didn't begin with the era of the airplane. The kite bomb was a medieval siege weapon that dropped bombs from a kite over cities. Ancient bouncing bombs that actually skipped across water terrorized shipping in Turkey in 1453. Ancient China's whistling arrows, the world's earliest rocket-powered explosive missile, and the earliest known successful parachute, are also examined.
#19 - Ancient Commandos
Season 6 - Episode 7 - Aired Dec 18, 2009
Ancient commandos fought deep behind enemy lines in some of the harshest terrains know to man. The show examines such exploits through storms and snowdrifts, revealing the tech and truth behind the world earliest known ski commandos. A journey to the deserts of Egypt reveals how a tiny army beat off a major invasion force using deception and a bunch of farm animals. The Bayeux tapestry is featured as well as one of the ancient worlds most feared and successful commando units, the Naftun.
#20 - Ancient Special Forces
Season 6 - Episode 8 - Aired Dec 18, 2009
The show reviews ancient Roman navy SEAL techniques of capturing enemy ships from underwater and replicates the feat. The tactics of ancient Roman war dog units are explored including a historically savage breed of dog, the Mastiff. Finally, the secrets of the samurai sword and how it was made is reviewed and they build and test an ancient Horro, a Japanese device that could protect a galloping cavalryman from arrow fire using thin silk.
#21 - Mega Ocean Conquest
Season 6 - Episode 11 - Aired Dec 22, 2009
From conquering the depths of the oceans to defending the freedoms of the seas--ancient man pushed the technological boundaries to the limits in the mega battle for the oceans. New discoveries will reveal how an ancient destroyer rammed its way to victory in one of the most significant battles in human history. In Denmark, a team of divers build and test the world's first ever deep sea diving suit that was designed 350 years before the history books tell us it was possible to walk along the seabed. Can CSI science unravel the mystery of a time traveling ghost ship? And in a groundbreaking sea cannon experiment, naval experts will discover how a 16th century war fleet blasted their way to victory against an enemy armada seven miles wide, without the loss of a single ship.
#22 - Lost Science of the Bible
Season 5 - Episode 7 - Aired Dec 15, 2008
Might the stories of the Bible have their basis in ancient scientific fact? How big was the giant Goliath, and what was the tech of the sling that brought him down? We'll demonstrate that the tower of Babel could have been as tall as two miles in height, create fire from water as Elijah may have done, and in a never before attempted investigation, watch as archeologists fully levitate a replica of the Ark of the Covenant.
#23 - Warfare
Season 2 - Episode 1 - Aired Aug 21, 2005
Warfare technology is examined, including the Helepolis, a square fortified tower on wheels; and “Greek Fire,” an incendiary liquid that stuck to people and objects and couldn't be extinguished with water.
#24 - Ships
Season 2 - Episode 2 - Aired Aug 21, 2005
The lake Nemi ships, large Roman vessels that were salvaged from the lake in the 1930s and burned in 1944, are discussed, including technological discoveries from the ships.
#25 - Power (Machines II)
Season 2 - Episode 3 - Aired Dec 11, 2005
Ancient mechanical devices are examined: A jar that appears to be an electric battery, a flour mill in France that is run by waterwheels, and Archimedes use of solar power to defeat the Romans.