What were the most advanced medieval civilizations


Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
Bart Dale said:
As can be seen, the medieval Europeans did not think negative numbers were absurd until 17th century. They were aware of them in the 15th century, and found practical applications by the 15th century, during the middle ages as a matter of fact. (It meets the 1500 cutoff commonly used for the middle ages). One ancient Greek did think negative numbers were absurd, but that did not mean all of them did as you claim. Please provide evidene for more than just one Greek who though negative numbers were absurd.
You mean they found application (kind of) in 1494, which is during mid-Ming period. You discounted Chinese technology from the mid-Ming period on the basis that it wasn't Medieval, hence you shouldn't consider inventions which occurred in 1494 as relevant to this thread. No matter, even post Medieval period negative numbers were still considered absurd by prominent mathematicians:

In the 16th century, even such prominent mathematicians as Cardano in Italy, Viete in France, and Stifel in Germany rejected negative numbers, regarding them as "fictitious" or "absurd". When negatives appeared as solutions to equations, they were called "fictitious solutions" or "false roots". But by the early 17th century, the tide was beginning to turn. As usefulness of negative numbers became too obvious to ignore, some European mathematicans began to use negative numbers in their work. Nevertheless, misunderstanding and skepticism about negative quantities persisted..... Early in the 17th century, Descartes called negative solutions (roots) "false" and solutions involving square roots of negatives "imaginary"..... John Wallis claimed that negative were larger than infinity. -Math Through the Ages

Bart Dale said:
PS - I asked you for a practical application the ancient/medieval Chinese found for negative numbers. Please provide me with that.
This is the source you gave: The History of Negative Numbers : nrich.maths.org
It says:
In 200 BCE the Chinese number rod system (see note1 below) represented positive numbers in Red and Negative numbers in black. An article describing this system can be found here . These were used for commercial and tax calculations where the black cancelled out the red. The amount sold was positive (because of receiving money) and the amount spent in purchasing something was negative (because of paying out); so a money balance was positive, and a deficit negative.
The concept also appeared in Astronomy where the ideas of 'strong' and 'weak' were used for approximating a number from above or below. For example approaching 5 from above means for example, starting with 5.2 you can find better approximations 5.1, 5.05, 5.025. Thus 5.025 was called a 'strong' approximation and a number like 4.9 'weak'. So 'strong' numbers were called positive and 'weak' numbers negative

Also I said that my given list of inventions "tend" to affect farmers more, why are you focusing on only one in that list?
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Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
I've also ventured into an incorrect statement that's sometimes used as sourcing:

Yet a student of the Chinese technology of the early twentieth century remarks that even a generation ago the Chinese had not 'reached that stage where continuous rotary motion is substituted for reciprocating motion in technical contrivances such as the drill, lathe, saw, etc. To take this step familiarity with the crank is necessary. The crank in its simple rudimentary form we find in the [modern] Chinese windlass, which use of the device, however, has apparently not given the impulse to change reciprocating into circular motion in other contrivances'. In China the crank was known, but remained dormant for at least nineteen centuries, its explosive potential for applied mechanics being unrecognized and unexploited. ----Medieval Technology and Social Change, Oxford: At the Clarendon Press

This is incorrect though. Considering that the Chinese converted reciprocating motion into circular motion or vice versa through a number of machinery from ancient to Medieval times:


Grain Sifter:

Grain Sifter:

Blast Furnace:

Crank and "Treadle" Spinning Wheel on the right, can't tell for the left:
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Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
Bart Dale said:
you have provide source for NONE OF WHAT YOU SAID. And everything you said is wrong!
Also, just in case you miss it, Bart, I expect you to address these:
When you asked me where I got my pictures from, I gave the Nongshu. Do you deny that? If not you should apologize.
I quoted passages in the Nongshu on the two types of Chinese water powered blast furnaces. Do you deny that? If not you should apologize
I gave the names of the pictorials of the Song era paintings. You question their validity, where is your source that any of them are fake?
I quoted Needham on European non-mechanical sowing methods. Do you deny that? If not you should apologize.
I quoted Travel diary (San Tendai Gotaisan-Ki) of a Japanese visitor (+1072 AD). Do you deny that? If not you should apologize.
When you expressed doubt about said Japanese visitor, I confirmed his existence with a link. Do you deny that? If not you should apologize.
I quoted from Cui Wei Xain Sheng Bei Zheng Lu of the Song dynasty. Do you deny that? If not you should apologize.
I quoted from The Chinese Roots of Linear Algebra by Roger Hart. Do you deny that? If not you should apologize.
I quoted from the Book of Jin. Do you deny that? If not you should apologize
I quoted from the Jiu Tang Shu. Do you deny that? If not you should apologize
I showed a table from "Wind, Water, and Work" when you doubted that fulling mills were the second most abundant mill in Medieval Europe. Do you deny that? If not you shoud apologize.
I quoted from Ancient Chinese Windmills by Baichun Zhang . Do you deny that? If not you should apologize
I quoted from the Wu Bei Zhi. Do you deny that? If not you should apologize
I quoted from the Fan Dainian to show that by the Tang the Chinese realized the Earth was curved (and you made a strawman about how they knew it was round, which I did NOT say). Do you deny that? If not you should apologize
I quoted from Asia Research Institute. Do you deny that? If not you should apologize.
I quoted from "Hualing Papermaking Mill Remains in Gao'an City, Jiangxi" article multiple times, and multiple times were necessary because you kept denying what it said. Do you deny I quoted from it? If not you should apologize.

And I say you should apologize because as anyone can see I gave a BUNCH of quotes and sourcing in this thread, and unlike much of your sourcing it's all relevant to the Medieval time period or prior. So for you to say that I gave "no sourcing" means you clearly haven't been reading despite being an active participator and if you haven't been reading then you shouldn't accuse me of what I did or did not say.
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Ad Honorem
Apr 2013
Exactly what practical value did knowing negative numbers have for the Chinese? And eventually, the Europeans did figure out negative numbers, and did figure out a practical application on their own,
a quick reply..

i would ignore the spherical earth stuff......

the usage of negative numbers were formally recorded by "九章算术":正负数曰:同名相除,异名相益,正无入负之,负无入正之;其异名相除,同名相益, 正无入正之,负无入负之
The Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art - Wikipedia

basically the book talked about the rules of what we (also) know now, if a>0 & b>0, then a+b>|a| a+b>|b|, if a>0, b<0, then a+b<|a|
it also talked about 0

the negative numbers (and 0) had been a great impact to western society due to...religious factors....
however, there was no such environment in china.

chinese do not mention the ancient record of negative numbers a lot, because it is no important in chinese view angle as in contrast to what a restrained religion would concern.

western posters should not project what "west" thought as important to be a "human society" shared important events.
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Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
You are the one that shows poor understanding of windmill.designs. Medieval horizontal axis windmills can be used in any wind direction, they just have to be rotated to face the wind, and they were. You need to be the one to stop talking.

Some horizontal axis windmills are even designed to turn to face the wind. You ignorant that medieval horizontal axis windmills were designed to rotate to face the wind from whatever direction it came from.

The early modern Chinese like Yang Guangxian said it was common sense the world was flat and he, like you, was wrong.
Bart's famous flat earth argument. Whenever there is a topic comparing China and Europe, regardless of time and the comparisons at hand, Bart will end with "the Chinese didn't know the earth was flat."

For example:
China and Western Supremacy

"For example, on the Chinese belief of a flat earth, because of the overwhelming evidence he is forced to concede that fact, but even then he merely calls it "a prevailing belief", and asserts "of this there was always much skepticism", as if the ancient Chinese belief in a flat earth was ever seriously challenged. A few Chinese scholars well out side the mainstream of Chinese thought hardly qualify as "much skepticism". Needham quoted Zhang as saying The heavens are like a hen's egg and as round as a crossbow bullet; the earth is like the yoke of the egg, and lies in the centre", which gives the impressoin that Zhang believed in spherical earth, while others have shown "In a passage of Zhang Heng's cosmogony not translated by Needham, Zhang himself says: "Heaven takes its body from the Yang, so it is round and in motion. earth takes its body from the Yin, so it is flat and quiescent".

Let's keep track of this argument from now on and make a count on it. This is two (even though there are way more this and I don't feel like digging them up).


Ad Honorem
Jul 2015
That's a lot of things to go over, can you be more specific? Ie, what is the name of the type of soil you are talking about and on which map can I find it?
Luvisol and fluvisol. Basically sediments of water, which contain a lot of clay. It is very productive, but needs a lot of work. These areas are also the first to use deep-plowing in western Europe for that reason.
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Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
Bart Dale said:
That vertical axis windmills need gearing, WRONG!
That's not what I said.
This was what I said: Chinese windmills were not used to grind grain but to lift water. For this type of work you need gearing regardless of whether you use a vertical or horizontal windmill.

I am talking about certain windmills doing a specific type of work and you overgeneralized it to all vertical axis windmills.

From International Symposium on the History of Machines:

^Why don't you show a picture of how that type of machinery could operate a Square Pallet Chain Pump without gearing?

Bart Dale said:
That the medieval Chinese used horizontal axis windmills. WRONG!
Again that's not what I said.
This was what I said: In all probability China used both the vertical and horizontal axis windmills.
Where did I say it was Medieval Chinese? I later explained that we don't know the type of windmill Medieval China had, but by the point when the Chinese started describing the type of windmill they were using they described both vertical and horizontal windmills. I made the above post because you were implying as if the Medieval Chinese only used one type of mill when in fact we don't know.

I've already given you the evidence for my conclusion. Please don't accuse me of not giving sources when in fact I did:
Early records of wind-driven water-lifting devices were first discovered in book written in the twelfth century in China. In the Ming Dynasty of China (1368-1644), windmills became popular in the Southeastern area of the country. Windmills back then could be classified into two types, the verticle-axle windmill, also known as the vertical-sail windmill, and the horizontal-axle windmill. They had vanes like the cloth sail on a Chinese sailboat and were mainly used to drive water-lifting devices. The most ingenious part of the verticle-axle windmill was the self-adjustment of the sail direction in response to wind as the windmill rotated. In 1992 and in 2006, an ancient vertical-axle windmill was rebuilt by the CAS Institute for the History of Natural Science. - Ancient Chinese Windmills by Baichun Zhang​

It was you who made a claim of the type of windmill Medieval China was limited to. Do you deny saying the following?: As far as I have seen, the evidence shows only vertical axis windmills used by medieval Chinese.

^There you aren't even speaking in probabilities, yet when I repeatedly asked for sourcing you instead simply fail to provide, you only responded with insults. Since you demand sourcing when I speak in probabilities, then surely you should provide sourcing for when you yourself also speak in probabilities.

You question that these Song-era pictorials I had provided are forgeries. Where is your evidence that any of these are a forgery?:

^That's found in a Jn tomb mural (1167 AD), how's that different from the treadwheel crane pictorial excavated in a Roman tomb in which you were so sure it wasn't a forgery?

千里江山古风图 A Thousand Li of Rivers, Mountains, and Ancient Winds, 1113 AD by Wang Xi Meng.

关山春雪图 Spring Snow on Mount Guan by Guo Xi (1000-1090 AD)

闸口盘车图 Gate and Carts, Five Dynasties to Early Song

雪栈牛车图 Snowy Warehouse and Ox Cart, Song Dynasty

清溪渔隐图 Clear Creek with Concealed Fishes by Li Tang (~1100 AD)

^Those aren't even all the pictures I know of. I trace this habit of yours back when you demanded Chinese pictorial evidence for "pre-Ming waterwheels", and when I showed just that, you accused me of providing pictorial evidence on the basis that pictorials could be forgeries: Overrated events in Ancient History?

You need to prove that the specific pictorials I gave are forgeries, not that forgeries of other different art pieces exist.
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Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
Bart Dale said:
Actually, not all their contemporaries used the concept of negative numbers. The ancient Persians did not have the concept of negative numbers, nor did the Egyptians, and it was in the early middle ages in India that I see negative numbers. So your statement isn't true.
This was what I said: maybe the same pysche that caused Europeans to resist the concept of negative numbers even when all their contemporary Old World Civilizations did. Your point? <---This is in response to your statement asking about what Chinese 'pysche' caused them to deny the concept of a round earth

Whether ancient Persia accepted negative numbers in the ancient period is irrelevant because the Middle East still accepted negative numbers in the Middle Ages, which makes it long before the Europeans did. This thread is about the Middle ages, not ancient period. Likewise the fact that India accepted numbers during the ealry Middle Ages means that they accepted negative numbers during a period in which the Europeans did not. So my statement that Europe was late in accepting negative numbers is still valid. You are adding non-sequiters that have nothing to do with what I said. Just because the Middle East and India accepted negative numbers after the ancient period does not negate the fact that they accepted negative numbers during the Middle Ages which was still before Europe accepted negative numbers.

Bart Dale said:
One ancient Greek did think negative numbers were absurd, but that did not mean all of them did as you claim. Please provide evidene for more than just one Greek who though negative numbers were absurd.
The only ancient Greek who even mentioned negative numbers was Diophantus, and unfortunately for him, he called negative numbers 'absurd'. It's also up for debate whether he was Greek in the first place. You are implying that you know of more ancient Greeks besides Dophantus who mentioned negative numbers. You should give evidence to who they were and where they mentioned negative numbers.

Bart Dale said:
The ancient Greeks/Romans had
This thread is about Medieval technological accomplishments, and Medieval Europe lost a lot of technologies that ancient Romans had. If you are confident in your argument, then I don't think you would feel the need to bring ancient Roman accomplishments and post-Medieval accomplishments of Europe to 'even the scoreboard', so to speak, while at the same time denying non-Medieval Chinese accomplishments as counting.

Ergo you need to bring evidence of Medieval Europe practicing hydraulic mining and waterwheels for mining. After all even when some lost Roman inventions are re-invented, it's an altogether different design than Roman design such as the reinvention of the sawmill in ~1235 AD which no longer uses the crank-and-connecting rod of the Roman sawmill. I would also like to see you bring evidence on how Medieval merchants used the concept of flat earth to help in navigation as you claimed.

Anyway here are some pictures of surveying equipment from the Song dynasty manual Yingzao Fashi:

From Wujing Zongyao

Nong Shu's Cotton Gin, it's not as good as the Indian version which could operate both rollers with a single crank:
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Apr 2019
United States
The Franks, the HRE, the Byzantines, Tang Dynasty and other Chinese dynasties, and the Caliphates
Thats my opinion


Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
The British started planting wheat in rows through dibbling and then drilling in the late 18th century, Norfolk seems to be the first place in England where broadcasting was completely replaced by dibbling/drilling.

The Farmer's Encyclopædia, and Dictionary of Rural Affairs, Volume 1 by Cuthbert William Johnson, pg 407

DIBBLING is a mode of sowing grain, especially wheat, much practised in some parts of England. It is found to answer the best on the clover leys of the lighter descriptions of land. It is performed by a man walking backwards with an iron dibble into each hand, with which he makes the holes, on the furrow slice, into which the seed is dropped by child ren, who place one or two seeds into each hole. By this mode there is a very considerable saving of seed, the quantity employed of wheat being usually from three to five pecks. The wheat plant obtains a more solid soil, and con siderable additional employment is afforded to the labourer and his family. It is, however, a rather tedious process, and is not adapted to the stiffer descriptions of soil, for on these the dibble forms little cups, in which the rain is apt to lodge to the destruction of the seed grain. A good dibbler with three active at tendants will plant about half an acre per day. The expense for labour is commonly about 7s. to 9s. per acre for wheat.

Dibbling was first pretty extensively introduced into the east of England about the commencement of the present century. It is spoken of as a novel practice in 1805, by Mr. Curtis of Lynn (Com. Board of Agr. vol. i p. 158), and by Mr. Pung of Sudbury, and Mr. Jones of Wellington, in Somersetshire (Ibid. 159) ; they had previously to this time made some rude attempts to employ the dibble near Yarmouth, in Norfolk, for, in 1784, Mr. Oxley describes the farmers of that district dibbling six, seven, and eight pecks per acre, in two rows on each furrow, by three or four droppers to one dibbler, at an expense of half a guinea per acre. (You/nes Annals of Agr. vol. iii. p. 220.) In Norfolk, and the neighbouring counties, broad-casting is now almost unknown........................................................

A writer in the Mark Lane Express says, drilling wheat is the most generally practised in the eastern part of the county of Suffolk, and dibbling wheat has been upon the decline for the last twenty years ; I believe, because it is more trouble to attend to dibblers than to drilling; but I was in the habit of dibbling wheat when I took business for myself in 1807, and I continue the practice to th' present day, for the following reasons :-1st, It encourages the poor man and his family, by increasing his wages, and gives employment to his children which they would not have if wheat was drilled. 2dly, It shows the children, when young, that Providence has ordained them to get their bread by the sweat of their brow ; and I grow upon the four-course shift 100 acres of wheat every year. For wheat I pay for dibbling 7s. per acre, which is done by seven men that have the largest families : those men earn 5/. each in five weeks, generally, but if the weather be fine in less time. Another and 3d reason why I prefer dibbling is, that the men and children tread the land with their feet, which makes the land firmer and better for the crop. 4thly, It is better to clean the land, because you can only hoe between the rows of the drilled wheat, when you can hoe all round the dibbled plant. 5thly, The seed goes farther into the ground from dibbling than drilling, the small end piercing deeper than it appears, while the drill appears deeper than it really is, the coulter of the drill raising mould on each side, so that when harrowed the corn is not so deep as when dibbled. 6thly, There is always more under-corn, that is, small ears, from the drill than from the dibble, and dibbling takes less seed. Six pecks is about the quantity of seed it takes, unless it be very early in the season. I am a great advocate for dibbling, for the above reasons ; I have tried both on the same field, and generally found the dibbled wheat the most productive; and it stands up better against the wind and rain :

Ergo the early 19th century British farmers found dibbling wheat to be superior to the old practice of broadcasting wheat seed, even after taking into account the higher cost of labour, whereas they found it arguable whether dibbling was superior to drilling, albeit generally over time drilling supplanted dibbling.

Dibbling was how the ancient Chinese practiced planting in rows, and by the Han dynasty they started utilizing the muti-tube seed drill (ergo drilling):

Top left is a Han dynasty plaque showing farmers dibbling. Top right is a reconstruction of a Han dynasty multi-tube seed drill. Bottom is the Han practice of alternating fields, which was only made possible if a farmer chose to plant in rows.
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