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  #1  
Old 06-12-2007, 05:28 PM
Sofaspud Sofaspud is offline
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When was the chain invented?

(I've hit Google and Wikipedia and neither is helpful; I've also searched the Dope but can't seem to find the right mix of keywords, arrgh. So, apologies if this one's been asked before!)

A chain is a remarkably useful gizmo. They're strong and flexible at the same time, they can be used around pulleys like a rope yet can hold much more, and so on. Yet, they're among the most simple of things to manufacture. Who was it that came up with this? And when did they first appear?

I'm more curiuos about the when, but if the 'who' is known that'd be cool as well. I'm not even sure where to go about looking for this sort of info, honestly.
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  #2  
Old 06-12-2007, 05:43 PM
Shamozzle Shamozzle is offline
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It's probably an ancient product of the Iron Age with its inventor unknowable.
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  #3  
Old 06-12-2007, 05:52 PM
WoodenTaco WoodenTaco is offline
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Ancient documents claim that chains were used since at least 2000 BC. It probably goes back even earlier.

Modern chains as used in bikes, cars, motorcycles, and so on are much more recent, roughly the past 200 years according to this site.
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  #4  
Old 06-12-2007, 06:10 PM
Tapioca Dextrin Tapioca Dextrin is offline
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Egyptians were using chain in jewelery in c. 1300 BC
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  #5  
Old 06-12-2007, 06:18 PM
Capt B. Phart Capt B. Phart is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sofaspud
Yet, they're among the most simple of things to manufacture.
I'm not sure that's true - even knowing what a chain is and having seen someone make chain in a forge, I'm pretty certain I couldn't make a chain starting with raw materials and using pre-industrial tools (except maybe a gold chain - if I could find a source of enough gold)
I know I could make rope
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  #6  
Old 06-12-2007, 07:48 PM
Cheesesteak Cheesesteak is online now
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I found this article from the American Journal of Archaeology that says "loop in loop" chains were made in the 3rd millenium BC. It looks like they're talking gold chains, but it isn't a huge stretch to think it may work in bronze as well.
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  #7  
Old 06-12-2007, 09:34 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Capt B. Phart
I'm not sure that's true - even knowing what a chain is and having seen someone make chain in a forge, I'm pretty certain I couldn't make a chain starting with raw materials and using pre-industrial tools (except maybe a gold chain - if I could find a source of enough gold)
We are not men. We are Devo.
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  #8  
Old 06-12-2007, 10:04 PM
WoodenTaco WoodenTaco is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase
We are not men. We are Devo.
<golf clap>
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  #9  
Old 06-12-2007, 11:52 PM
Sofaspud Sofaspud is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Capt B. Phart
I'm not sure that's true - even knowing what a chain is and having seen someone make chain in a forge, I'm pretty certain I couldn't make a chain starting with raw materials and using pre-industrial tools (except maybe a gold chain - if I could find a source of enough gold)
I know I could make rope
I guess it depends on what you mean by raw materials, partly. I mean, if you have to smelt your own iron before starting, yeah, I don't think I could do it. But a chain is something that you can learn how to make in about 15 minutes at any blacksmith, if you assume that you've got rod (or even bar) stock available and a decent hammer and anvil. Sure, it may be UUUGgly, but if it works...

I guess I assumed that, if someone could conceive of a chain, then that meant that they had to have experience with worked metal already (not necessarily WORKING it themselves, but the concept of metal objects made by human hands). I could be wrong, but I don't see how someone could have come up with the chain concept without at least that framework. And that framework means they had to have the ability to refine and smelt metal themselves already.

So I knew the chain had to have been invented after metalworking, but I had no clue when or by who, which I guess is what I was after.

WoodenTaco: I found that site as well through Google, but I wasn't sure how much I could trust it considering the many typos and errors in grammar, etc. It could be just poorly translated, but I'm not an expert as-is, so I don't know. Know what I mean? Thanks, though!
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  #10  
Old 06-13-2007, 05:15 AM
Capt B. Phart Capt B. Phart is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sofaspud
IBut a chain is something that you can learn how to make in about 15 minutes at any blacksmith, if you assume that you've got rod (or even bar) stock available and a decent hammer and anvil. Sure, it may be UUUGgly, but if it works...

I guess I assumed that, if someone could conceive of a chain, then that meant that they had to have experience with worked metal already (not necessarily WORKING it themselves, but the concept of metal objects made by human hands). I could be wrong, but I don't see how someone could have come up with the chain concept without at least that framework. And that framework means they had to have the ability to refine and smelt metal themselves already.
We take the availablity of preprocessed things like rod stock totally for granted (and pretty much anywhere in the world including the third world)
but making a chain out of rod is like making a kit car and saying "I build a car" - yes,and no

Making rod is 99% of the effort in making chain and for a long time not many folk would have the knowledge or equipment - so stock would be a high status, high value item - (hard to imagine now, but then paper or parchment was so valuble before the modern age it got re-used - we just crumple and chuck it without thought)

So yes, chain is a simple concept, but not so simple to make a practical iron chain. So i'm guessing metal chains had existed for a long time as decrative items in gold, copper or bronze (with maybe some practical bronze chain)
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Old 06-13-2007, 05:26 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is online now
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I agree that we take the availability of stock materials for granted, but once the technology develops for making pretty much any iron objects, the obstacles hindering the production of chain are pretty much all gone. Turning ingots into bars/rods would be a starting point for nearly everything anyway, and bending/forming them to make hooks and loops is a basic skill - I don't mean to say it's easy or trivialise it in any way, it's just that the skills required to make iron chains would naturally be amongst the basic skills that a metalworker would acquire in order to make pretty much any other thing.
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  #12  
Old 06-13-2007, 05:48 AM
Capt B. Phart Capt B. Phart is offline
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Bollocks - somehow posted that without finishing/checking appalling speling!

FWIW here's the end bit:-
- but you'd need a good reason to use a chain rather than rope (like anchor chains, restraining prisoners/bears/big doggies, hanging cooking pots over fires)


Quote:
Originally Posted by WoodenTaco
<golf clap>
is that like Athlete’s Foot?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangetout
but once the technology develops for making pretty much any iron objects, the obstacles hindering the production of chain are pretty much all gone. Turning ingots into bars/rods would be a starting point for nearly everything anyway,
True - but that's a relatively recent development - except maybe in India
"Iron chain was used in Indian suspension bridges as early as the 4th century."
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  #13  
Old 06-13-2007, 06:06 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is online now
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It's also worth noting that chains don't have to be nice neat lengths of tidy oval links like we use today - for example - here is a length of Roman chain. Construction of chains like that one would be considerably quicker and easier than chain made from oval links.
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  #14  
Old 06-13-2007, 12:28 PM
Sofaspud Sofaspud is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangetout
It's also worth noting that chains don't have to be nice neat lengths of tidy oval links like we use today - for example - here is a length of Roman chain. Construction of chains like that one would be considerably quicker and easier than chain made from oval links.
Oh hey, that's pretty cool! I didn't even have a clue that chain like that existed. And you're right, it's much easier (given that you already have the heavy-gauge wire, that is); I just built myself a Roman-style chain out of coat hangers, because, um... well, I don't know why, I just thought it was cool. Heh. (I'm such a geek.)

Anyway.

Capt B. Phart: now that India bit is nifty! Re: the usability of chain vs. rope, I imagine -- though I don't know -- that boat anchor chains and dock chains were the first uses. Rope has a nasty tendency (except for some specialized types) to get waterlogged, mildew, rot, and so on when exposed to water, whereas chain is just susceptible to rust. Which is bad, but takes a while to do significant harm.

I know movies have shown chain in everyday use in ancient Rome, but those are hardly accurate sources in the best of times !

Thanks everyone... looks like the answer is "we don't know, but a long-ass time ago!"
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  #15  
Old 06-13-2007, 02:07 PM
puppygod puppygod is offline
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Also, point to consider, chain doesn't necessarily have to be made of metal. It can be made of twigs, or short straw (to short to made rope of) or even carved of wooden stick (pretty neat trick, my grandpa showed me how to do it). Sure, it's not very strong, but easy and fast to manufacture and useful for many application (like restraining small animals or hanging and sealing baskets etc.) Idea of chain - several links connected in line is thousands years old and most probably predates metalworking.

Of course, organic materials like that usually degrade fast and, like for cloths and ropes, there is not much archaeological materials preserved.
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  #16  
Old 06-13-2007, 02:43 PM
Capt B. Phart Capt B. Phart is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangetout
It's also worth noting that chains don't have to be nice neat lengths of tidy oval links like we use today - for example - here is a length of Roman chain. Construction of chains like that one would be considerably quicker and easier than chain made from oval links.
I wonder if that chain was the kind made by Roman military engineers - thinking about it, they churned out nails on an almost industrial scale in their portable forges during campaigns (and Roman nails could be several feet long – more like metal ties than modern nails, not far off rod stock in fact) – not hard to adapt to churning out chain instead when the need arose

Off-topic a bit,
Sofaspud your mention of rope rotting reminded me of Solar Boat which I saw near Cairo, just amazing, not least seeing coils of rope from before Christ looking like new, and also realising that somehow the Egyptians had achieved so much without iron or steel

Last edited by Capt B. Phart; 06-13-2007 at 02:45 PM.. Reason: stupidity
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