What are some examples of things still in use that have changed little in MANY years?

A few months ago I was at a museum that was displaying artifacts from the Roman empire. They included Roman water pipes, ancient pewter and pottery plates/bowls/spoons, thimbles and pins etc., and it was, for some reason, odd how little these things have changed over the years. They’re finer now, mass produced, and made from different materials (pvc instead of terra cotta for pipes and steel instead of iron for silverware, etc.) but the basic design (shape, size, functionality, etc.) is pretty much exactly the same. This also goes for chairs and other thousands of years old items found in Egyptian tombs, ancient American Indian baskets, wool blankets and coats, and other items from all cultures that are still used today and whose basic design has changed very little in many centuries.

Anyway, what are some other items that have changed very little in their basic form over many centuries? (No concrete date required, just over a “very very long time”.) Note: I’m not referring to intentional throwbacks (like the Egyptian inspired decorations of the 1920s or arrows made for history reenactors, etc.) but things that are actually still in use that look pretty much the same as those our ancestors used hundreds or even thousands of years ago.

Recently when confronted with the also little changed over many years argument that “If evolution is real then why are there still apes?” I thought of these items- their basic form stopped changing because there was really no need to change them- how much more complicated does a spoon or a thimble or a stool need to be? (And actually straw baskets and other crafts are far less complicated and durable now.) Of course this leaves open the “but there was an intelligent designer” front, but I still like the basic principal of the comparison.

My daughter and I recently did a session on jewelry making for her girl scout troop and got out a few historical picture books. I was surprised at how little many of the basic designs have changed over the centuries. (This is excluding super elaborate stuff made for nobility–just the sort of thing an ordinary person of reasonable prosperity would wear.)

Good example- rings and earrings and necklaces are basically the same now as they’ve been for thousands of years.

Many, many tools.

For example, the hammer remains essentially unchanged. You whack stuff with one end, and pull out stuff with the others. There was a documentary on them on Discovery, and the 5,000 year old hammer closely resembed the structure of today’s hammer.

Shovels - Pointy metal bit on one end, frustrated gardener on the other.

Rakes - Large, fingery things to scrape up stuff over a given area.

Brooms - Straw on one end, stick on the other.

Edged weapons haven’t changed a whole lot.

Just about everything related to baseball

Keys, perhaps. Not the modern nifty clever kind but we do still have mortise lock keys, which although smaller than very very old ones, are recognisably the same idea.

Spreadsheets and tables. The Babylonians were doing calculations and data storage in grids of rectilinear columns and rows, with header rows - they just did it in cuneiform on clay tablets, instead of computers.


Ah no I’m joking, how about the currach?

Doorknobs have similar forms and the same funtion as they’ve had for many, many, many years.

The outhouse: A place to poop from Pompeii to Penobscot.

Pen and paper.

Crayons. Chalk

pins and needles.

wastepaper baskets

baskets for stuff



horse tack: bridle, saddle, stirrups etc

clothing–the fabric has changed immensely, but we still cover up top and bottom


straw hats

matches (now they’re all safety matches, but I’m old enough–and so is the OP–to remember when the part you strike on came on the front of the matchbook! That was changed due to that position being a fire hazard–as if matches weren’t by nature a fire hazard…)

I saw a documentary on how Japanese Samurai Swords are made and the process today is still the same as it was centuries ago.

There are a number of magic illusions that are still performed today the exact same way they were at their inception: The Cups and Balls illusion and the Chinese Linking Rings are two that have essentially not changed much over the course of thousands of years.

According to Douglas Adams, Vogons today are not much different from their ancestors. They are still just as bad tempered, bureaucratic, officious and callous as they were billions of years ago, when the Vogons first crawled out of the primeval seas of Vogsphere, laid panting and heaving on the planet’s virgin shores… when the first rays of the young Vogsol sun had shone across them… and it seemed as if the forces of evolution had simply given up on them then and there, thurned aside in disgust and written them off as an ugly mistake.

How about books? Since the switch from scrolls to bound books, I don’t believe there’s been much change in their shape, nor in how they function.

Mind you, I can’t imagine how one would change a physical book, and still be able to call it a book, but it hasn’t changed.

Somebody else mentioned tools, but specifically hand planes - as hand tools go they’re pretty finely tuned, and they need a certain expertise to use (tell me about it!) but they essentially built the wooden bits of the Pyramids with the same kind of plane.

Sailing stuff may have changed to be less labor intensive, and the materials are different, but a large sailboat still needs the same essential stuff a boat of the same size with similar rigging would have ever needed.

Bookbinding and book repair hasn’t changed much, either - glues are different and there are some different methods, but essentially you’ve got the same thing you always had.

Harley-Davidsons and the wedge.

Bricks and mortar.
Standard flower pots.
Many musical instruments, like violins and some drums.
The basic shape of an analog clock.
Horse shoes.

Drafting tools, such as the compass, straight-edge, triangle, and scale (ruler).




Tables and chairs.

Fire pits