Engineering before engineers.
Well, at least, before engineers as we know them. Certainly, long before engineering degrees from universities!
The Genius of China: 3,000 Years of Science, Discovery and Invention and Engineering in the Ancient World (which is an updated version of a book I bought some time ago), both lay out some interesting ideas for “modern” technology for ancient cultures. They both present some great ideas for the basics of technology in a created culture or world.
For instance, China was quite advanced. The Chinese are famous for inventing paper, but they also invented the first printing press and gunpowder. Though, they used those technologies differently than we did in the West, due to cultural differences. They also invented luminous paint and earthquake detectors.
Other ancient cultures invented other suprising things, including water wheels and complicated plumbing and sewage systems. The Romans had heated baths similar to what we’d think of as indoor, heated swimming pools!
Of course, for me, it’s all the little things that really make a world seem real. Things like, what kind of clothing was worn and why. Like, how they lit their way at night. How they prepared their food. A lot of that, though, can be found in these two technology books. Think, for instance, about how much food needed to be processed and moved to feed the ancient Roman Empire or any of the Chinese Dynasties. All things to consider when building a world from whole cloth. And, every decision has impact on the others and implications in the way a people actually live. These two books begin to explore some of those relationships. The rest, though, is up to a creative author to discover.
So, what are you waiting for? Get reading! Then, get writing!!