Medieval times witnessed many technological advancements. From the creation of the sundial and the compass, to the manufacturing of gunpowder and silk, the Middle Ages changed the face of the world. Since growing and cultivating food has always been an extremely important function in society, medieval inventors were able to create several farming inventions which helped to improve the agricultural process.
The Heavy Plow
Although there is no record of plough usage in prehistoric times, the Middle Ages redesigned the plough into a multifaceted heavy plough. Adding multiple teams of oxen to the existing plough created the heavy ploughing system. This revolutionised farming and made it easier to plough heavy and wet soil in a shorter amount of time.
The horse harness was perfected in the Middle Ages with the invention of the horse collar, first used in the 8th or 9th century in Europe. Rather than harnessing the horse under its belly and in front of the chest, the horse collar was draped over the horse's shoulders, away from the neck, and hung in a large circle. The horse collar allowed for the weight of the load to rest on the horse's breasts and shoulders allowing the neck to be free from pressure. This invention allowed for stronger more powerful horses in the farming process.
A whippletree is a piece of wood, approximately 2 x 4, attached to the drawpole of a plough or cart at its centre. The horse's harness was then attached to the whippletree at convenient places. Used in conjunction with the heavy plough, the whippletree allowed for more flexibility and maneuverability when farmers used horses to pull ploughs.
Three Field Crop Rotation
Farmers in the Middle Ages changed from a two-field crop rotation to a three-field crop rotation. Under the two-field rotation, one field was planted for the season while the other field lay fallow for one year. The following year the roles were reversed. The ground laying fallow every other year did not allow for the highest yielding crops. Under the three-field crop rotation, the land was divided into three sections. One section would be planted in the fall and the second section was planted in the spring while the other section lay fallow. The three fields would be rotated so that every third year, a field would rest and be unplanted. A more communal and open field agricultural mindset developed from the three-field crop rotation invention.
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- San Jose State University -- the College of Engineering: Technology in the Middle Ages History of Technology
- San Jose State University -- the College of Engineering: The Medieval Technology Pages: The Horse Harness
- San Jose State University -- the College of Engineering: The Medieval Technology Pages: The Whippletree
- Middle Ages.org.uk: Inventions in the Middle Ages