What Was Used for Navigation During Ancient Times?

Navigation has been an essential part of human history, dating back to ancient times. The ability to navigate through water and land has played a vital role in trade, exploration, and colonization.

However, the methods used for navigation during ancient times were quite different from what we use today. In this article, we will take a look at the various tools and techniques used by ancient navigators.

Ancient Navigation Techniques

Ancient navigators relied on various forms of celestial navigation to determine their position and direction when traveling on water or land. One of the most common ways of celestial navigation was using the stars.

Sailors would use the position of stars such as Polaris or Sirius to determine their location and direction. By studying the stars’ movement, they could calculate their latitude and longitude.

Another technique used for navigation was dead reckoning. This method involved calculating one’s position by estimating distance traveled from a known starting point and factoring in direction and speed.

Tools Used for Navigation

To aid in their travels, ancient navigators used various tools that helped them navigate more accurately.

Astrolabe: The astrolabe was an essential tool used for celestial navigation. It was used to determine the altitude of stars above the horizon. This information helped sailors calculate their latitude.

Compass: The compass was invented in ancient China and became widely used in Europe during the Middle Ages. It uses Earth’s magnetic field to determine direction accurately.

Sextant: The sextant is a tool that measures angular distances between objects such as two stars or a star and the horizon. It allowed sailors to calculate their position based on these measurements.

Land Navigation Tools

Navigating through land also required special tools to help travelers find their way around unknown territory.

Sun Dial: The sundial was used to tell time during the day. It worked by casting a shadow on a marked surface that showed the time of day.

Astrolabe: The astrolabe was also used on land to determine latitude and longitude using celestial navigation.

Maps: Maps were created and used during ancient times to help travelers navigate through unfamiliar terrain. They often included landmarks, roads, and other important information.

The Importance of Navigation in Ancient Times

Navigation played a crucial role in ancient times. It allowed for exploration, trade, and colonization.

Without navigation, many of the world’s great empires would not have been able to expand their territory or gain access to vital resources. Navigation also played an essential role in cultural exchange as sailors traveled between different regions and shared their knowledge and ideas.


In conclusion, navigation has come a long way since ancient times. Today’s technology allows for more accurate and efficient navigation than ever before.

However, it’s important to remember the tools and techniques that helped shape our understanding of navigation throughout history. By studying these methods, we can gain a better appreciation for the ingenuity and resourcefulness of our ancestors.