What Did the Mongol People Invent?

Contrary to their popular portrayal as a roaming barbarian horde, the Mongol people invented and innovated many things, from advanced military tactics to an early type of postal service. They also innovated many types of bow and arrow.

Many of the most substantial Mongol inventions were of a military nature. Chief among these was the composite bow. Unlike the bows of Europe, which were made from a single piece of wood, Mongol bows were a composite construction consisting of materials such as horn, wood and sinew.

The advantage of a composite bow is the ability to provide the same amount of energy to the arrow as an all-wood bow but in a much smaller package. Composite bows were attractive for their small size and high accuracy and were perfect for use on horseback.

The Mongols also innovated many types of arrow design, from iron-headed, long-range arrows to a special type of hollow, shafted arrow that created a loud and distinctive whistling sound when shot.

The Mongol people also innovated new uses for Chinese-invented gunpowder, like creating crude cannons and using bombs in their catapults. The earliest known cannon was found in Mongol-held territory in the 13th century.

To help govern their massive empire and facilitate communication between military leaders, the Mongols invented an extensive and well-staffed type of postal service called "yam." It was estimated to have upwards of 1,400 stations in China alone and a massive fleet of 50,000 horses.