My world is set in what would be BC in our world – around 300 BC, give or take. But how do I make that clear without having real life cultures that existed at that time? I want the readers to know we’re not in your typical middle ages setting, but even further back in time, but can only come up with no technology/inventions that were made later.
There is quite a difference between the tech of, say, Ancient Greece or China and the Middle Ages (5th-15th century AD). What you’re going to want to do is pick out a few elements of the Middle Ages that people heavily associate with that time and leave it out, even if it would technically fit. In the same way, focus on elements of ancient times, the Iron Age, that people really associate with that time period and play those up, while also implementing your own things.
One of the largest macro differences would be that during ancient times, in many ways the world was more connected. Before the Dark Ages and The Crusades, there was international economic trade in a way that there wasn’t again for many centuries…and that there certainly isn’t in our fictional portrayals of the medieval world.
Here are a few examples of things that you could use to set your ancient civilizations apart from standard medieval settings:
- Dictatorship and democracy rather than monarchy and, especially, feudalism.
- Leather or iron-banded armor instead of scaled or steel-plated armor (almost complete lack of alloys)
- There were two types of irons: meteoric iron and terrestrial iron. Meteoric iron can be shaped without smelting and was used for hundreds of years before the Iron Age, so it would be common. Terrestrial iron wasn’t popular until they figured out an easy way to make furnaces hot enough to melt it.
- Steel swords and armor did exist, but it was far more expensive and not common. Most weapons would have used wrought iron.
- No gunpowder, so no cannons or the like.
- Writing on vellum, tablets, and papyrus rather than parchment or paper
- Limited in food options, as crossbreeding plants had not yet taken shape
- Overwhelming polytheistic governments as opposed to monotheism. Christianity (and all its European governmental forms) wasn’t a thing yet.
- Architectural trends (Think Pantheon not cathedrals; no arches or buttresses).
- Art was not the same. (Sculpting, weaving, and other hardform art was more common); Far fewer leisure societies
- International roads were just becoming a thing (thanks to Rome), but the infrastructure for moving large groups of people wasn’t unheard of.
- When you’re talking about sizes of population (and armies), you can talk in millions and hundreds of thousands in a way that wasn’t true of the Middle Ages. When you’re looking at the Persian army, two million + isn’t incorrect. Whereas, many medieval armies couldn’t boast more than 50,000.
- Geometry was invented during that time.
- Cartography, on a large scale, was just becoming popular.
- You can also look over a list of Ancient Greek Technology or Ancient China Technology and compare it to Medieval Technology.
Hope that’s helpful for you. Happy building!