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The Baghdad battery

The Baghdad battery

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One of the most interesting and highly debated artefacts of the Baghdad Museum in Iraq is a clay pot. It is 5-6 inches high and encapsulates a copper cylinder. Suspended in the center of this cylinder—but not touching it—is an iron rod. Both the copper cylinder and the iron rod are held in place with an asphalt plug. The rod shows evidence of corrosion, probably due to the use of an acidic liquid like vinegar or wine.

These artefacts (more than one was found) were discovered during the 1936 excavations of the old village Khujut Rabu, near Baghdad. The village is considered to be about 2000 years old, and was built during the Parthian period (250BCE to 224 CE).

Although it is not known exactly what the use of such a device would have been, the name ‘Baghdad Battery’, or ‘Parthian Battery’, comes from one of the prevailing theories established in 1938 when Wilhelm Konig, the German archaeologist who performed the excavations, examined the battery and concluded that this device was an ancient electric battery. Another theory suggests that they were containers to hold papyrus.

After the Second World War, Willard Gray, an American working at the General Electric High Voltage Laboratory in Pittsfield, built replicas and, filling them with an electrolyte, found that the devices could produce 2 volts of electricity.

So if the artefact was indeed a battery, what would electricity have been used for and why have we not yet discovered further evidence of its use? If not used as a battery, what would have been the specific use of such device?

It is important to remember that Iraq is considered to be the location of both the Garden of Eden and the tower of Babel. Who knows how many more artefacts are hidden in this ancient place on Earth?

By John Black

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Pete Wagner's picture

Maybe one day they’ll get around to doing a Carbon-14 test on the iron rod, to confirm the date/century it was smelted.  Carbon-14 is a relatively cheap/easy technique, compared to radio-metric, so you WONDER why they haven’t done it yet.  Or maybe you don’t wonder?

Nobody gets paid to tell the truth.

angieblackmon's picture

i need a weekend where i can just attempt to make one of these for fun. seems like it would make an awesome science project....kinda like my electromagnetic i made in 3rd grade...i wonder if i could rig it to power a small light bulb...?

love, light and blessings


timwilkersonalchemist's picture

I think they were used for lighting.

Peace, love, time and space, abundant,
Tim Wilkerson

I concur electroplating of metals. Gold, silver, tin can all be deposited in this way. They did use mercury to form an amalgam, that was applied and evaporated to leave a thin deposit but weakening the base metal, electroplating allows a much thicker deposition without weakening the object. Particularly useful to protect iron objects to protect them from the elements. If this is a battery, that is debatable.

It would be useful in plating objects, and other chemical reactions.


johnblack's picture

John Black

Dr John (Ioannis) Syrigos initially began writing on Ancient Origins under the pen name John Black. He is both a co-owner and co-founder of Ancient Origins.

John is a computer & electrical engineer with a PhD in Artificial Intelligence, a... Read More

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