Baghdad Battery and the mystery behind it

Inventions Contributor
Today's Focus
Baghdad Battery

A hot topic in academia is to find how technologically advanced were our ancestors or the evolution of humankind from its primitive time. People have unearthed various ancient objects down the ages for this cause. They tried to explain or understand them in one way or another. These efforts actually draw lots of attention and are generally associated with plenty of controversial theories.

Such a controversial object is the Baghdad Battery! This is the first battery that was discovered in 1936 by railway workers near the city of Baghdad in the midst of an ancient tomb. Some claim it to be a jar to keep the sacred papyrus scrolls. Some think it is a device used for some kind of electrotherapy. In an article in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Paul T. Keyser established a theory stating the use of an ancient form of batteries for anesthesia and Baghdad Battery might be a similar device.

What is Baghdad Battery?

Baghdad Battery is a set of three artifacts found together. A ceramic pot, a tube of copper, and an iron rod. It was actually discovered in 1936 in the old village of Khujut Rabu near Baghdad. Some archeologists have argued it to be of the Parthian period (250 BC – 224 AD) and some have voted for the Sasanian period (224 – 650 AD).

The 5-inch tall terracotta pot contains a cylinder made of a rolled copper sheet. Inside this cylinder, there is a suspended iron rod at the center which does not touch it. The copper cylinder is not watertight. The iron rod is isolated from copper with the help of bitumen and held in place by a plug.

Theories concerning this battery

Corrosion of the metal and other chemical tests suggest that there was an acidic agent inside the jar. Some scholars think that agents be wine or vinegar. In 1938, Wilhelm Konig from the National Museum of Iraq postulated a hypothesis of a form of the galvanic cell after studying many similar kinds of artifacts. Looking in this direction, scholars have thought that the purpose of the acidic liquid was to work as an electrolyte solution, and the copper and iron as the electrodes and together they used to generate electricity. People have thought that this was used to anesthetize or to treat people by applying electric current to the affected area.

Some scholars even think that this device was used to store papyrus scrolls and nothing else. Some have postulated that this device was used for electroplating. But then no electroplated objects have been found from excavations. So far more than one Baghdad Batteries have been found and the majority of the community believes this device to be a form of some kind of a galvanic cell or battery.

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