The Baghdad Battery Mystery

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Probably won't work with your TV remote

Probably won’t work with your TV remote

1938 Baghdad, Iraq –  Measuring only 13 cm long (5 inches), archaeologist Wilhelm Konig found the most curious looking object around an ancient Mesopotamian ritual site.  The object was oval in shape and made of clay but what shocked Konig was discovering a copper encased iron rod at the center.  Once the clay jar with the copper rod was brought back for testing, it showed signs of corrosion as if wine or vinegar were held inside.

From this point Konig had a light go off in his head (pun may or may not be intended) that what he actually found was not a decorative item but a battery.  Replicas were made using the exact same materials used in what is know called the “Baghdad Battery” that could produce electrical currents.  But some historians are not convinced the clay pot was a battery.  Some of the critics say the Baghdad Battery lacks wiring and couldn’t transmit a charge.

There is no doubt that it served some sort of practical purpose.

What truly puzzles most researchers and scientists is what the heck the battery was used for?  Some theorize it was used for medicinal purposes which was seen in acupuncture techniques in China.  Ancient Greeks recorded that “electrical fish” probably eels had medicinal powers on injured feet.  The most likely use for the Baghdad Battery was electroplating.  This is the process of layering a thin sheet of metal onto another sheet of metal.

No one is quite sure except the batteries actually produce electricity.  In fact there’s even wild theories the batteries were used in a “Wizard of Oz” type fashion.  Dr. Craddock from the British Museums thinks it’s possible the batteries could have been linked together and been used in the Mesopotamian temples.  When subjects would come in if they did something that displeased the gods a simple touch from their hand to the idol could produce a tiny electrical shock.

604 Battery

This will not shock you

The only thing scientists agree on is they don’t really know what the batteries were  used for.  But one thing we know for sure is the descendants of those batteries allow us to be lazy on the couch watching football, power our cars and of course, power our heated clothing like this:  Men’s Battery Heated Fleece Vest.


Riddle of Baghdad’s Batteries

Smith College Museum – Ancient Inventions

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