The Enigmatic 'Battery of Baghdad'

Did ancient Parthians know how to make electricity with batteries? An object discovered in 1936, during excavation of Khuyut Rabbou'a, near modern Baghdad, has raised speculation that they might indeed have. A strange vase-like object, with a copper liner and what appears may have been an asphalt-insulated iron electrode has been interpreted by some archaeologists as an ancient voltaic cell, some 1800 years prior to Galvani. Speculation is that these pre-Iraqis might have used these "cells" (strictly speaking, a "battery" must consist of more than one cell) for plating metals, which would imply that the artisans must have known considerably more about chemistry than they are usually given credit for. On the other hand, these objects could have had some other use, perhaps as a sexual symbol. Skeptical Inquirer is a magazine published by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP). Many of their featured articles are available online, but not, unfortunately, this one.

Publication information
Pick Attribution: 

Gerhard Eggert

Publication Date: 
Friday, April 13, 2012