Baghdad battery

In 1938, Dr. Wilhelm Kong, an Austrian archaeologist rummaging through the basement of the museum, made a find that was to drastically alter all our concepts of “ancient knowledge.”

A 6-inch-high pot of bright yellow clay dating back two millennia contained a cylinder of sheet-copper. It measures 5 inches by 1.5 inches. The edge of the copper cylinder was soldered with a 60-40 lead-tin alloy. This alloy is comparable to today’s solder. The bottom of the cylinder was capped with a crimped-in copper disk. Furthermore it was sealed with bitumen or asphalt. Another insulating layer of asphalt sealed the top. It also held in place an iron rod suspended into the center of the copper cylinder. The rod showed evidence of having been corroded with an acidic agent. With a background in mechanics, Dr. Konig recognized this configuration was not a chance arrangement. The clay pot was nothing less than an ancient electric battery.

The ancient Baghdad battery in the Baghdad Museum, as well as those others which were unearthed in Iraq, are all dated from the Parthian occupation between 248 BCE and 226 CE. However, Dr. Konig also found copper vases plated with silver in the Baghdad Museum. They were excavated from Sumerian sites in southern Iraq. These excavations dated back to at least 2500 BCE. When the vases were lightly tapped, a blue patina or film separated from the surface. Usually this is characteristic of silver electroplated onto copper base. It would appear then that the Parthians inherited their batteries. An inheritance of one of the earliest known civilizations.

Several years ago, a theory was proposed that electrolyte-crushed wine grapes may have been used. It was put to the test with a positive result. A replica of the Baghdad cell generated 0.87V. Several cells, in serial arrangement, were sufficient for the electroplating of small objects.


It also seems that the use of similar batteries can be safely placed into ancient Egypt. This is where several objects with traces of 


electroplated precious metals have been found at different locations. There are several anomalous finds from other regions, which suggests use of electricity on a grander scale. One of them is the girdle from the tomb of Chinese general Chu (265-316 CE). This is made from an alloy of 85% aluminum with 10% copper and 5% manganese. The only viable method of production of aluminum from bauxite is electrolytic process. After alumina (aluminum chloride component of the ore) is dissolved in molten cryolite. A process patented in the middle of last century.

Needless to say, the Baghdad battery or similar types of batteries would not suffice. Evidently, quite a substantial generator-generated current is needed.

The mystery of the Baghdad battery

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