Ancient Mesopotamian Civilization Invented World’s First Battery 2000 Years Ago

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The Baghdad Battery is one of the most famous artifacts of ancient Mesopotamia that is believed to be about 2000 years old. In 1938, German archeologist Wilhelm König, discovered a terracotta pot in modern Khujut Rabu, Iraq. The pot contained an electrical sheet and rod.

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Many researchers believed that the batteries belonged to the Parthian kingdom, which had been existing from 250 BC to 220 AD.

Baghdad Battery
German archeologist Wilhelm König, discovered Baghdad Battery In 1938

In 1940, after returning to Berlin because of an illness, Wilhelm published an article where he expressed his idea of electroplating. Unfortunately, because of World War II, his work went almost unnoticed. Only in 1947, Willard F. M. Gray, an American physicist at the General Electric High Voltage Laboratory in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, created a replica of the battery. The engineer used copper sulfate as an electrolyte. His replica gave an electric current of 1–2 volts.

The Baghdad Battery is a terracotta pot about 130 mm high. There is a rolled copper sheet with a metal cylinder inside it, in which an iron bar is inserted. The top of the iron rod is insulated from copper by plugs. Both the rod and the cylinder fit snugly against the opening of the can, which is at the top of the vessel.

Baghdad Battery  mystery
The Baghdad Battery is a terracotta pot about 130 mm high, containing a tube of copper, and a rod of iron.

So what does it do? If these artifacts are actually the batteries, does that mean Alessandro Volta was not the first to invent the electrochemical power cell in 1800? And some ingenious scientist of antiquity was ahead of him by more than two millennia?

Where did ancient civilization get such knowledge from? And with what purpose were those ancient batteries created?

The experiments that the Baghdad battery was subjected to showed that it could generate a voltage between the electrodes of up to 5 volts. This suggests that ancient civilizations had quite advanced technologies and that ancient civilizations were not as primitive as we think.

It is also possible that ancient people found a way to connect batteries and generate more power for multiple devices at once.

Dr. Paul Craddock of the British Museum claimed that the priests could have used the Baghdad batteries for intimidation. If the structure is installed inside the idol, then anyone who touches it will receive a weak but palpable electric shock. The explanation can be much more prosaic. Some archaeologists believed the Baghdad pot might have been intended for routine storage of scrolls. Perhaps, the Parthians were not even aware of the mysterious properties of the invention.

Archaeologists have found 12 Baghdad Batteries. All of them had been kept in the National Museum of Iraq, but in 2003, they were looted. More than 15,000 exhibits, including Baghdad vases, were stolen from the vaults and halls.

The museum managed to recover some of the stolen goods, and some of the vessels can still be seen in Baghdad.

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