The Baghdad Battery.
Ancient Device that Produces a 2 Volt Electrical Current!

When the German archaeologist William Koenig became director of the Museum in Baghdad in 1937, he noticed that one of the objects could have been used as a battery. The yellow clay pot was dated from around 200 BC, the Parthian era. However the Parthians weren't known for any cultural or scientific achievements as they were mainly warriors. Others have noted that the pot is Sassanian and that there may have been some misidentification of the age or the place it was originally found.

It was a 6 inch high clay pot, which had a cylinder of sheet copper measuring 5 inches by 1.5 inches on the inside. This was welded by a 60-40 lead-tin alloy to the bitumen (or asphalt) top. The bottom of this cylinder was capped with a crimped in copper disk and was also sealed with bitumen. The rod showed some evidence of having been eroded with an acidic agent, which gave rise to the idea of it being a battery. Obviously they had to test the idea. In the 70 they tried to add plain old pineapple juice (as it would have been the most probable acid people could have used in ancient times) and found that it yielded about 1.5V. In later experiments with vinegar and other weak acids up to about 2V were measured.

So what did the ancients do with batteries? Again, after going through history and scraping together what little knowledge we have from those peoples lives, It was most likely used for gilding. Yes, putting sheet gold onto cheap silver statuettes or vases. Other ideas were the use of low voltage for health purposes (i.e. in connection with acupuncture).

However as no other vessels like the Baghdad battery have been found, some archaeologist say it was a "one off". Me personally I don't think so. It was obviously build deliberately and it would be a little coincidence to find "the only one ever made". The truth is that there were so many that we could easily find one even though most others are now lost or destroyed. So with more than one you can crank your Voltage up to really useful levels. Whatever we believe it was used for, we are probably wrong, you don't invent a functioning pen just to stir your soup with... Nici

So what did the ancients do with batteries? Again, after going through history and scraping together what little knowledge we have from those peoples lives, It was most likely used for gilding. Yes, putting sheet gold onto cheap silver statuettes or vases. Other ideas were the use of low voltage for health purposes (i.e. in connection with acupuncture).

This article was written in 2003. Now it's 2017. I know, time flies right? I promise I'm going to get Nici to rewrite this and all the rest of this section really as it was mostly her doing. Why not bookmark this site and come back in say, a few weeks? Tony

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