Ancient Artifacts: Metal Objects & the Baghdad Battery

During many excavations and archeological digs, numerous uncovered artifacts have created a new way of looking at the technological strides associated with ancient civilizations. In this article, you will learn of metal objects that have appeared in the oddest places (or should we say time periods), as well as what seems to be the first battery, dating more than 2,000 years old.


65 million years ago, humans were not roaming the world, so why is it that a “semi-ovoid” metallic tube was found within chalk that was dated at being 65 million years old. Discovered in France, this find hailed from the Cretaceous period. The Cretaceous period was the third and last block of geologic time during the Mesozoic Era. This time period saw changes in North America and Europe, mostly involving the earth’s surface, as well as localized flora and fauna. The metallic tube showed signs of being worked over by someone or something and at that time, it was impossible to have been competed by a human, according to our geologic record.


Throughout the years, various metal objects have turned up in the oddest places. During a find in 1885, a block of coal was broken apart to reveal a metal cube that was assumed to be shaped by the hands of a human. During the early 1900s, employees at an electric plant tore open a massive piece of coal, which to their surprise, an iron pot was uncovered. Further complicating things, a nail was found embedded deep within a block of sandstone that dated back to the Mesozoic Era. How is this?


When researching the birth of the battery, textbooks will credit Count Alassandro Volta with the creation of the electric battery, which was invented in 1800. But, a great find in Baghdad is believed to discount this honor. As you can also assume from his name, the measurement of potential electric output is called the volt.


Referred to as the Baghdad Battery, this artifact was discovered within the ruins of a Parthian village, which is estimated to date back to between 248 B.C. and 226 A.D. The artifact is a 5-1/2-inch high clay vessel found inside of a copper cylinder. Holding it together is asphalt. Within the vessel, an oxidized iron rod was located. Researchers stated that when filled with acid or alkaline liquid, an electric charge could be created. Experts suggest that the artifact was actually an ancient battery that may have been used to electroplate objects with gold.


Puzzling scientists is the fact that such a useful advancement of technology was somehow lost. How was it that the battery we know today wasn’t “rediscovered” almost 2,000 years later? The find began its journey through analysis within a museum located on the outskirts of Baghdad, in an area called Khujet Rabu. Analysis took place during 1938 by a German archaeologist named Wilhelm Konig. Today, the artifact resides within the walls of the National Museum of Iraq.