Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Mysterious Ancient Egyptian Electic Lamp

Did the ancient Egyptians have electric light? Here is what I think...

The Egyptian Lamp

Some very strange things, which can be found in underground caverns below the Hathor temple in Dendera, Egypt, have many archeologists scratching their heads. A few pictures have surfaced that show these items to be devices similar to a modern light bulb, into which two small arms reach before its thick, rounded end. These arms are supported by a column which looks very much like a modern high voltage insulator. At the thin end however runs something like a cable into the glass bulb. From this, striking out and almost reaching the arms on the other side, a snake can be seen, hanging in the air. The whole assemblage has a striking resemblance to a modern electric lamp.

The Baghdad Battery

The clay jar and others like it are part of the holdings of the National Museum of Iraq and have been attributed to the Parthian Empire — an ancient Asian culture that ruled most of the Middle East from 247 B.C. to A.D. 228. The jar itself has been dated to sometime around 200 B.C. It was first described in 1938 by German archaeologist Wilhelm Koenig, and to this day, it is uncertain whether Koenig dug it up himself or found it archived in the museum. So how is it that this 2,000-year-old clay jar can be called a battery? Let’s take a look at what some experts have said.

Those who’ve examined it closely say that there is little else that it could be. The nondescript earthen jar is only 5½ inches high by 3 inches across. The opening was sealed with an asphalt plug, which held in place a copper sheet, rolled into a tube. This tube was capped at the bottom with a copper disc held in place by more asphalt. A narrow iron rod was stuck through the upper asphalt plug and hung down into the center of the copper tube — not touching any part of it. Fill the jar with an acidic liquid, such as vinegar or fermented grape juice, (both of which were readily available to the Egyptians of the time) and you have yourself a battery capable of generating a small current. The acidic liquid permits a flow of electrons from the copper tube to the iron rod — an electric flow — when the two metal terminals are connected. This is known as an electrochemical reaction, and it is not at all different from how the batteries in your Gameboy work. Experiments with models of the interestingly named Baghdad Battery have generated between 1.5 and 2 volts. Not a lot of power.

The Photos on both the right and left show the 'Lamp' actually depicted on several burial Sarcophagus also found in Egypt.

So you have to ask yourself, what would batteries have been used for 2,000 years ago?

It’s well known that the Greeks and Romans used certain species of electric fish in the treatment of pain — they would actually go stand on a live electric eel until their gout-pained feet went numb. Perhaps the battery was used as a ready source of less slimy analgesic electricity. Other theories suggest that several batteries could have been linked together to generate a higher voltage for the use in electroplating gold to a silver surface. More experiments with several Baghdad-type batteries have shown this to be possible. The little jar in Baghdad suggests that Volta didn't invent the battery, but may have in fact simply reinvented it.

Here’s the deal, it is very interesting, there seems to be something to all of this. Who knows what info may turn up in the future to alter my opinion, that’s why I invite you to keep an open mind and keep walking in this big weird world of ours!

I’m Average Joe

email: OurWeirdWorld@gmail.com

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