I came across this tweet of which I'm skeptical.
So, I ask: Had Iraq use of electricity 5000 years ago?
It seems that the artifact in question is the Baghdad Battery, a set of metal and ceramic pieces that resemble a battery.
In 1938, Wilhelm Konig, the first to analyze them, investigated these objects, and wrote a paper (Ein galvanisches Element aus der Partherzeit? In: Forschungen und Fortschritte. Heft 1, Nr. 14, 1936, S. 8–9) in which he speculated that the objects had been used as a battery. It appeared to be backed up by independent tests by Willard Gray and Arne Eggebrecht (independent of each other), which used reproductions to generate about two volts. Eggebrecht claimed to have used the reproductions to electroplate metal; according to this,
Other researchers though, have disputed these results and have been unable to replicate them.
"There does not exist any written documentation of the experiments which took place here in 1978," says Dr Bettina Schmitz, currently a researcher based at the same Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum.
"The experiments weren't even documented by photos, which really is a pity," she says. "I have searched through the archives of this museum and I talked to everyone involved in 1978 with no results."
There have, however, been numerous attempts to eke some electricity out of replicas, such as a Mythbusters episode, but even those have been disputed. The Iron Skeptic is particularly harsh on their attempt, although that criticism may just be opinion.
So the answer to
Had Iraq . . . electricity . . .?
is a "Yes." The issue is that nobody is sure what the battery could have been used for.
HowStuffWorks has an interesting section on the Baghdad Battery, speculating (as all the other sources do) about how the battery could have been used. Some possibilities include electroplating and pain treatment.
No wires have been discovered (in fact, it is not known exactly where the Baghdad Battery is from, though its general location is known - near Khujut Rabu), so it would have been difficult to use! So the answer to the question
Had Iraq use of electricity . . .?
is possibly a "No."
On to the full question. The age of the battery is disputed, but some archaeologists date it to about 200 years B.C. As written here,
A 2,200-year-old clay jar found near Baghdad, Iraq, has been described as the oldest known electric battery in existence. 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.
But as World Mysteries quotes,
"Although this collection of objects is usually dated as Parthian, the grounds for this are unclear," says Dr St John Simpson, also from the department of the ancient Near East at the British Museum.
"The pot itself is Sassanian. This discrepancy presumably lies either in a misidentification of the age of the ceramic vessel, or the site at which they were found."
Regardless, the battery is most likely about 2000 years old.
So the answer to
Had Iraq use of electricity 5000 years ago?
appears to be (based on what we know) a "No."
Firstly these items although real are not 5,000 year old.
In short while the jury is out (I won't go into the other speculated ideas for these items) on exactly what these items are, the archaeological consensus is that they are very very unlikely to be batteries.
On a afterthought and somewhat separate matter it appears these items are among those lost in the aftermath of operation Iraqi Freedom; let's hope they are found.
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