Electric Cavemen

The other day, a friend of mine was telling me that he’d seen a show on the Discovery Channel about paleolithic technology. He said that, in a museum in London, there was an artifact unearthed about a hundred years ago. It was a clay pot with traces of grapes and grape leaves in it, as well as two metal bars - one zinc and one copper. He said scientists had only just discovered that this was a primitive sort of battery. Now my friend is a little credulous when it comes to the Discovery Channel (he also told me once about the show where they determined that the Sphinx was 20,000 years old), but I haven’t been able to find anything about it (usually Discovery Pseudoscience gets debunked pretty quickly). Has anyone heard of this? Is there a scientist asserting that paleolithic humans had batteries? Did they?

Your friend is talking about the “Baghdad Battery”. The TLC/Discovery Channel story is here. (If you poke around, you can find out if the Ark of the Convenant was an eletrical capacitor.)

The British Musem says,

Does it occur to anybody else that “it functioned like a battery”, and “the jar and its contents were used in a magical ritual” aren’t mutually exclusive? Perhaps ancient people noticed that they got a mild tingle from the arrangement, and assumed it was somehow “magical” without investigating why or coming up with any practical application of the effect. No evidence - just a stray thought.

“Electric Cavemen”

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