Highly Suspect

I used to adore the ancient aliens stuff, and the whole Mysteries of History thing that has been going on for way longer than it should have.

Highly Suspect

I used to adore the ancient aliens stuff, and the whole Mysteries of History thing that has been going on for way longer than it should have. Crystal Skulls, Ancient Aliens, Is this evidence of visitors from beyond? kind of thing. I used to believe some of it was possible. I used to laugh at it too.

Now? Not so much. I've developed an analytical mind and... the more I look at some of this stuff, the more it all piles up into a steaming heap of manure. Take a popular one - the crystal skulls. Every single documentary on these crystal skulls always shows footage of the one skull that is actually anatomically accurate and looks amazing. I can't really fault them. The rest of these allegedly mysterious skulls aren't all that amazing, really. Some of them look really ameteurish.

The have nearly the same script, too. These mysterious skulls were made without any tool marks, say the narrators. After a few other statements about their spiritual properties, they go on to explain that they were cut against the grain, which is difficult to do in stonework.

My question was - how do they know? If there's no tool marks, how can anyone tell how the stone was cut? Nevermind that these so-called mystery skulls were found to be modern artefacts made using an angle-grinder and some varied levels of skill...

There are other famous frauds. The Ica Stones, the Piltdown Man, and so on. All revealed to be the work of people who were running some kind of scam. My focus this week is... The Baghdad Battery.

The fact that it's a definitive article has always bothered me. If the ancients used it for something, wouldn't there be more than one? You have hundreds of ritual objects from idols to cups to utensils and tablets or scrolls describing them. You have other historians talking about them with varying degrees of accuracy - looking at you, Herodotus... you have context and you have more than one.

Obviously, complicated stuff like the Antikythera device have reasons for being so rare - like the making of the gears and so forth. Yet the Baghdad Battery lacks that excuse. It's simple enough to make. Copper tube, iron rod, acid, and bitumen. All things available to pre-industrial mankind. All things that could be manufactured with little in the way of fuss.

If they were useful, if they were a trick of anyone's trade, they should be all over the place. There should not be just one.

The man who discovered it, König, theorised that it was used for electroplating items with gold. A theory that was shot down by later evidence that the allegedly electroplated items were plated using mercury instead. No electricity there.

König wrote his paper in the late 1930's, a time when it was entirely possible to create evidence to match his theory and damn later science when the truth came to light. Heck, if I wanted to be charitable, I could say he made a mistake and fit the evidence available to suit his theory. It's entirely possible that König found an unrelated clay jar with traces of bitumen on its lid, and the other two 'ingredients' for the battery somewhere nearby.

It wasn't uncommon to seal vessels with pitch (tar or bitumen) in the days of yore. The iron rod could have been anything, and there's no real evidence that it corroded through contact with acid. Iron rots away pretty easily, after all. Meanwhile, the copper tube is in astonishingly good condition for something that has been in contact with acid and allegedly used as part of a battery.

It makes me wonder if König started with the theory of electroplating, and then had to make certain that electricity in that time was plausible.

Then there's the whole issue with the means of manufacture. Even supporters of the Baghdad Battery say that the copper tube was rolled. Was rolling metal even a thing back in the Iron Age?

From what I've seen of rolling sheet metal, I don't know if those manufacturing capabilities existed.

Oooh, but the aliens could have helped them, cry the true believers.

I just have one question - why?

I mean, we've proven beyond a doubt that one Baghdad Battery would have produced a truly shitty amount of electricity. The Mythbusters covered it in their earlier episodes and there's been no evidence of more than one of these suckers.

If the means to roll metal existed in the time it was made [224-640AD] and if it had a use beyond some means of some super-rich person showing off how much money they've got [ooh la la, I have this thing that took fourteen weeks to make by hand and it delivers a mild shock, aren't I fabulous f'nah, f'nah, f'nah...] wouldn't there be more of them than just this one that one dude found back in the 1930's?

Shouldn't other archeologists in the area be finding evidence of them? Shouldn't there be contemporary accounts from the area and era detailing the wonder that Lord Stickuphisarse had shown off at his Grand Galloping Gala? Shouldn't there be any other evidence than what König found on one dig in 1930-something?

Sure, there have been some other archeological finds like Sarchosuchis that were found once in 1930-whatever, destroyed/lost, and not found the likes of again until the modern era... but until they find more Baghdad Batteries in the ruins of the Parthian civilisation, I'm keeping this one in the History's Frauds folder.

I'm perfectly willing to be proven wrong, of course, but first - there has to be proof.