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Amazing Ancient Artifacts: Did the Ancients Have Modern Technology?

Nell is fascinated by ancient history, archaeology, and ancestry. Where do we come from? And what makes us who we are today?

Archaeology and Artifacts

Ancient artifacts are being found all the time, especially in Egypt. There is still a great interest in the Valley of the Kings and Queens, and ever since the discovery of Tutankhamun, our interest has surged towards Archaeology and all its great discoveries. All around the world, we seem to hear about new finds explaining how a tribe lived, or fascinating objects that helped the Egyptian mummies into the next life. However many times we watch this on TV, it never fails to astound us at how these ancient civilizations managed to make this, or that. But to a certain degree, we can understand their way of making knives, and intricate jewelry. In fact, a lot of these ancient ideas are coming back, and archaeologists and paleontologists are always keen to learn the old skills.

But what happens when we suddenly find ourselves confronted with something that we feel is so overwhelmingly wrong, that it sends shivers down our spine? Imagine the scenario. You are digging in a cave, thousands and thousands of years old. You come across a bone that is obviously, on closer study, from an ancient human being who has been buried in his clothes and surrounded by pots. So far so good. You can date him without too much research on what is there and how many. You have done it so many times before. Then, when the skeleton has been removed you notice something underneath him in the ground. You reach down and slowly and very gently pick up the shiny object lying in the dust and dirt. A puzzled look comes onto your face. But it can't be! That's not possible . . . !

Ancient Technology

Scientists are having to rethink their way of carbon dating, and more importantly, their way of looking at the ancient world. Because things are not what they seem. The Ancients were definitely not primitive, and in some cases, they seem to be scarily too advanced for their time!

Drawing of the Baghdad Battery

Drawing of the Baghdad Battery

The Baghdad Battery (or Parthian Battery)

In 1936 workers excavating ruins of a 2000-year-old village close to Baghdad discovered a strange small vase. They couldn't figure out what it was for. It consisted of a 6-inch high pot of bright yellow clay. After dating it, they found it was exactly the age of the village. 2000 years old. Nothing unusual about that until they opened it. It contained a cylinder of sheet copper 5 inches by 1.5. At the edge of the copper cylinder, they noticed that it had been soldered with a 60-40 lead-tin alloy similar to today's solder! Even stranger was the fact that the bottom was capped with a copper disk and sealed with bitumen or something similar. Inside the copper cylinder, there was a suspended iron rod. The top of the cylinder was also capped and sealed with bitumen. The rod had been badly corroded with an acidic agent.

So what does this mean exactly? Well, there are two theories about this. Both of them pretty radical! The first theory believes that it may be a galvanic cell for electroplating gold onto silver, this idea first became popular in 1938 by Wilhelm Konig, the German director of the national museum of Iraq. Alessandro Volta invented the same thing in 1800! or so he thought.

And the second explanation is that it is a battery! There have in fact been found a number of these 'Batteries' since then. They are believed to have been invented in Mesopotamia and Iraq, between the ages of 248 BCE and 226 CE. Or BC and AD at the time of the Parthian occupation.

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Other objects were found with a patina of silver on copper. When tested, they reacted in a way typical of soldering metals like we use today. The batteries have been tested and produces only a tiny amount of electricity, but they do indeed work! Evidently the Ancient Greeks used something called 'Electric Fish' to reduce pain by applying to the soles of the feet. Seems they were in on the secret too!

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The Antikythera Mechanism

So, it seems that we weren't the first people to do this sort of thing! Why did we ever think we were?! Okay, let's think about this for a moment. Man has been on this planet for thousands of years. We know that for a fact. We have carbon dating, fossils and prehistoric man to prove that. But we never seem to take enough notice of what happened in the middle! Maybe ten thousand years ago, or even fifty. By this time we had evolved into the beings that we are today. The only difference is that we didn't have the technology or the know-how to do it. The materials were there but we always presumed that nobody had the intelligence to make these things. But why? Is it modern man's vanity that we think we are better than people in the past? Yes, I do believe it is. So I will go onto the next interesting artifact.

ancient-artifacts-amazing-finds-that-defy-explanation-ancient-civilizations-with-modern-technology
ancient-artifacts-amazing-finds-that-defy-explanation-ancient-civilizations-with-modern-technology

The Antikythera mechanism is a computer-like device that is designed to calculate astronomical positions. It has the precision of a 19th-century Swiss clock. The only thing is that it is believed to be around two and a half thousand years old! it was found in the ocean by sponge divers near the island of Kythera, Greece in 1900–01. They found it on the Antikythera wreck. There is a Scientific Research project studying this object and it has left the world of science very excited. Every dial and mechanism can be seen on this object, and scientists are constantly struggling to understand how it worked and what the symbols mean. There is nothing like this anywhere else in the world. Not only that, it is not mentioned in any historical book or record. Maybe it was one of it's kind, or it could have been so proficient that it wasn't worth mentioning. There were many ships back in those days, trading from country to country, perhaps each and every one had this mechanism.

It is known as the oldest scientific calculator—also known as the analogue computer. It is based on complex astronomy and mathematics. Having over 80 parts, it is believed that we could not possibly have known how to make this until at least the 16th Century!

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Hero's Steam Engine

Hero, or Heron as he was known, was a scientist, inventor, and engineer. He lived in Alexandria in the First Century AD/CE. He was an author of engineering books and unique inventions. He worked in the famous Alexandria library. He was a man well before his time, and his knowledge of how to use and produce steam for his inventions was very clever considering the age that he lived in. In his book Pneumatica, he talks about his invention called the Aeolipile also known as 'Hero's Engine'. Along with numerous other inventions, this one was probably the most spectacular. It consisted of a water-filled metal ball with opposing bent tubes, which would spin under the force of steam pumped under pressure. Although it was believed that he never actually made a large steam engine, he did use the concept to open and close stage curtains or with the help of pulleys and ropes, he managed to open the heavy temple doors, much to the envy of his fellow inventors! But he was a clever man, he is deemed to have been the first man to invent automated statues, therefore making him the inventor of Robotics!

His other inventions were the first vending machine, which worked by a combination of coins and weights, a syringe for air or liquids, and a very clever pulley and mechanical device for entertainment, the earliest form of clockwork. Also, a very clever fountain that operates under hydrostatic energy! This was named Heron's Fountain. A very clever man.