Anomalously old technology

One of the favourite types of out-of-place artefact is unusually early technology, from electric batteries in ancient Iraq to images of helicopters and jet fighters on Egyptian temples. It has to be said that most of the ‘evidence’ presented is extraordinarily weak: rather than the artefacts themselves, crafted with a degree of technical sophistication that ought to rival or outstrip our own, we are instead invited to consider images. Some of these images are tiny, consisting of scratches on a Mesopotamian cylinder seal, while others only depict what they are claimed to show if we use our imaginations, like the images of ‘electric light bulbs’ found in Egyptian art. None of this evidence really stands up to even the slightest scrutiny.

7 Replies to “Anomalously old technology”

  1. With the Baghdad battery, the only thing missing was the lemon juice or similar electrolyte which of course would have long evaporated. Researchers have recreated the battery, and using lemon juice, got similar voltage to a standard single cell battery. This evidence does stand up to considerable scrutiny. Its quite easy of course to dismiss something on a whim, but it is a logical fallacy

    1. Yes, I point out that researchers have been able to make it function as a battery. The problem is that because it can be made to do so does not necessarily mean that it was meant to do so. Cowboy films depict barroom brawls where men use chairs as offensive weapons, but they are designed as seats.

      There are two problems with the battery idea. Firstly, the iron rod and copper top of the original are sealed beneath the bitumen, meaning that any electricity generated within the object could not be gathered. Secondly, the closest parallels for these objects are as secure storage for religious writings. It seems odd that one would store sacred texts in an electric cell.

      1. I enjoy the humor of you likening the chair to the supposed battery, but this is really more of a huge technology at that time so it would really be more like you saying “a car is used to store people because we didn’t find gas in it”

  2. Hi Keith,

    When we buy batteries we get a plastic cover at the top to prevent leakages and ensures the life of battery. The idea might have been to give a shock to thieves trying to steal this books.

    with regards,
    Ashok

  3. ok then, to all, fan or foe of misplaced technology… someone PLEASE explain the movement and paper prohibitive placement, or purpose for that matter, of the “Stones on the Hill” at Oyantetumbo….

  4. The idea that past civilizations were technological inferior is an assumption archeology can not afford to make because it sets up a bias for doing research backward (collecting data to support your own hypothesis regardless if it is accurate or not). Just because our idea of technology doesn’t meet our expectation of what a civilization should be (i.e. inferior to our present one) doesn’t mean that is how it was. Knowledge has been lost over the ages, methods of passing information has changed etc. so it is quite reasonable, for instance in the case of the ancient batteries, to reach the conclusion the technology was present or reached. Especially since it has been reproducible and just because it doesn’t mirror our present levels doesn’t make it inferior or false.

    1. I would never claim that ancient technology is “inferior” to ours: that’s a value-laden judgement and one that no-one with any pretence to scientific rigour should make. Ancient technology was different from our own and differed between socieites. So when Bad Archaeologists start claiming that the Ancient Egyptians must have had electricity because something that could be made to work as an electric battery was produced in Ancient Parthia, that’s when I would have to cry “foul!”.

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