In 1938 an archaeologist in Iraq acquired a set of clay jars that had been excavated two years earlier by villagers constructing a railroad line. The vessel was about 2,200 years old. Each clay jar contained a copper cylinder surrounding an iron rod. The archaeologist proposed that vessels were ancient electric batteries and even demonstrated that they can produce a small electric current when filled with some liquids. However, it is not likely that the vessels were actually used as electric batteries in ancient times.
First of all, if the vessels were used as batteries, they would probably have been attached to some electricity conductors such as metal wires. But there is no evidence that any metal wires were located near the vessels. All that has been excavated are the vessels themselves.
Second, the copper cylinders inside the jars look exactly like copper cylinders discovered in the ruins of Seleucia, an ancient city located nearby. We know that the copper cylinders from Seleucia were used for holding scrolls of sacred texts, not for generating electricity. Since the cylinders found with the jars have the same shape, it is very likely they were used for holding scrolls as well. That no scrolls were found inside the jars can be explained by the fact that the scrolls simply disintegrated over the centuries.
Finally, what could ancient people have done with the electricity that the vessels were supposed to have generated? They had no devices that relied on electricity. As batteries, the vessels would have been completely useless to them.
The passage is arguing that the clay jar, contained a copper cylinder surrounding an iron rod, could not be used as a battery for some reason. However, the professor explained otherwise in the lecture.
First, the professor mentioned that the vessels were found by people, not archaeologists. Probably, there were some wires near the vessels, but people did not know its importance, and they seemed uninteresting to the people. Therefore, people threw away the wires.
Second, the professor explained, it is true that people used vessels for holding scrolls. Then, they realized that if an iron rod surrounds vessels, they can produce electricity.
Third, the professor mentioned that because electricity produces shock in someone who touches it, ancient doctors could use it for relieving pain or other treatments as the doctors use it now. Also, electricity could seem magical to people and attractive.
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