The Coso Artifact
In 1961, Wally Lane, Mike Mikesell and Virginia Maxey, co-owners of the LM&V Rockhounds Gem and Gift Shop in Olancha, California, went into the Coso Mountains to look for unusual rocks. They found a fossil-encrusted geode on February 13, 1961, on a mountain peak 4,300 feet high, about 340 feet above the dry Owens Lake, six miles northeast of Olancha. Geologists estimate that about 10,000 years ago, Owens Lake was as high as the top of the peak.
After Mike Mikesell had ruined a diamond saw blade in cutting it open, the geode proved to contain something strange. In the middle of the geode was a metal core, about .08 inch (2 millimeters) in diameter. Enclosing the core was what appeared to be a ceramic collar that was itself encased in a hexagonal sleeve carved out of wood that had, presumably at a later date, become petrified. Around the petrified wooden enclosure was the outer layer of the geode, consisting of hardened clay, pebbles, bits of fossil shell, and two nonmagnetic metallic objects resembling a nail and a washer. A fragment of copper still remaining between the ceramic and the petrified wood suggests that the two may once have been separated by a now decomposed copper sleeve. Later, the x-ray of the object would reveal a shape resembling a spark plug, according to the editor of INFO Journal (International Fortean Organization), Paul Willis. Based on an approximate stratification and the composition of the outer crust, the object has been dated from 250,000 to 500,000 BCE, but the name of the geologist who provided the dating is not mentioned in any source material.
A member of INFO visited Maxey and Lane. Maxey stated that the object isn't magnetic now (article printed in 1969), but she apparently said it was magnetic in a February, 1961 article in Desert Magazine. An INFO article concluded with the statement that no professional scientist has ever investigated the artifact, and that the owners are asking an exorbitant payment before they'll let anyone examine it.
If we assume that it is an alien artifact, or something left over from an advanced ancient culture and not just a fossil encrusted spark plug, what might it be? The construction is reminiscent of modern attempts at superconductors. If anyone would try to replicating the object using ceramic superconductors and then cooling it off with liquid nitrogen, it might be interesting to see what happens...
Batteries of Babylon
In 1938, Dr. Wilhelm Kong, an Austrian archaeologist rummaging through the basement of the museum, made a find that was to drastically alter all our concepts of "ancient knowledge." A 6-inch-high pot of bright yellow clay dating back two millennia contained a cylinder of sheet-copper 5 inches by 1.5 inches. The edge of the copper cylinder was soldered with a 60-40 lead-tin alloy comparable to today's solder. The bottom of the cylinder was capped with a crimped-in copper disk and sealed with bitumen or asphalt. Another insulating layer of asphalt sealed the top and also held in place an iron rod suspended into the center of the copper cylinder. The rod showed evidence of having been corroded with an acidic agent. With a background in mechanics, Dr. Konig recognized this configuration was not a chance arrangement -- the clay pot was nothing less than an ancient electric battery.
The ancient battery in the Baghdad Museum, as well as those others which were unearthed in Iraq, are all dated from the Parthian occupation between 248 BCE and 226 CE. However, Dr. Konig also found copper vases plated with silver in the Baghdad Museum, excavated from Sumerian sites in southern Iraq, dating back to at least 2500 BCE. When the vases were lightly tapped, a blue patina or film separated from the surface, which is characteristic of silver electroplated onto copper base. It would appear then that the Parthians inherited their batteries from one of the earliest known civilizations.
Several years ago, a theory was proposed that electrolyte-crushed wine grapes may have been used. It was put to the test with a positive result--a replica of the Baghdad cell generated 0.87V. Several cells, in serial arrangement, were sufficient for the electroplating of small objects.
It also seems that the use of similar batteries can be safely placed into ancient Egypt, where several objects with traces of electroplated precious metals have been found at different locations. There are several anomalous finds from other regions, which suggests use of electricity on a grander scale. One of them is the girdle from the tomb of Chinese general Chu (265-316 CE), which is made from an alloy of 85% aluminum with 10% copper and 5% manganese. The only viable method of production of aluminum from bauxite is electrolytic process, after alumina (aluminum chloride component of the ore) is dissolved in molten cryolite, patented in the middle of last century. Needless to say, the Baghdad type of batteries would not suffice, for quite a substantial dynamo-generated current is needed.
Dendera Glyphs, Djed, Ankh and Staff-Scepter
At the Hathor Temple in Dendera, Egypt, several intriguing glyphs are depicting strange scenes. In the opinion of a classical archeologist, there is hardly anything out of ordinary in the scenes, as ascertained by Dr. John Harris of Ashmolean Museum of Oxford University, upon an enquiry from Janet Gregory, a Representative of SITU in England.
"...The objects represent an elaborate form of the snake-stones-(granite) stelae with snakes on them-discussed by H. Kees in "Die Shclangensteine und Ihre Besiehungen zu den Reichsheiligrumern, Zeitschrift für Aegyptishe Sprache", LVII (1922) , p. 120-136. Their precise significance is difficult to summarize in brief, since in the course of time they acquired a wealth of religious associations, but essentially, they were apropraic in character, e.g., as guardians of doorways (in much the same way as obelisks and flagstaves). I append what Kees has to say about the scene in question* and the one parallel to it...from which you see that the stones here are connected with Horus 'sma-tawy' (Uniter of Two Lands), to whom the accompanying inscription referes. The objects supporting the stones, are incidentally, djed-pillars (symbolic of stability), and the double outlining of the larger figures is simply to indicate that there are two of them standing side-by-side.
*Yet it is possible to establish that the Snake (god) Patrons, whenever they appear prominently such as in Dendera, are definitely connected in the mythological sense with the identity of Harsomtus. He was obviously a genius of the art [of the snake cults] since he is so often mentioned in Dendera in relation to these. Harsomtus' connection with the snake cult is further established by other pictures of him in the form of a aptron climbing out of a lotus blossom-a religious motif forming, no doubts, the basis for the glyphs of the 'snake stones'. The close proximity of the gods of the Suns and the Heavens are undoubtedly responsible for the origin of the Snake-Stone tablets, the artist being fully aware of the ancient concepts of the signs for Patrons pro or con the god Horus."
Well... very nicely put, at least from an egyptologists' point of view. These snake-stones may have been set up on either side of entrances to temples or rooms assigned for the snake cult, supported by the symbols of stability, djed pillars, and held in place by priests. On the other hand, Ivan Troëng, a Swedish writer, was apparently not well read in the egyptology materials. In a book Kulturer Føre Istiden, 1964, he captioned a reproduction of the Dendera wall with the objects in question as: "The picture from Hall 5 [sic] of the Dendera Temple obviously shows electric lamps held by high-tension insulators".
The explanation of the glyphs stirred some passion amongst amateurs and experts alike. But then something curious happened: the book got noticed by electrical engineers. As a group of professionals who could not care less about what other experts think, they commented on the picture with an unequivocal 'wow!'. When shown the archeology experts' explanation of the glyphs, they found it simply hilarious, according to Ivan Sanderson's Investigating the Unexplained.
Let's assume for a moment that the egyptologists' explanation, hilarious or not, is correct. It can be argued that ancient Egyptians were very meticulous and pragmatic as far as their recordings were concerned. There was not much room for artistic license, bare the ability to arrange hieroglyphs in the most esthetic and space-conserving way. Their canon specified precisely how certain things and their relationship must be presented, as is apparent on the relationship reflected in the depiction of gods, kings and common people, according to their importance. The glyphs in Dendera strike me as odd in this context. You will notice that the depiction of Horus is rather small in comparison with people under the snake-stone, and the largest figure in the picture is not the priest (and even if there are two of them, holding the diorite stone of that size would be quite a feat), but the monkey with knives. The monkey represents in a symbolic form danger for the uninitiated. As it is the most prominent figure in the depiction, we have to assume that the danger inherent in the activity (whatever it was) must have been considerable.
Why on earth are the snake-stones (if that is what they are presumed to be) attached to some sort of a cord or cable, leading to a pedestal with Horus on the top of it in one case, and to the djed pillar in another? The cable depiction still bears traces of braiding-it is not a smooth cord but very much reminiscent to modern multipurpose cables. Then there is another mystery. The priests seem to be wearing some sort of goggles over their eyes (the second drawing does not contain the people, as it is only a schematic depiction of the objects in the scene). But if we forget the whole snake-stones business and look at these depictions as a representation of what they seem to imply, then certain symbols will start making some sense. The snake symbol happens to be very similar to the modern symbol of static electricity and Horus represented, amongst other things, lightning.
Another matter entirely are the texts which accompany the depiction. On the first look, they seem to support the conclusions of the egyptologysts about the mythological nature of the Dendera wall art. But it is known that the Egyptians (and not only ancient Egyptians, consider the medieval alchemy texts, for instance) used to embelish any technical information in a mythological form to obscure the meaning for an uninitiated reader. Many good examples of how far the ancients went in this respect are found in The Sacred Mashroom and the Cross, by John Allegro.
Ivan Sanderson gives an example of analyisis in an already mentioned publication, Investigating the Unexplained, done by an electromagnetics engineer, who knew nothing about the history or mythology of ancient Egyptians. It is necessary to quote him verbatim for contextual meaning:
"The items, as depicted, are most fascinating-certain elements, especially the cables, are virtually an exact copy of engineering illustrations as currently used. The cable is shown as very heavy, and striated-indicating a bundle of many conductors, rather than a single high voltage cable. As a matter of fact, a single high voltage cable would be much thinner; if the insulation was required to be that heavy for extreme high voltages, or moderately high voltages at high currents, rest assured that no technician would be holding the associated device. Corona leakage would 'get' him most swiftly. The supporting stands would be much taller and heavier to withstand such voltages. It is much more likely that the cable is, as stated, a multi-conductor, wrapped and insulated with an outer jacket. If this were a 'light bulb', the maximum size of both would be explainable by heavy current demands; but high voltage of such a size would not be required. It would seem to follow that moderately high voltages are in use; a connector is obviously employed; some type of supporting base to glass seal seems apparent.
However, the two 'bulbs' are not identical, as shown by the design on their sides [another depiction not displayed here was analysed-the snake symbol in the first bulb ended with a s-like curve, while the other one ended with a curve as seen in the drawings above - Ed.] and the base stand. I do not think that they are transparent, as the 'technician's' body is not visible through the device; it would seem more obvious that these are identifying markings, or coding (as a type number on a TV camera tube), probably indicating use of the device.
Since the cables seem to originate at the 'altar', one wonders if this is a manually controlled setup, or remotely controlled. Further, with both devices set at an angle, and shown aimed at the wall [in the glyph, both 'bulbs' are oriented in the same direction], could they not be the ancient equivalent of the modern TV projection system? One should note that the two 'technicians', especially the one on the left, seem to be wearing a mask device (eye shield?); and unless the drawing is badly reproduced, both have some sort of apparatus in their ears, suggesting the equivalent of modern TV cameraman's gear, complete with radio receiver and/or earphones for direct instructions during a 'show'.
It is necessary to acknowledge the possibility that the devices depicted in Dendera may have had entirely different purpose than what is suggested in the analysis. But the recognition of an electromagnetic aspect of the glyphs seem to fit far better than the mythological interpretation. Of course, considering that the Dendera glyphs have been 'explained' predominantly during the last century when many devices in use today were yet to be invented, one may understand the confusion of the scholars when trying to interpret their meaning. Thus a clear model of an airplane has been identified as 'wooden bird', for instance.
I would like to draw your attention towards the djed pillar. It appears in many different forms and combinations with other devices. Because of that, I have my doubts that the function of the pillar has been identified correctly in the analysis mentioned above. In the most wide use, it appears as a hieropglyph, representing the consonant 'dj'. In the glyphs where it has discernably a character of an object, egyptologists interpret it as a symbol of stability and, in some sense, that is what it well may have been when used as an element in jewelry, for instance; but even there are implied, in one form on another, its original functions. A typical example is a pendant, composed of a djed pilar inside an ankh, our already familiar Horus connecting the pillar with the loop of the ankh. The ankh is a symbol for life, but I am suspicious that it had another meaning, not dissimilar in its form to that of the djed pillar. Again, the ankh form may have had several meanings, depending on the context with other devices. We can use as an analogy the modern electronics schemes, in which the interpretation of any simple symbol is apparent from the context with other symbols.
As seen on the illustration, the djed pillar was apparently used in many different configurations. It does not necessarily mean that it did not have a single, specific purpose, maybe in some way reflected in the symbolic use of it for representing stability. The device's function as an insulator may be a fitting interpretation in some of the examples, but in others, it seems to be at odds with what the depiction represents. In several djed representations, fins on the stand below four horizontal rings are attached. In some interpretations, one of which is illustrated in Sanderson's book, they are vents for a battery located at the bottom of the pillar. There the pillar is interpreted as a static electricity generator, based on the configuration as follows: on the top of the pillar is an ankh, with two hands-holders pointing upwards and between their palms is a spherical object. Two 'priests', again with goggles, are facing the object. Six baboons, three on each side, are rising in what can be described as a receptive position, along the slope of a structure behind the device (a mountain?), towards the sphere. The baboons in this case may have quite mundane meaning; it is known that priests-technicians employed these creatures for menial jobs in the temples because of their 'professional moronism'-they, when trained, proved to be more reliable than humans as they lacked the human propensity for daydreaming.
Inside the djed, as the mentioned interpretation suggests, is an endless belt placed around two pulleys; at the bottom the battery deposits a charge by means of electrodes of the battery and as it moves constantly, the charge is carried to the ankh, which is in essence a combination of a discharge electrode and a surface spheroid (the upper loop). The charge is built up on the spherical surface until the potential is sufficient to bridge the gap to the sphere above. The discharge would appear as lightning. If the charge is powewrful enough, the upper sphere may start to glow, under certain conditions. Of course, this is just a speculation, but possibly closer to the actual purpose of the device than some mythological explanation.
Other interpretations of the djed pillar may be offered based on the Dendera glyphs. If we assume that the 'bulbs' are, in fact, electron/cathode ray tubes, it would make a sense to interpret the pillars as some kind of ray bending device. Based on the 'ring' used, a different function may have been achieved. This interpretation is suggested by the way the pillar is connected to the tube: in one case, the tube rests on the top of the pillar; in another the second ring is a base for two 'hands' reaching to the tube; in a third case it's the third ring from the top with arms holding the tube. The rings may be, in this case, magnets bending the ray.
Of all the glyphs, I consider the representation on the right one of the most intriguing. Its symmetry was the first thing which attracted my attention. As I looked at the drawing, I could not leave unnoticed the way the djed pillar encloses the two symetrically positioned objects. The objects themselves are strange. The loop portion resting on an omphalos reminds one of the upper portion of ankh. Is there a connection? If there is, then the ankh may be something different than how it has been interpreted in the example with spheres. The more I looked at the picture, the more the feeling that I was looking at something conceptually quite modern gained in intensity. If we assume that the rings on the djed are magnets (or wiring with the function of generating the magnetic field), then the loops placed on the symetrically positioned omphaloses may represent one of the two, either a stator or a rotor. What we see here is, possibly, a very, very ancient electric motor, albeit in a schematic form.
On the ankh illustration (combined with the djed in the center) is another object-a shaft or scepter. It seems that the combination is not coincidential: it has another meaning, albeit the use on a pendulum would suggest a more symbolic meaning. But if it is symbolic, then there is only one option, in the contextual sense. All the objects-the ankh, the djed and the staff-must be related to power, or to express it more accurately, to a force. The ankh, for instance, is generally interpreted as a symbol for life, but may infer in context that something is alive. It may be a coincidence, how an electrician would say that one of the wires in your electric installation is live, but it is tempting to assume that the ancients would handle certain concepts in a similar way. What could be a better way to illustrate the flow of a force?
The staff-scepter, before utilized by kings as a symbol of power, was in use by gods. Logically, there would not be that kind of attribute connected to the scepter if there were no basis for such a connection. (It is not the purpose of this article to identify the gods, for even if they were the originators of the suggested devices, the subject is beyond the preset scope.) That the staff-scepter has a connection to a force, power, energy is ascertained in myths, which not only originated in Egypt, but are corroborated also in Mesopotamian and Indus Valley materials. The gods have different names, but their attributes, that is, devices they used, are the same. The staff-scepter is described in all these sources as a paralyzing device, a personal weapon of the gods when pacifying the humans was the only way left to show who is the boss.
Text and Illustrations ©1996 Lumir G. Janku
The Modern Past
Skulls from Ica, Peru and Merida, Mexico
Batteries and Electric Devices