The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
The Purpose of the Parthian Galvanic Cells:
A First-Century A. D. Electric Battery Used for Analgesia*
By: Paul T. Keyser
University of Alberta, Edmonton
Parthian galvanic cells (electric batteries) have been known for some fifty
years but have never been scientifically published, have heretofore seemed
embarassingly out of context, and have received little scientific treatment
since their first publication. I have examined the find and some similar,
probably parallel, finds and have considered how the device might have been
invented and what the electrolyte might have been. The usual hypothesis, which
was proposed by Wilhelm König, who first published the find, is that the
purpose of the cells was electroplating, but I argue that this is impossible.
Rather, I suggest a purpose, more in keeping with the technological and
scientific milieu, as a substitute for the use of electric fish as a local
analgesic (attested in the first century A.D. and later). Such an application is
supported by the modern clinical practice of transcutaneous electrical nerve
THE DISCOVERY AND DISCUSSION
than fifty years ago the Austrian painter and director of the Baghdad Museum and
Iraq Antiquities Department Wilhelm König reported the discovery of an ancient
The device consists of an ovoid ceramic jar about 14 cm tall and 8 cm in
diameter. In the 3.3 cm opening was seta 9.8 cm long, 2.6 cm diameter tube
formed of rolled and soldered copper sheet, affixed by means of asphalt. The
tube was closed at the bottom with a copper disk sealed and covered with a 0.3
cm layer of asphalt. Down the axis of the copper tube an iron rod was suspended
from the upper asphalt plug; the rod was about 7.5 cm long (see fig. 1). Both
copper and iron projected above the upper asphalt plug. The object was found by
members of the Iraq Antiquities Department in the course of regular excavations
in an undisturbed stratum of a Parthian settlement site (the modern Khujut
Rabou'a near Baghdad)
in association with magical bowls, and is dated to the first century B.C. or the
first century A.D.
(below I argue for the latter).
artifacts have been found elsewhere, dating to the Sasanian period, sometimes in
association with magical objects. Near the ancient Seleucia-on-Tigris (40 km
downstream from Baghdad), such devices, stuffed with papyrus and lacking the
internal iron rod, but in close association with iron and bronze needles, were
found in what appeared to be a magician's house (see fig. 2).
Several pottery jugs have been found at Ctesiphon (fig. 3 shows one), in each of
which were cylinders of bronze, sealed at both ends and filled with organic
König considered the Seleucian and Ctesiphontine finds parallel, but the
absence of the internal iron electrode elicits hesitation.
Parthian device so closely resembles a wet-cell (i.e., galvanic cell with liquid
electrolyte) that König assumed it was one. Various features of the
construction point in that direction. The asphalt seal indicates the presence of
and almost all available liquids (save vegetable and mineral oils) were acidic.
The presence of dissimilar metals in an acid generates a potential difference
and is the key feature of a Voltaic pile. The otherwise useless 0.3-cm asphalt
layer on the bottom would serve to prevent the possible shorting of the iron rod
to the copper bottom (cf. fig. 4). Asphalt is an inert, water-resistant
It is indeed difficult to see what else the device could be.
the purpose of the device, as well as its origin, has remained an enigma. Konig
suggested electroplating, and most commentators have followed him without
examining the possibility of such a discovery in the ancient context.
Others have doubted the likelihood of such a use or experimented with models and
various electrolytes such as vinegar or copper sulfate solution.
These points are considered in order: origin, electroplating, and the
electrolyte, all of which lead to the consideration of the purpose.
POSSIBLE ORIGIN AND THE UNLIKELIHOOD OF ELECTROPLATING
is difficult, if not impossible, to see how, on any known ancient theory of
matter or its effects, the galvanic activity of dissimilar metals in an
electrolyte could have been predicted. While that negative statement is
difficult to prove, I should prefer to propose an accidental discovery. Had
anyone ever used a bronze spoon in an iron bowl (or vice versa) containing
vinegar, for example, the tingling produced in the hand or lip touching both
bowl and spoon would be noticed. Such an effect might well have long remained a
produce about 0.5 V at a few thousandths of an amp (compare a modern flashlight
battery which produces 1.5 V at several tenths of an amp, i.e., several hundred
times the power). The iron is the negative "pole" or
"electrode”. The voltage depends only on the two metals, while the
current depends on the electrolyte. The output of the models
is insufficient to accomplish much in the way of electroplating.
These cells would have a short "shelf life" of a few weeks,
as the electrolyte would tend to consume the iron electrode and depolarize the
cell (see below). This may explain the absence of the internal iron electrode in
the later examples–perhaps they
were only emplaced during actual use.
process of electroplating is sufficiently complex that it was unlikely to be
discovered accidentally. A galvanic cell is composed of two dissimilar metals in
an electrolyte, and no such cell can generate sufficient voltage to reduce the
more electronegative metal (here the iron of the cathode) at the surface of the
more electropositive (here the copper of the anode). True electroplating occurs
when a voltage is connected across two pieces of metal, i.e., the electrodes are
immersed in an electrolyte capable of dissolving the metal of the anode
(positive electrode) or which already contains ions of some metal in solution;
in either case the dissolved metal ions plate out on the cathode (negative
Thus two cells would be required-the voltage-generating cell and the plating
which can occur when a less noble metal is immersed in a solution of a more
noble metal–iron in a copper-ion solution or copper in a gold-ion solution,
for example–might have been discovered accidentally, had the ancients had any
way of dissolving noble metals. Now silver will dissolve in nitric acid, and
gold only in the nitric-hydrochloric acid mixture aqua regia, but the
"mineral" acids such as these were not isolated before ca. A.D. 1300.
The complex salt-saltpeter-alum solution, which is equivalent to aqua regia,
apparently used by the Moche Indians in Peru (first-sixth centuries A.D.) to
dissolve gold and silver seems remote.
The dissolution of copper in acetic acid is possible and was practiced: the
product is ίός or aerugo/aeraca.
Moreover, the alchemists report the (electrodeless) deposition of copper on iron
from copper sulfate solutions.
not only is the discovery of electroplating before the development of the modern
electrical and chemical theories (by Faraday, A.D. 1833)
extremely unlikely on theoretical grounds, there is an insurmountable practical
difficulty. As just noted in connection with electrodeless plating, it was not
possible to make an aquaeous solution of gold or silver in antiquity. But a
solution of the metal ions to be plated is required for electroplating (as noted
above). This difficulty seems not to have been appreciated by any of the
commentators adopting or questioning the electroplating hypothesis.
Electroplating is no more likely than electric telegraphy, for example:
the technological context is absent.
there were simple and effective methods of plating gold on silver or copper, or
silver on copper, available from Sumerian times (as is shown by various plated
One method practiced in antiquity was the etching of baser gold alloys to remove
those portions of the surface composed of base metal and so leave a
gold-enriched surface-"surface leaching," "surface
enrichment," or "pickling"; the cementation process was applied
to leach silver from a silver-gold alloy to gild the object.
Numismatic evidence suggests that other methods were used: silver foil
eutectically fused or soldered to a copper base or dipping the base-metal coin
in molten silver chloride (cerargyrite), for example.
The method of choice attested in the ancient world (at least from the first
century B.C. to the first century A.D.) was mercury-amalgamation plating,
attested also at P. Leyden X 26 and 55. A similar process is alloying the noble
metal with lead at P. Leyden X 37:
in both cases the noble-metal/base-metal alloy was applied to the copper and the
object subsequently heated to evaporate the base metal.
THE ELECTROLYTE IN THE PARTHIAN GALVANIC
commentators have suggested various possibilities. Konig imagined gold cyanide
which is impossible, or salt water. W. Ley and H. M. Schwalb report a model
containing copper sulfate solution-possible (see above),
although Schwalb notes that acetic or citric acids would also work and were
known. The same pair of possibilities, vinegar and lemon juice, is suggested by
E. K. Hornauer, followed by H. Winkler.
A. Al-Haik suggests wine or vinegar.
is another possibility. Already in Sumerian times distillation was practiced in
Experiments have been conducted with models of ancient stills,
which show that it was possible to concentrate acetic acid from vinegar
(although it was easier to separate ethanol [grain alcohol] from water). The
parallel case of the distillation of alcohol is suggestive: the evidence
indicates that it was accomplished by the first century A.D.
Note that during this period (first century B.C. – first century A.D.) at
least two instances are reported of inflamed wine, presumably brandy (distilled
wine), as ordinary wine will not burn.
Moreover, both wine and soured wine (vinegar) were considered to be liquids
containing the "Hot" principle
(in the widely accepted Four-Element theory);
if adding heat to one "Hot" liquid made it more efficacious, why not
another? R. J. Forbes notes that vinegar was the only strong acid in antiquity,
and there is some Assyrian evidence of an especially strong form, i.e., possibly
Thus I would suggest that besides citric acid and vinegar, distilled vinegar was
also possible and even likely.
own tests showed that a salt solution (i.e., NaCl at ca. 10%) rapidly corroded
the iron, depolarizing the cell so that the voltage dropped to ca. 0.4 V within
less than one minute; xakxavOov (copper sulfate solution, 10% by volume)
produced about 0.45 V for several hours only, until the accumulation of copper
on the iron depolarized the cell. Citric acid in the form of freshly squeezed
grapefruit juice and acetic acid (glacial acetic acid diluted to 25%, 36%, and
50% by volume) produced 0.49 V, with slow depolarization (all voltages are t
POSSIBLE MEDICAL PURPOSE
suggestion of a medical purpose for this device is not based on a deduction
since we lack the evidence, but on an induction, as any attempt to determine the
purpose of any archaeological artifact in the absence of clear parallels and
literary attestation must be. Such an induction or intuition must remain
hypothetical until further confirming evidence is forthcoming. Any such
suggestion must take into account the complete context (archaeological,
cultural, and technological) of the device and must also account for its
though having its own sources of cultural strength, was surely a buffer state
between the Romans and the Indian and Chinese realms.
The Roman trade with Parthia passed through Dura-Europus and Palmyra
and from there to Seleucia along the Silk Road.
Influence passed from Rome to China and back
making Seleucia an entrepot for East-West trade in ideas as well as goods.
From A.D. 43 the city shows a greater predominance of Oriental influence.
Medical influence passed from Rome to China with the drug trade: storax = suho,
frankincense = hs0lu, henna = chia-chia, theriaca = tiyehka.
That the devices are found in Seleucia and merely 40 km north suggests that
their use and purpose might be sought in the marriage of Chinese and Roman ideas
on fertile Mesopotamian soil.
medical practice included a number of elements conducive to the reception of an
electrotherapeutic device of this sort. In Akkadian and Babylonian medicine,
following the normative Sumerian practice, two "colleges" of
physicians were recognized-the asū and the āšipu.
The asū was responsible for prescriptions and incantations, which
were formulaic and traditional (the wording is unchanged over a millennium),
and he was considered a craftsman or technician and was associated with
the devices were found in magical contexts. The āšipu, on the other
hand, practiced divination and diagnosis from the patient's symptoms, but not
therapy, and gained status over the asū in Late Babylonian times.
The Mesopotamian therapy was typically non-invasive,
using drugs in preference to surgery: one common drug component was vinegar.
Little is known of Parthian medicine, but it likely included most of the
traditional elements of Mesopotamian medicine;
the Chaldean tradition continued under the Greeks,
and the Parthians typically tolerated local rulers and customs.
is known of Chinese medicine during the Han period, which is nearly coterminous
with the Parthian era,
but acupuncture was already a standard practice since at least the Chou Dynasty
(i.e., before the Han). Acupuncture is described in the Huang Ti Nei Ching
(the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine), variously dated, but no
later than the first century A.D.
This may explain the fact that bronze and iron "needles" are found
with the Seleucian devices.
critical stimulus was, I believe, provided by the Greco-Roman use of electric
fish as an analgesic. In the mid-first century A.D. (ca. A.D. 47-48), Scribonius
first records the practice of applying the torpedo ocellata
as an analgesic for headache (Compositiones 11) and gout (Compositiones
162). The recipe for gout indicates the method:
utramlibet podagram torpedinem nigram uiuam, cum accesserit dolor, subicere
pedibus oportet tantibus in litore non sicco, sed quod alluit mare, donec
sentiat torpere pedem totum et tibiam usque ad genua. hoc et in presenti tollit
dolorem et in futurum remediat.
any sort of podagria (foot-gout): when the pain comes on, it is good for one to
put a living black torpedo-fish under his feet while standing on a beach (not
dry but one on which the sea washes), until he feels that his whole foot and
shank are numb just up to the knees. This will both relieve the current pain and
alleviate future recurrences.
numbing effect had long been known.
The ability of the electric ray to transmit its discharge was reported by Heron
and Pliny in the late first century A.D.
Heron even singles out as conductors iron and bronze, just the materials used in
the cell and the needles. The transmission of the discharge was probably known
fish of one species or another are found in the Mediterranean and in the Nile
but not in the Persian Gulf or the Tigris-Euphrates system. Is it possible that
some Parthian asū began applying the long-known galvanic tingling
produced by dissimilar metals in an electrolyte, perhaps with conductive
acupuncture needles of bronze and iron, as a substitute for the Greco-Roman
medical practice provides an instructive parallel
First it must be noted that the current produced in the cell models (ca. 1
milliamp [mA]) is readily detectible on the skin or tongue and especially in
cuts or punctures.
Since the publication of R. Melzack and P. D. Wall's "Gate Theory of
Pain" twenty-five years ago
electrically induced analgesia (and anaesthesia) has been subjected to an
increasing number of successful clinical tests.
electrical parameters vary but for (partial) local analgesia are a current of
roughly a few milliamps at a voltage of a few volts (and both direct current and
alternating current up to 700 Hz are used): such analgesia might well have been
produced by a device such as the Parthian cell. Three other effects have been
investigated with clinical success in modern times as well: (1) trauma healing
involving currents of 0.2 to 1.0 mA, voltages of 0.8 to 1.4 V, direct current;
(2) bone regeneration,
involving currents of 0.001 to 1.0 mA, voltages of about 1 V, and direct current
(or alternating current up to 1Hz; though the approach is sometimes
contraindicated due to concern about induced osteogenic sarcomas);
and (3) the still-controversial induced remission of malignant tumors.
The Parthian cells may not have been used for any particular one of these
purposes: the bone regeneration and tumor regression results cited above involve
implanted electrodes-unlikely in first century A.D. Babylon. That the cells
generate currents and voltages shown in modern times to be of positive clinical
effect tends to confirm the possibility that they could have had a medical
purpose in Parthia.
DATE OF THE DEVICE
object is stratigraphically dated to the first century B.C. to the first century
I am unaware of any attempt to apply thermoluminescence to the clay fabric; 1°C
dating of the iron may be possible,
and X-Ray fluorescence tests of the metals (copper, iron, solder) for
characteristic impurities might confirm a dating. Given the suggested medical
purposes, it may be possible to narrow the date to the first century A.D.
the use of papyrus is first attested for Parthia during the same period (Pliny
13.22) might provide a terminus post quem were we certain that the
devices always involved, as the Seleucian and Ctesiphontine models seem to
involve the use of papyrus. That the distillation of vinegar followed that of
alcohol is likely, and that the distillation of alcohol is first attested in
late first century B.C. might provide nearly the same terminus were we
certain that the electrolyte was distilled vinegar. That Seleucia shows greater
Oriental influence after A.D. 43 might provide a similar terminus were we
certain that a necessary stimulus came along the Silk Road from the East.
reliable than these is the fact that the use of living electric fish as an
analgesic is first attested during the first century A.D., and any medical
application of this device must be later.
Hence, the passages cited provide a terminus post quem.
Parthian galvanic cells seem to have parallels (though crucial details differ)
in the Sasanian period and could not have been used for electroplating. This
re-opens the question of their application. Various details of the device, the
ancient context, and modern medical practice combine to make it possible and
even likely that the cells were used as a local electrical analgesic. The
inventor was likely a Parthian asū, and the devices were associated
with magicians and so never entered Greco-Roman science.
these electric batteries, we are struck by the foregone opportunities, but in
their context, they were merely one not necessarily very effective tool of
practical, magic-using physicians on the edges of the Greco-Roman world. In such
a context, opportunities such as electroplating did not exist (to say nothing of
electric heat, telegraphy, electromagnets, and electric lights). I would prefer
to view the devices in light of the ancient outlook and seek an explanation
therein (whether as substitute ichthyoelectroanalgesia or otherwise). It is
probable that the device later became merely a conjurors' trick and gradually
faded from view, just as the magicians of Mesopotamia did.
W. König, "Ein galvanisches Element aus der Partherzeit?," Forschungen
and Fortschritte 14 (1938): 8-9, and idem, Im Verlorenen ParadiesNeun
Jahre Irak (Munich and Vienna, 1939), pp. 166-68, pl. between pp.
biographical information, see Neun Jahre lrak, pp. 3-4. Wilhelm König
was a member of the "Warka Expedition" of the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft;
I have been unable to locate other biographical information.
Idem, "Galvanisches Element," and A. Al-Haik, "The Rabbou'a
Galvanic Cell," Sumer 20 (1964): 103-4.
Rolf Stucky, in Eva Strommenger, ed., Der Garten in Eden: 7
Jahrtausende Kunst and Kultur an Euphrat and Tigris (Mainz am Rhein,
1978), p. 211 (no. 183). I
am indebted to Max Kunze and Ralf B. Wartke of the Staatliche Museen zu
Berlin for this reference and a pleasant hour of discussion.
Leroy Waterman, Preliminary Report upon the Excavations at Tel Umar
(Ann Arbor, 1931), vol. 1, pp. 61-62, pl. 12.
E. Kuhnel et al., Die Ausgrabung der zweiten Ktesiphon-Expedition
1931/32 (Berlin, 1933), p. 28, pl. 45.
Bitumen was, in fact, the normal Mesopotamian (cf Strabo 16.1.9, 15) and
Parthian seal. See N. C. Debevoise, Parthian Pottery from Seleucia on the
Tigris, University of Michigan Studies, Humanistic Series 32 (Ann Arbor,
1934), p. 18, and R. J. Forbes, Studies in Ancient Technology (Leiden,
1964), pp. 74-80, 9095; the Greco-Roman seal was resin (cf. Pliny 14.25).
See M. Wheeler, Rome beyond the Imperial Frontiers (London, 1954;
reprint New York, 1971), p. 149, and A. Lucas, Ancient Egyptian Materials
and Industries, 4th ed., rev. (London,
1962), pp. 19-20.
H. Winkler, "Galvani and Volta nut Wiederentdecker-Eine dringend
notwendige Berichtigung," Elektrie 14 (1960): 71-72, here p. 72.
thank Werner Krenkel for this reference.
G. Gamow, The Birth and Death of the Sun (New York, 1940), pp. 33-34,
fig. 7; 2d ed. (New York, 1952), pp. 29-30, fig. 7; W. Ley, "The
Elements of Khujut Rabu'a and Ctesiphon," Galaxy 9/3 (December 1954):
44-51; [Anonymous], "Batteries B.C.," The Laboratory 25/4
(1956-57): 112-13, reprinted (with very few verbal changes) as H. M. Schwalb,
"Electric Batteries of 2,000 Years Ago," Science Digest
41/4 (April 1957): 17-19; [Anonymous], "Kannte man schon vor 2000
Jahren galvanischen Elemente?," Elektro-Welt. Ausgabe
B. lndustrielle Elektrotechnik 4 (1959): 176; E. K. Hornauer, "Elektrische
Batterien-vor 2000 Jahren," Elektro-Nachrichten 11/1 (1959): 15;
and L. Sprague de Camp, The Ancient Engineers (New York, 1960;
reprint Cambridge, Mass., 1970), p. 234; 2d ed. (New
York, 1974), p. 252.
Winkler, "Wiederentdecker," pp. 71-72; W. Winton, "Baghdad
Batteries B.C.," Sumer 18 (1962): 8687, pl. 1; Al-Haik, "Galvanic
Cell"; Stucky, Garten in Eden; and [Anonymous] in Science Digest
90/2 (February 1982): 24.
Schwalb, "Electric Batteries"; Winkler, "Wiederentdecker";
and Al-Haik, "Galvanic Cell." My own model (see below) is similar.
Contra Al-Haik, "Galvanic Cell," p. 104.
At 1mA it would take about 1.1 days to plate 1gm of silver and thus would
not be economically worthwhile. For Faraday's Law, and the constants used to
calculate the time, see W. Blum and G. B. Hogaboom, Principles of
Electroplating and Electroforming, 3d ed. (New York, 1949), pp. 39-40,
or G. Langbein, Electro-deposition of Metals, 8th ed., trans. and ed.
W. T. Brannt (New York, 1920), pp. 62-63.
Al-Haik, "Galvanic Cell," reports eighteen days.
I simplify-if the electrolyte contain metal ions, the anode typically is
insoluable, carbon, platinum, or titanium being common, as is usually the
case in gold plating. See Blum and Hogaboom, Electroplating,
pp.288-306 (gold); Langbein, Elecrrodeposition, pp. 454-69 (silver),
505-19 (gold); F. A. (gold), 358-68 (silver); or A. Watt and Arnold Philip, The
Electroplating and Elecrrorefining of Metals, 2d ed. (London and New
York, 1911), pp. 17484 (fold), 227-38 (silver).
Again I simplify: in true electrodeless plating the solution contains its
own reducing agent and the basis metal acts only as a catalyst, while in
"electrochemical replacement" the basis metal acts as both anode
and cathode of the cell driving the plating. See Lowenheim, Electroplating,
pp. 710-11 (general), 241-42 and 741-42 (gold), and 742 (silver); Blum and
Hogaboom, Electroplating, p. 306 (gold).
E. O. von Lippmann, Entstehung and Ausbreitung der Alchemie (Berlin, 1931),
vol. 1, s.v. Acetum (p. 3), and s.v. Mineralsäuren (pp. 146-47) and idem in
ibid., vol. 3 (Weinheim, 1954), s.v. Säuren (mineralischen) (p. -119); R.
J. Forbes, Studies in Ancient Technology (Leiden, 1965), vol. 3, p.
80; J. R. Partington, Origins and Development of Applied Chemistry (London,
1935), p. 486; and R. J. Forbes, "The Evolution of the Still," Proceedings
of the Chemical Society (London) (1942): 237-42, here p. 238. On the
other hand, though I remain skeptical, Reginald Campbell Thompson, Dictionary
of Assyrian Chemistry and Geology (Oxford, 1936), pp. xxxi-vi, argues
that the Assyrians perhaps did know of sulfuric acid (H2SO4, oil of
vitriol), since they had green vit riol (Fe2[SO4]3, pp. 89-91) and red
vitriol (Fe2O3, pp. 97-98), and oil of vitriol can be obtained by distilling
green vitriol solution (the residue being red vitriol), but the Assyrian
words given by Thompson for red and green vitriol are not related (as they
would be if they obtained red vitriol by this process), and Thompson can
only offer "with great caution" a hapax legomenon of
uncertain interpretation as the Assyrian word for oil of vitriol (pp.
100-104). Even so, neither silver nor gold will dissolve in sulfuric acid.
H. Lechtman, "A Pre-Columbian Technique for Electrochemical Plating of
Gold and Silver on Copper Objects," Journal of Metals 31 (1979):
154-60: note that to use the solution to plate, it must be neutralized with
baking soda, for example. I am indebted to Michael N. Geselowitz for
bringing this reference to my attention.
Theophrastos De lapidibus 57, Vitruvius 7.12.1, Dioskorides Materia
medica 5.79, Pliny 34.110-1. K. C. Bailey, The Elder Pliny's Chapters on
Chemical Subjects (London, 1932), vol. 2, p. 172. Often used in
medicine: cited twenty-four times in Dioskorides Euporista.
M. P. E. Berthelot, Collection des anciens alchimistes grecs (Paris,
1887), vol. 1, pp. 241-42, and Langbein, Electrodeposition, p. 1. (I
have been unable to locate the precise reference in Zosimos of Panopolis to
which these authors refer.) The effect is rapid: a 10% by weight solution of
CUSO4.5H2O in water completely plated the immersed portion of a freshly
cleaned iron nail in five seconds. Despite this, the cell will work with a
copper sulfate solution, as my tests showed (see below).
cf. Strabo 3.4.15, 16.6.5; Dioskorides Materia medica 5.98-99; Pliny 34.107.
3.4.15 states that he is following Poseidonios; on the Pliny passage, see
Bailey, Elder Pliny, pp. 178-80. Further on χάλκανθον,
Dioskorides Materia medica 5.74, 79, and Galen De simplicium
medicamentorum temperamentis et facultatibus 1.6 (11.391-92 Kuhn)
and 1.35 (11.442-43 Kuhn) state that it is hot in nature, while 9.34
(12.238-41 Kiihn) gives the method of production. It was widely used in
medicine; see Dioskorides, Euporista 1 and 2 (twenty-three times),
Galen, De compositione medicamentorum secundum locos, passim
(12.378-13.1020 KUhn); and [Galen] De remediis parabilibus, passim
Langbein, Electrodeposition, pp. 1-9; Lowenheim, Electroplating,
pp. 1-2; and Watt and Philip, Electrorefining, pp. 79-98.
Cf. Aischylos Agamemnon 8-10, 20-21, 26-30, for fire signals, and
Aeneas Tacticus 31 and Polybios 10.44-45 on secret messages of other kinds
(Julius Africanus, Kestoi, fragments 51-54 are similar). For a
magisterial survey, see Hermann Diels, Antike Technik, 3d ed. (Leipzig,
1924; reprint Osnabruck, 1965), pp. 71-90; cf. also Forbes, Studies in
Ancient Technology, 2d ed. (Leiden, 1966), vol. 6, pp. 171-80. The point is
that there was a simpler alternative, and none of the necessary associated
technology for the more complex method existed.
See Partington, Applied Chemistry, pp. 25-26 for Egyptian gold on
silver and copper; pp. 75-76 for Egyptian arsenic on copper, Metropolitan
Museum inv. 26.9.12-13 (of the Fifth-Sixth Dynasty); on which see C. G. Fink
and A. H. Kopp, "Ancient Egyptian Antimony [sic] Plating on
Copper Objects," Metropolitan Museum Studies 4 (1933): 163-67,
and Cyril S. Smith, "An Examination of the Arsenic-Rich Coating on a
Bronze Bull from Horoztepe," in W. J. Young, ed., Application of
Science in Examination of Works of Art (Boston, 1973), pp. 96-102, esp.
p. 102, n. 5; Partington, pp. 230-31 for Sumerian gold on copper; p. 237 for
Assyrian silver on copper; pp. 329, 361-62 for Aegean gold or silver on
copperlbronze; p. 377 for Hittite silver on copper; and p. 439 for
Phoenician gold on silver or bronze; Forbes, Studies in Ancient
Technology, 2d ed. (Leiden,
1971), vol. 8, pp. 142-43; H. Blumner, Die Technik and Technologie der
Gewerbe and Kunste bei Griechen and Romern, 2d ed. (Leipzig,
1912; reprint New York, 1979), vol. 4, pp. 133-35, 308-15, 318-20; and R.
Higgins, Minoan and Mycenaean Art, 2d ed. (New York, 1981), pl. 131
(Mycenaean tin plating).
See [Demokritos] Physika kai mystika 12 and cf. P. Leyden X 14, 24,
and 67=74. The text of [Demokritos] is published in Berthellot, Alchimistes
grecs, vol. 1, p. 46; for the Leyden papyrus, see R. Halleux, Les
Alchimistes grecs (Paris, 1981). On cementation, see Albert Neuburger,
Technical Arts and Sciences of the Ancients, trans. Henry L. Brose (London
and New York, 1930; reprint 1969), p. 92 (the German original is Die
Technik des Altertums [Leipzig, 1919], [2d ed. 1921], [3d ed. 1922]); F.
S. Taylor, "A. Survey of Greek Alchemy," Journal of Hellenic
Studies 50 (1930): 109-39, here p. 130; Forbes, Studies, vol. 8,
p. 171, 174; and H. Lechtman, "Ancient Methods of Gilding
Silver-Examples from the Old and the New Worlds;" in Science and
Archaeology (Cambridge, 1971), pp. 2-30. Even in the pre-Columbian New
World; see Paul Bergsoe, The Gilding Process and the Metallurgy of Copper
and Lead among the Precolumbian Indians, trans. C. F. Reynolds,
Ingeniorvidenskabelige Skrifter, set. A, 46 (Copenhagen, 1938), pp. 35-37;
and H. Lechtman, "The Gilding of Metals in Pre-Columbian Peru," in
Young, Science in Examination, pp. 38-52.
W. Campbell, Greek and Roman Plated Coins, American Numismatic Society
Numismatic Notes and Monographs 57 (New York, 1933), pp. 144, 174; and
Lawrence H. Cope, "Surface-Silvered Ancient Coins," in E. T. Hall
and D. M. Metcalf, eds., Methods of Chemical and Metallurgical
Investigation of Ancient Coinage, Royal Numismatic Society Special
Publication 8 (London, 1972), pp. 261-78, pls. 19-20 respectively. That some
or all of these were ancient counterfeits does not alter the fact that they
reveal ancient plating methods. On ancient counterfeits at this period,
apparently a significant problem, note Sulla's "Lex Cornelia de falsis"
of 81 B.c., on which see P. Grierson, "The Roman Law of
Counterfeiting," in Robert A. G. Carson and C. H. V. Sutherland, eds., Essays
in Roman Coinage Presented to Harold Mattingly (London, 1956; reprint
Aalen, 1979), pp. 24061, here p. 242. Eutectic refers to that proportion of
two metals being alloyed (here silver and copper) which has the lowest
melting point (for silver and copper, the eutectic is about 70% silver, with
a melting point near 780° C. See Robert C. Weast, ed., Chemical Rubber
Company Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 69th ed. [Boca Raton,
Florida, 198889], p. D 184).
Vitruvius 7.8.4; Pliny 33.64-5, 100, 125, and 34.162-3. Blumner, Technik
and Technologie, vol. 4, pp. 133 and 308-9, says not earlier. Pliny
34.162-63 refers to tin-plating as well; cf. P. Leyden X 41 and Halleux,
"De stagnum 'étang' a stagnum 'étain'; ' Antiquite classique
46 (1977): 557-70. For the use of arsenic on copper to imitate silver, see
P. Leyden X 22, 83; Taylor, "Alchemy," p. 125, and now Ian A.
Carradice and S. La Niece, "The Libyan War and Coinage: A New Hoard and
the Evidence of Metal Analysis," Numismatic Chronicle set. 7,
148 (1988): 33-52, pls. 7-12. Mercury-gilding was also known in the
pre-Columbian New World; see Bergs0e, "Gilding Process," pp.
E. R. Caley, "The Leyden Papyrus X," Journal of Chemical Education
3 (1926): 1149-66 and Halleux, Alchimistes.
Konig, "Galvanisches Element," see fig. 3, label A.
Ley, "Elements," p. 50; Schwalb, "Electric Batteries,"
p. 18; [Anonymous], "Batteries B.C.," pp. 112-13.
Hornauer, "Elektrische Batterien," p. 15; Winkler, "Wiederentdecker,"
Al-Haik, "Galvanic Cell," p. 104.
M. Levey, "Evidences of Ancient Distillation, Sublimation and
Extraction in Mesopotamia," Centaurus 4 (1955): 23-33. See also
Taylor, "The Evolution of the Still," Annals of Science 5
(1945): 185-202; R. J. Forbes, Short History of the Art of Distillation
(Leiden, 1948); and Levey, "The Earliest Stages in the Evolution of the
Still," Isis 51 (1960): 31-34.
A. R. Butler and J. Needham, "An Experimental Comparison of the East
Asian, Hellenistic, and Indian (Gandharan) Stills in Relation to the
Distillation of Ethanol and Acetic Acid," Ambix 27 (1980):
H, Diels, Die Entdeckung des Alkohols, Abhandlungen der Koniglichen
Akademie der Wissenschaften, Phil. hist. Kl.
5 (Berlin, 1913), reprint in his Kleine Schriften, ed. W. Burkert (Hildesheim,
1969), pp. 409-41; and C. Anne Wilson, Philosophers, losis and the Waters
of Life, Proceedings of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society,
Literary-Historical Section 19 (Leeds, 1984), with the review of J. Dillon, Classical
Review n.s. 36 (1986):
See Pliny 14.62 and Suetonius Augustus 34.5. 1 would like to thank
Werner Krenkel for pointing out these passages to me (personal
communication, 13 November 1989).
Aristotle, Meteorologika 4.7 (38412-14) with I. During, Aristotle's
Chemical Treatise: Meteorlogica, Book IV (Gbteborg, 1944), p. 45
(wine and vinegar are mostly water); Meteor. 4.10 (388x29-8b9) with
During, pp. 54-55 (wine and vinegar = water + earth); Meteor. 4.10
(389x7-I1) with Dilring, pp. 56 (wine and vinegar are mostly water and
congeal in the cold); Meteor. 4.11 (389x24-29) with During, pp. 56
(wine contains foreign heat; and Meteor. 4.11 (389b7-18) with During, pp. 57
(earth + water substances are hot).
See my article "Horace Odes 1.13.3-8, 14-16: Humoural and
Aetherial Love," Philologus 133 (1989): 75-81, here p. 76.
See n. 16 above.
Thompson, Assyrian Chemistry, p. xx: A.GEŠTIN. NA = "water of
wine" (vinegar) and A.GE9T1N.NA. KALAG.GA = "strong water of
wine" (possibly distilled vinegar). Cf. also Galen Pro puero epileptico
6 (11.374-78 Kiihn), where vinegar is strengthened by heating (though he
does not refer to an άβμιξ΄
Konig, Neun Jahre Irak, p. 167, Ley, "Elements," p. 50, and
Winkler, "Wiederentdecker," p. 72, also mention the possibility of
a medical use but provide no supporting discussion and prefer the
In general, see G. Rawlinson, The Sixth Great Oriental Monarchy, or, the
Geography, History and Antiquities of Parthia (London, 1873) and N. C.
Debevoise, Political History of Parthia (Chicago, 1938). F. Hirth, China
and the Roman Orient (Leipzig and Shanghai, 1885; reprinted New York,
1966), pp. 35-43, gives translations of Chinese texts for the first century
B.C. to the second century A.D.; see discussion pp. 137-73, 207-28; for the
view from the west, see G. Coeds, Textes d'auteurs grecs et latins relatifs
d l'Extreme-Orient (Paris, 1910; reprint Chicago, 1979), pp. 2-26 for the
first century B.C. to the first century A.D.; pp. 26-71 for Ptolemy. For
RomanParthian relations during the same period, see Cambridge Ancient
History (Cambridge, 1932), vol. 9, pp. 588-613; vol. 10 (1934), pp.
47-51, 254-59; and vol. 11 (1936), pp. 104-30; R. H. McDowell, Coins from
Seleucia on the Tigris, University of Michigan Studies, Humanistic
Series 37 (Ann Arbor, 1935), pp. 177-81, 206-31; P. J. Junge in Real-Encyclopddie
der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft 18/4 (1949): 1984-86, s.v. Parthia
IIA; W. Schur in Real Encyclopddie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft
18/4 (1949): 1990-2021, s.v. Parthia IIB; Karl-Heinz Ziegler, Die Beziehungen
zwischen Rom and dem Partherreich (Wiesbaden, 1964), pp. 20-96; M. A. R.
Colledge, The Parthians (London, 1967), pp. 21, 3233, 78-81, 84, 109,
166-67; and H. Volkman in Der Kleine Pauly 4 (1972), s.v. Parthia.
M. I. Rostovtzeff, Caravan Cities, trans. D. and T. Talbot Rice (Oxford,
1932) (a revised edition of O Blijnem Vostoke [Paris, 1931]), pp. 31-32.
C. C. Seligman, "Roman Orient and Far East," Antiquity 11 (1937):
5-30; Debevoise, History of Parthia, pp 42-43, 205-6.
See J. Needham, Science and Society in China (Cambridge, 1954), vol. 1, pp.
174, 181-82, 191-92, 196-97, 233, 236-37, for Chinese influence on Rome via
Parthia; for the reverse, see Seligman, "Roman Orient," pp. 15-17,
25-26; Debevoise, History of Parthia, pp. 86-87; idem, Parthian
34; and, for a fascinating story as well, Homer H. Dubs, A Roman City in
Ancient China, China Society Sinological Series 5 (London, 1957). F. J.
Teggart, Rome and China (Berkeley, 1939; reprint 1969), gives a
comprehensive survey of war and trade as they affected Rome and China in
late first century B.C. to the end of the first century A.D.; Wilfred H.
Schoff, Early Communication between China and the Mediterranean
(Philadelphia, 1921) discusses the trade route; J. Ferguson, "China and
Rome," Aufstieg and Niedergang der Rdmischen Welt, pt. 2, vol. 9/2
(1978): 581-603; and Manfred G. Raschke, "New Studies in Roman Commerce
with the East," Aufstieg and Niedergang der Rtimischen Welt, pt. 2,
vol. 9/2 (1978): 604-1361.
Hirth, Roman Orient, lists Roman trade goods flowing east; glass, gems,
textiles; see pp. 228-60.
Debevoise, Parthian Pottery, p. 9; Tacitus Annals 11.8-9, recounts the
recapture of Seleucia in A.D. 43 after a seven-year revolt.
Hirth, Roman Orient, pp. 263-72, 276-79.
Georges Conteneau, La Medecine en Assyrie et Babylonie, La Mddecine h
travers le temps et l'espace 2 (Paris, 1938), pp. 30-45; A. Leo Oppenheim,
"Mesopotamian Medicine," Bulletin for the History of Medicine 36
(1962): 97-108 on pp. 102-6; Edith K. Ritter, "Magical-Expert (= asipu)
and Physician (= asu): Notes on Two Complementary Professions in Babylonian
Medicine," in Studies in Honor of Benno Landsberger on His
Seventy-Fifth Birthday (April 21, 1965), Assyriological Studies 16 (Chicago,
1966), pp. 299-321; I thank Doug Parker, Boulder, Colorado for this
reference); Robert Biggs, "Medicine in Ancient Mesopotamia,"
History of Science 9 (1969): 94-105, here pp. 98-99; A. Leo Oppenheim,
Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization, revised by Erica
Reiner (Chicago and London, 1977), pp. 290-96.
Biggs, "Medicine," p. 99; Oppenheim, "Medicine," p. 101;
idem, Mesopotamia, pp. 290-91.
Biggs, "Medicine," p. 98; Oppenheim, "Medicine," pp.
103, 106; idem, Mesopotamia, p. 295.
Conteneau Medecine, pp. 94-103, 130-33, 169-76; Biggs, "Medicine,"
pp. 98-99; Oppenheim, Mesopotamia, pp. 294, 296.
Oppenheim, "Medicine," p. 102; idem, Mesopotamia, p. 293; M. Levey,
Chemistry and Chemical Technology in Ancient Mesopotamia (Amsterdam, 1959),
p. 155; Conteneau, Medecine, pp. 31, 177-95.
orbes, Studies, vol. 3, p. 80. Note that some medicinal vinegar was
distilled from the root of Cyperus papyrus (L.) and that the Seleucian and
possibly the Ctesiphontine devices contained leaves of papyrus. Is there
some connection? Papyrus was first used as a writing material in Parthia
during about the first century A.D. See Rawlinson, Sixth Oriental Monarchy,
pp. 424-25 citing Pliny 13.73: "Duper et in Euphrate nascens circa
Babylonem papyrum intellectum est eundem usum habere chartae: et tamen adhuc
malunt Parthi uestibus litteras intexere" ("Recently, it has been
learned that the papyrus which grows in the Euphrates around Babylon can
also be used for paper, and nevertheless the Parthians still prefer to weave
their letters in tapestries").
For a parallel survival, see O. Neugebauer, "Survival of Babylonian
Methods in the Exact Sciences of Antiquity and the Middle Ages," Proceedings
of the American Philosophical Society 107 (1963): 528-35.
J, Bidez, "Les Ecoles chalddenes sous Alexandre et les Seleucides,"
Brussels, Universite Libre, Institut de Philologie et d'Histoire
Orientales et Slaves, Annuaire 3 (1935): 41-89, who writes primarily of
astrology; for alchemy see pp. 75-76, 85.
Debevoise, History of Parthia, pp. 145, 154-56, 164-66, 203-4, speaks
of a breakdown in central authority; Rawlinson, Sixth Oriental Monarchy,
makes local rule a matter of policy (pp. 88-89).
J. Needham, Science and Society in China, vol. 6, sec. 44 (Medicine) is not
yet (1992) published. In the meantime, see K. Chmin Wong and Wu Lien-teh,
History of Chinese Medicine, 2d ed. (Shanghai, 1936); A. Chamfrault and Ung
Kan Sam, Traittl de me'decine chinoise, 5 vols. (Angoul8me, 1954-63), vol. 2
translates the Nei Ching; J. Needham et al., Clerks and Craftsmen in China
and the West (Cambridge, 1970), pp. 260-93 and 340-78 (= "Hygiene and
Preventative Medicine in Ancient China," Journal of the History of
Medicine and Allied Sciences 17 [19621: 429-78); and Guido Majno, The
Healing Hand: Man and Wound in the Ancient World (Cambridge, Mass., 1975),
pp. 228-59 (see pp. 450-53, extensive bibliography). I once again thank
Werner Krenkel for this reference. See also Paul U. Unschuld, Medicine in
China: A History of Ideas (Berkley, 1985) and idem, Medicine in China: A
History of Pharmaceutics (Berkeley, 1986). I thank Robert D. BigRs for these
last two references.
Wong and Lien-teh, Chinese Medicine, pp. 4445, 81, 87, 227-28, 236; P. Huard
and M. Wong, "Histoire de 1'acupuncture chinoise," Socifte des
Etudes Indochinoises, Bulletin n.s. 34 (1959): 403-23; see pp. 404-5; idem,
La Medecine chinoise (Paris, 1964), pp. 11-31; and Lu Gwei-djen and J.
Needham, "Records of Diseases in Ancient China," in D. Brothwell
and A. T. Sandison, eds., Diseases in Antiquity (Springfield, Illinois,
1967), pp. 222-37; see p. 233.
S. Sconocchia, Scribonii Largi Compositiones (Leazig, 1988), pp.
v-vii for discussion of date.
For history, see Emil Heinrich du Bois-Reymond, Quae apud veteres de
piscibus electricis extant argumenta (Berlin, 1843), I am grateful to the
Inter-Library Loan Office of Norlin Library, University of Colorado, for
obtaining a copy of this from the National Library of Medicine; G. Wilson,
"On the Electric Fish as the Earliest Electric Machines Employed by
Mankind," Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal 6 (1857): 26788; Otto
Keller, Die Antike Tierwelt (Leipzig, 1913), vol. 2, pp. 377-78, fig. 124
(facing p. 392); P. Kellaway, "The Part Played by Electric Fish in the
Early History of Bioelectricity and Electrotherapy," Bulletin for the
History of Medicine 20 (1946): 112-37; D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson, A Glossary
of Greek Fishes, St. Andrew's University Publications 45 (London, 1947), s.v.
"Nark6" (pp. 169-72); K. Kane and A. Taub, "A History of
Local Electrical Analgesia," Pain 1 (1975): 125-38 on pp. 125-26;
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th ed., s.v. electric catfish, Malapterus
Electricus; Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th ed., s.v. electric ray, Torpedo
Nobiliana is the Greco-Roman ray. For biology, see H. Grundfest, "The
Mechanism of Discharge of the Electric Organs in Relation to General and
Comparative Electrophysiology," Progress in Biophysics 7 (1957): 1-85,
and H. W. Lissman, "On the Function and Evolution of the Electric
Organs in Fish," Journal of Experimental Biology 35 (1958): 156-91.
Plato Meno 80A, C, 84B-C; Aristotle Historia animalium 9.37 (620b19-23);
Varro Lingua latina 5.12 (p. 77); and Cicero Natura deorum 2.127. For
further literature both ancient and modern, see A. S. Pease, M. Tulli
Ciceronis De Natura Deorum vol. 2 (Cambridge, Mass., 1958), ad loc (p. 878).
Heron Pneumatika 1. praef. (p. 26 Schmidt) and Pliny 32.7. See
my article "Suetonius Nero 41.2 and the Date of Heron Mechanicus of
Alexandria," Classical Philology 83 (1988): 218-20.
Kellaway, "Electric Fish," pp. 118-19.
For a review of the early modern
(to ca. A.D. 1945) results, see Sidney Licht, "History of
Electrotherapy," in Sidney Licht, ed., Therapeutic Electricity and
Ultraviolet Light, 2d ed., Physical Medicine Library 4 (Baltimore, 1967),
pp. 1-70; Kane and Taub, "Electrical Analgesia," review to A.D.
1975; J. C. Serrato, "Pain Control by Transcutaneous Nerve
Stimulation," Southern Medical Journal 72 (1979): 67-71, discusses
recent results; see also L. A. Geddes, "A Short History of the
Electrical Stimulation of Excitable Tissue, Including Electrotherapeutic
Applications," The Physiologist 27 (1984): 1-47; and Robert O. Becker
and Andrew A. Marino, Electromagnetism and Life (New York, 1982), pp.
Asher R. Sheppard and Merril Eisenbud, Biological Effects of Electric and
Magnetic Fields of Extremely Low Frequency (New York, 1977), sec. 4, p. 24:
"At cuts or needle puncture . . . [the] current at perception . . .
[is] almost too small to measure", < 1 gA; "[on] tongue . . .
the current at perception . . . [is] 43 pA dc, average, 4.0 pA do minimum;
"[on] forearm . . . [the] current at perception . . . [is] 50 pA dc.
R. Melzack and P. D. Wall,
"Pain Mechanism: A New Theory," Science 150 (1965): 971-81.
Already before Melzack-Wall,
Hans Haferkamp, and Werner Tiegel, Die heutige Stand der Elektroakupunktur,
Schriftenreihe, Zentralverband der Artze fiir Naturbeilverfahren 7 (Hamburg,
1961) and James D. Hardy, L. W. Fabian, M. D. Turner, "Electrical
Anesthesia for Major Surgery," Journal of the American Medical
Association 175 (1961): 599-600. Thereafter, a select list is all that can
be given. For anesthesia, see E. G. Dimond, "Acupuncture Anesthesia:
Western Medicine and Chinese Traditional Medicine," Journal of the
American Medical Association 218 (1971): 1558-63, and Herbert L. K6nig et
al., Biologic Effects of Environmental Electromagnetism (New York, 1981),
pp. 242-45; for analgesia, Charles Burton and D. Maurer, "Surface
Electrical Stimulation (Transcutaneous) for the Relief of Pain," in J.
G. Llaurado; A. Sances, Jr.; J. H. Battoclettis, eds., Biologic and
Clinical Effects of Low-Frequency Magnetic and Electric Fields (Springfield,
Illinois, 1974), pp. 23140; Kane and Taub, "Electrical Analgesia";
Serrato, "Pain Control"; V. M. Frampton, "Pain Control with
the Aid of Transcutaneous Nerve Stimulation," Physiotherapy 68 (1982):
77-81; T. Lundeberg, "Electrical Stimulation for the Relief of
Pain," Physiotherapy 70 (1984): 98-100; John Miles, "Electrical
Stimulation for the Relief of Pain," Annals, Royal College of Surgeons
(London) 66 (1984): 108-12; M. R. Gersh and S. L. Wolf, "Applications
of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation in the Management of Patients
with Pain: State-of-the-art Update," Physical Therapy 65 (1985):
314-35; G. B. Langley, "Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TNS)
and Its Relationship to Placebo Therapy: A Review," New Zealand Medical
Journal 100 (1987): 215-17; and Gary J. Ordog, "Transcutaneous
Electrical Nerve Stimulation versus Oral Analgesic," American Journal
of Emergency Medicine 5 (1987): 6-10. More recently, on animals, see
Guang-Zhao Zhou and Guei-fan Xi, "Comparison between Transcutaneous
Stimulation Analgesic Effect and Electroacupunctux„ Analgesic Effect in
Rabbits," Acupuncture and Electrotherapeutics Research 11 (1986):
119-25. See the recent review by Maria Reichmanis, "Electroacupuncture,"
in Andrew A. Marino, ed., Modern Bioelectricity (New York and Basel, 1988),
K. T. Wu, C. Dennis, P. N.
Sawyer, "Effects of Electrical Currents and Interfacial Potentials on
Wound Healing," Journal of Surgical Research 7 (1967): 122-28; D.
Assimacopoulos, "Wound Healing Promotion by the Use of Negative
Electrical Current," American Surgeon 34 (1968): 423-31; L. E. Wolcott,
P. C. Wheeler, B. A. Rowley, "Accelerated Healing of Skin Ulcers by
Electrotherapy: Preliminary Clinical Results," Southern Medical Journal
62 (1969): 795-801; B. A. Rowley, "Electrical Current Effects on E.
Coli Growth Rates," Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology
and Medicine 139 (1972): 929-34; D. B. Harrington, R. Meyer, Jr., R. M.
Klein, "Effects of Small Amounts of Electric Current at the Cellular
Level;" Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 238 (1974): 300-306;
B. A. Rowley et al., "The Influence of Electrical Current on an
Infecting Microorganism in Wounds," Annals of the New York Academy of
Sciences 238 (1974): 543-51; W. R. Grant and P. F. Gatens, Jr., "Use of
Low Intensity Direct Current in Management of Ischemic Skin Ulcers,"
Physical Therapy 56 (1976): 265-69; J. J. Konikoff, "Electrical
Promotion of Soft Tissue Repairs," Annals of Biomedical Engineering 4
(1976): 1-5; O. M. Alvarez et al., "The Healing of Superficial Skin
Wounds Is Stimulated by External Electrical Current," Journal of
Investigative Dermatology 81 (1983): 144-48; Jesse J. Barron, Wyman E.
Jacobson, Greg Tidd, "Treatment of Decubitus Ulcers: A New
Approach," Minnesota Medicine 68 (1985): 103-6; N. Annal,
"Negatively Charged Nature of Some Viruses and Toxins forms the Basis
for Direct Current Therapy," Medical Hypotheses 24 (1987): 291-92; M.
G. Dunn et al., "Wound Healing Using a Collagen Matrix: Effect of DC
Electrical Stimulation," Journal of Biomedical Materials Research 22
(1988): 191-206; and C. S. Chu et al., "Therapeutic Effects of Silver
Nylon Dressings with Weak Direct Current on Pseudomonas aeruginosa-infected
Burn Wounds," The Journal of Trauma 28 (1988): 1488-92.
I. Yasuda, W. Noguchi, T. Saka,
"Dynamic Callus and Electrical Callus," Journal of Bone and Joint
Surgery, set. A, 37 (1955): 1292-93; C. A. L. Bassett, R. J. Pawluk, R. O.
Becker, "Effects of Electrical Currents on Bone in Vivo," Nature
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on Bone in Vivo," Nature 222 (1969): 162-63; L. S. Lavine, 1. Lustrin,
M. H. Shamos, "Experimental Model for Studying the Effect of Electric
Current on Bone in Vivo," Nature 224 (1969): 1112-13; T. Andrews and Z.
B. Friedenberg, "In Vivo Bone Reactions to Varying Direct
Currents;" Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, set. A, 52 (1970): 600;
D. D. Levy, "Induced Osteogenesis by Electrical Stimulation,"
Journal of the Electrochemical Society 118 (1971): 1438-42; L. S. Lavine et
al., "Electric Enhancement of Bone Healing," Science 175 (1972):
1118-21; Lavine et al., "Clinical and Ultrastructural Investigations of
Electrical Enhancement of Bone Healing," Annals of the New York Academy
of Sciences 238 (1974): 552-63; D. D. Levy, "A Pulsed Electrical
Stimulation Technique for Inducing Bone Growth," Annals of the New York
Academy of Sciences 238 (1974): 478-90; H. J. Hambury et al.,
"Interdisciplinary Approaches in Electrically Mediated Bone Growth
Studies," Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 238 (1974):
508-18; Z. B. Friedenberg and C. T. Brighton, "Electrical Fracture
Healing," Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 238 (1974):
564-74; Carl T. Brighton, ed., Symposium on Electrically-induced
Osteogenesis, The Orthopedic Clinics of North America 15(1) (Philadelphia,
1984); and Herbert A. Haupt, "Electrical Stimulation of Osteogenesis
Southern Medical Journal 77 (1984): 5664, who notes that the technique goes
back to 1812. There are two recent reviews: L. S. Lavine and A. J.
Grodzinsky, "Electrical Stimulation of Repair of Bone," Journal of
Bone and Joint Surgery, set. A, 69 (1987): 626-30; and A. A. Marino,
"Direct Current and Bone Growth," in Marino, Modern Bioelectrichy,
pp. 657-709. Most of the more recent work involves non-invasive
electromagnetic current induction.
R. O. Becker, "Electrostimulat
and Undetected Malignant Tumors," Clinical Orthopaedics and Related
Research 161 (1981): 336-39, and R. O. Becker and Gary Selden, The Body
Electric (New York, 1985), pp. 178, 346. Leroy S. Lavine, M. D. (personal
communication, 20 March 1990) expresses doubt about this report (cf. Lavine
and Grodzhinsky, "Electrical Stimulation"), as does Moris H.
Shamos (personal communication, 30 April 1990).
C. E. Humphrey and E. H. Seal,
"Biophysical Approach toward Tumor Regression," Science 130
(1959): 388-90; G. S. Williamson and R. Jackson, "Treatment of Basal
Cell Carcinoma by Electrodessication and Currettage," Canadian Medical
Association Journal 86 (1962): 855-62; Clarence D. Cone, Jr., "The Role
of the Surface Electrical Transmembrane Potential in Normal and Malignant
Mitogenesis," Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 238 (1974):
420-35; M. K. Schauble, M. B. Habal, H. D. Gullick, "Inhibition of
Experimental Tumor Growth in Hamsters by Small Direct Currents,"
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Spadero et al., "Antitumor Effects of Silver Electrodes in vitro,"
Transactions of the Society for Biomaterials
(1977): 149; B. Nordenstrom, "Preliminary Clinical Trials of
Electrophoretic ionization in the Treatment of Malignant Tumours," IRCS:
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Electrical Circuits (Stockholm, 1983), pp. 1-11, 318-38; S. L. David et al.,
"Effect of Low Level Direct Current on in Vivo Tumor Growth in
Hamsters," Cancer Research 45 (1985): 5625-31; and M. Yokoyama et al.,
[The Use of direct current in the local destruction of cancer tissues], Gan
to Kagaku Ryoho 16 (1989): 1412-17 [Japanese].
I have benefited from
correspondence with Robert O. Becker M.D. (who indicates, personal
communication, 5 February 1990, that "[p]resent knowledge indicates
that clinical applications of the artifacts could have included pain relief
.... healing, and . . . treatment of local infections"); Z. B.
Friedenberg, M.D. (who indicates, personal communication, 16 February 1990,
that "[f]or any effect to be observed it would be necessary for the
[electrodes] to be in contact with the [body] for a long period . . . more
than several weeks . . . the voltage would have to be [about] '/2 volt . . .
the current between 5 pA and 20 pA"); and Leroy S. Lavine, M.D. (who
indicates, personal communication, 20 March 1990, that "ow intensity
direct current for stimulation of bone healing is still being used . . .
Cell," p. 103.
For the method, see Nikolaas J.
van der Merwe, The Carbon-14 Dating of Iron (Chicago and New York, 1969),
pp. 69-86; experimental results (pp. 87-107) are quite good back to the
fifth century B.c. at least (no older samples checked).
 Scribonius Largus Compositiones 11 and 162.
I am indebted to Werner Krenkel, Rostock,
Germany, who first alerted me to the serious literature on these devices
(Spring 1986); to the Wilhelm-Pieck Universitat, Rostock, FB Anglistik,
where I wrote this paper (Spring 1989); to Trevor Hodge, chair of the
Archaeological Institute of America session on ancient technology at the
December 1989 meeting, where I first presented this idea (see the abstract
in American Journal of Archaeology 94 : 341), and to the Ancient
Technologies and Archaeological Materials Program at the University of
Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where I was on a George A. Miller Visiting
Professorship in Spring 1990, and whose assistant director, Sarah U.
Wisseman, encouraged my work.
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