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 jay contained a copper cylinder surrounding an iron rod. The archaeologist proposed that vessel 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 replied on electricity. As batteries, the vessels would have been completely useless to them.
You reading says that these vessels were not used as batteries in ancient times, but the arguments used in the reading are not convincing. The battery explanation could very well be correct.
First, about the absence of wires or other conductors, remember, vessels were discovered by local people, not archaeologists. These people might have found other material located near the jars. But since they were not trained archaeologists, they may not have recognized the importance of that material. So materials serving uninteresting or even thrown away. We’ll never know.
Second, it is true that the copper cylinders in the vessels are similar to the cylinders used to hold scrolls, but that does not really prove anything. It’s possible that the copper cylinders were originally designed to preserve scrolls. And that some ancient inventor later discovered that if you use them together with iron rods and some liquid in a clay vessel, they will produce electricity. That’s how the first ancient battery could have been born. In other words, the copper cylinders could have been originally used for one purpose, but then adapted for another purpose.
Finally, there’s the question of the possible uses of the battery in the ancient world. Well, the battery could produce a mild shock or tingling sensation when someone touched it. This could very well have been interpreted as evidence of some invisible power. You can easily see how people could convince others that they had magical powers through the use of the battery. Also, the battery could have been used for healing. Modern medicine uses mild electric current to stimulate muscles and relieve aches and pains. Ancient doctors may have used the batteries for the same purpose.
The reading passage is about three reasons why the vessels discovered in 1938 were not used as electric batteries in ancient times. However, the lecturer thinks these three arguments are not convincing and she puts forwards three reasons to defend her views.
First of all, the reading passage mentions that the lack of conductors such as metal wires proves that the vessels are not used as batteries. However, the lecturer opposes that because she says the batteries may have been found but since they were excavated by the untrained local people, they may have ignored them or even have thrown them away.
Secondly, as for the second reason mentioned in the reading that some other similar copper cylinders found in another spot were used for holding scrolls of texts so that these vessels may also serve the same purpose but not be used as batteries. However, the lecturer refutes it because she says that ancient inventors could have produced the electricity by gathering them with some iron rods, liquid and so on.
Last but not the least, the reading suggests that no devices that depended on electricity so that the batteries have no use. Nevertheless, the lecturer argues that the batteries may have been adapted to serve other purpose such as magic purpose or medical purpose. She elaborates that the batteries can produce mild shock or tingling sensation when people touched them, which can be interpreted by ancient people as an invisible power so that people could have used them to convince others that they had magic power. Or the batteries could have been used for healing. Modern people use electricity current to stimulate muscles or ease people’s pains, so the ancient people could have used them for the same purpose.
TOEFL listening lectures: Which fact is true of Edward O. Wilson?