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Three Ancient Objects That Are Still a Mystery

Archaeology is a fascinating field of study that has given us important glimpses into how humans lived in the past. However, there are still some objects whose uses and/or meanings are still a complete mystery to us today. Here are three ancient items that continue to baffle researchers.

Phaistos Disc from a Minoan palace, Crete
Phaistos Disc | Wikipedia

Unearthed in 1908, the Phaistos Disc was discovered by Italian archaeologist Luigi Pernier in the Minoan palace site of Phaistos, located on the Greek island of Crete. The disc, probably from the second millennium BC, is made of clay and measures about 6.3 inches (16 cm) in diameter. Both sides feature a spiral sequence of stamped symbols created by pressing pre-formed "seals" into soft clay before firing.

The Phaistos Disc contains 241 tokens, representing 45 different symbols. These symbols depict animals, humans, and plants. The symbols' meaning and the disc's overall content are still a mystery.

Gallo-Roman Dodecahedron, made from bronze
Gallo-Roman Dodecahedron | Wikipedia

The most abundant of these three enigmatic ancient artefacts are Gallo-Roman Dodecahedra. Made of bronze, stone, or precious metals, these objects were first found in 1739 and have now been uncovered all over modern day Europe.

Usually consisting of twelve flat, pentagonal faces, most also contain holes of varying sizes on each face, which provide openings to a hollow centre. Most date to between the 2nd and 4th centuries CE, and although many theories abound, we still really don't have any idea what they were used for.

Ancient artifact known as the Baghdad Battery
Baghdad Battery | Smith College Museum of Ancient Inventions

Discovered in 1936, the Baghdad Battery is another of the world's ancient technological mysteries. Consisting of a ceramic pot, asphalt stopper, a tube of copper, and a rod of iron, the artefact was found in Iraq, and is believed to date to between 250 BCE and 250 CE.

Resembling a very basic battery cell, it has been surmised that the "battery" produced a small voltage that could be used for electroplating or medical treatment. This seems plausible, but there are no known electroplated objects from this period in this area, and there is no way to verify its use for treatments like electrotherapy. Others have speculated that it may have been used as a storage vessel for sacred scrolls.

Whatever the case, we may never find out as the object disappeared during the US-led invasion of Iraq, twenty years ago.


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