Did Ancient Egypt Have Electric Light?

Ancient civilizations and what they knew is always a fascinating subject. When it comes to the Egyptians there is always the question of whether they learned anything from cultures that existed before them that just disappeared. Cultures have been disappearing without a trace in some instances, since the first ones were established. There is always the questions of where did they go, why did they go and what did they know? Some cultures have left us with tantalizing clues that show that in some areas they were more advanced than we are today. An example of this are the ancient people that lived in South America thousands of years ago and built cities that date back at least 5,000 years. There are now a few archaeologists that think that the oldest city might even date back much further to about 17,000 years ago. The stones that were used to construct some of these ancient places were cut so smooth that a razor blade can not fit between them. Some were also so heavy that we can't figure out how they were lifted into place.


Carving In Hathor Temple Depicting What Many Think Is An Ancient Electric Light
Photo Source: Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 Germany

Depending on the region, where some ancient cities were found, there might be several different languages inscribed on statues and monuments. After investigation it was discovered that the reason for this is that some ancient cities banded together with other ones for economic and political purposes, hence the different languages used. More important to this article are some of the objects pictured in some of these places. One of the most famous is what many think is an ancient light bulb in an ancient Egyptian temple. Could it have been a light bulb and if so, how could it have been powered? We know that there is no soot in some of these dark places that would indicate that flames were used to light them while painting the walls and recent experiments with using copper mirrors to reflect light into the dark passages didn't work because the light would dissipate after a few different reflections. So where does this leave us? How could construction and painting have gone on unless these places were lighted and if they were by flames, why is there no soot?

The way I see it, there are a few possible different explanations:

1. The Egyptians were able to clean the soot off of everything so well that no trace remains today.

2. They found a way to use something far more reflective than copper for directing light into the tunnels of the tombs.

3. They had electricity and light bulbs and the reason that we don't know about it today is that only a few high priests were trusted with the secret.

If we look at the the first explanation, we must rule it out because with today's science, even a tiny bit of soot could be recognized, therefore I think it would have been impossible to get it all off in such a complete manner that we can not detect any of it today. The second explanation would only hold true we if accept the fact that the Egyptians never used this more shinny surface again. It would have been an advancement over copper mirrors and therefore it seems that it would have made its way into the mainstream. The third choice that the ancient Egyptians had electricity is by far the hardest to accept. It is also a bit like the improved mirror theory in that if they had it, why didn't it get into more common use and why are there no records? The only thing that I can think of is they they thought that it was holy. After all, they thought that the sun was a god, so maybe they thought that this type of light was a gift from the gods to only be used in very rare circumstances. It stands to reason that electric light would have been equated with sun light and the secret of it guarded very closely.

If the ancient Egyptians did have electricity how could it have been generated? I think that we can rule out anything even barely resembling a generator or dynamo. How could the ancient Egyptians have produced electricity?

1. They may have figured out a way of using the current from electrified fish, such as electric catfish or electric eels that can generate over 600 volts. This would also entail some way of storing the charge. The charge from one of these animals such as the eel, can disable a human and sometimes even kill him, but this is usually not the case. Electric eels are ease to use because they breathe air not water.

2. Another way to generate electricity is by chemical reaction.

3. Maybe there was no electricity used and instead glowing fish were sealed in water in a jar.

4. Some minerals give off an electrical charge when heated, perhaps they realized this and figured out how to harness them?

Many of us have seen the Baghdad battery. It was just a clay pot with vinegar in it. It had a copper cylinder inserted into the vinegar that had an iron bar in the center of it and the plug on top was asphalt with the iron bar protruding. What if the ancient Egyptians discovered this and this is where the idea for the smaller battery came from? Could it be that the ancient Egyptians had a much larger version of this battery that put out far more current? Sometime things are passed along in time. Some of the great ancient Greek machines were reconstructed by the Arabs in the middle ages and even described in their books and improved on. It is so far fetched to think that the battery might have been an Egyptian invention? Vinegar didn't even have to be used. A lot of different acidic fluids would do the job. Some may help to put out more current than others. One of these minerals that will give off an electrical charge is Sphalerite which is also known as Blende. It comes from zinc ore. Perhaps the ancient Egyptians figured out how to harness this?

Maybe it is time that we examined the contents of some of the bigger urns that have been found from that time to see if they contained any liquids that were acidic. This in itself wouldn't prove that that the Egyptians had electricity, but it might show that it was possible, especially if any traces of asphalt or bitumen plug residue was found around the top edges. It is also possible that a different type of seal was used so we have to keep an open mind on that.

Hathor Temple

Temple Of Hathor Where Etchings Of Devices Are Found
Photo Source: Public Domain

The ancient Egyptians had a temple dedicated to the god Hathor at Dendera that had a lot of their secrets inscribed on the walls. The temple was only available to the high priests and the pharaoh. Click Here to see a short video on the temple. But wait, maybe the Egyptians never had electricity and had used glowing fish in a bottle full of seawater. Would they have gotten enough light to see by? I guess this depends on how many of these bottles they had and what type of fish were used. Another thing that they might have done was gather firefly lava and fill glass jars with it. All of this kind of theory is interesting, but it would really have to be tested first to see how much light would have been generated and also if all these different types of fish and insects were available in the region that the Egyptians lived in.

Just because one of these suggestions may have worked doesn't even mean that the ancient Egyptians used them. By the way I checked and there does seem to be fireflies in Egypt today. Since Egypt is on the Mediterranean Sea, many different types of fish are also available and guess what, glowing fish have been found in the Mediterranean Sea in abundance. Have we proven anything here? No we haven't, but it has made us think and what more could you ask? While it is possible that the ancient Egyptians had some sort of rudimentary electricity supplied by giant Baghdad battery type devices and a primitive light bulb, the carving on the wall could just as easily represent an electric eel in a strange shaped jar, or one of the many types of strange shaped electrical fish. As I said, some minerals even glow when heated and these are called by the group name of thermoluminescence and may have been able to provide light. The problem with all this is that the lights or what seem to be light bulbs also look like there are electrical connections on the ends.