Ancient Cultures Knew About Magnetism

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Researchers hypothesize that magnetic figures may have been crafted to memorialize the dead, with the attractive forces of the sculptures representing a lingering life force. (Roger Fu)

Mesoamerican Sculptures Reveal Early Knowledge of Magnetism

by Joshua Rapp Learn Smithsonian.com

Magnets are a mystery that has baffled scientists and philosophers for millennia, and researchers still don’t fully understand the properties that give magnetic fields their potency. Ancient Greek legend held that a shepherd named Magnes first discovered the curious force when a stone pulled at his iron staff in an area of Greece then known as Magnesia.

Whether or not Magnes the shepherd actually existed, he wasn’t the only ancient human to notice the funny characteristics of certain types of stone. The first culture to become aware of magnetic material is a matter of open debate, but new evidence suggests ancient cultures in the Americas had knowledge of magnetic forces long before the first pocket compasses.

The ancient Monte Alto people of Mesoamerica, for example, used stone that had been magnetized when struck by lightning to build giant heads and potbellied sculptures centuries before the rise of the great Maya civilizations. A new study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science suggests this civilization, which flourished in present-day Guatemala around 500 B.C. to 100 B.C., must have had some way to detect the relative strength of the magnetized stones.

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Biography
Carol graduated from Riverside White Cross School of Nursing in Columbus, Ohio and received her diploma as a registered nurse. She attended Bowling Green State University where she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Literature. She attended the University of Toledo, College of Nursing, and received a Master’s of Nursing Science Degree as an Educator.

She has traveled extensively, is a photographer, and writes on medical issues. Carol has three children RJ, Katherine, and Stephen – two daughters-in-law; Suzy and Katie – two granddaughters; Isabella Marianna and Zoe Olivia – and one grandson, Alexander Paul. She also shares her life with husband Gordon Duff, many cats, and two rescue pups.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Nice article. Indeed Chaldean Oracles of Zoroaster, Hecate, Flower of the Fire all refer to his discovery.

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