Gallery 2
Ancient Iron
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Gallery 2-Page 2

Unexplained Iron Pillar Of Delhi

By James Donahue

Among the world anomalies that challenge the established historical record is a 24-foot tall forged iron pillar that stands in the Qutb complex of monuments and buildings at Mehrauli in Delhi, India.

This massive tapered pillar measures just over 14 inches in diameter at its base and 12 inches at its peak. The base of it is believed to extend over three and a half feet into the ground. Its peak is marked with elaborate gingerbread, all part of the solid iron casting.

On the sides of this strange pillar can be found three distinct Sanskrit inscriptions in Brahmi script that tells the world the object was erected as a standard in honor of Lord Vishnu. It also praises the valor of a king known as Chandra.

There are things about this giant iron pillar that appear to defy all rules of contemporary science and historical record.

First of all, the pillar does not rest today in its original place. Native legend states that it was originally located at Vishnupadagiri, near Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh. It stood at the Tropic of Cander and was, in its day, the center of astronomical studies. The pillar served as a sundial. It was said the early morning shadow fell in the direction of the foot of the temple Anantasayin Vishnu only on the summer solstice. Just when and why the 6.5-ton pillar was moved is unknown.

Second, the pillar was forged from 98 percent wrought iron. It is believed to have stood for up to 1,600 years without rusting or decomposing. How or why this has happened defies everything modern steel manufacturers understand about the principles of iron.

Indeed, the structure is considered a miracle of ancient technology and that there remains a great mystery behind the methods used in forging the iron at that ancient time.

A study of the pillar by metallurgists from Kanpur IIT has revealed that the people who forged the iron used a technique that mixed the molten iron with charcoal, thus creating a unique type of iron with a high phosphorous content.

As the pillar stood exposed to the elements, the phosphorous content was chemically involved in slowly creating an ultra-thin layer of “misawite,” a compound of iron, oxygen and hydrogen that acted as a protective shield, protecting the cast iron from rusting.

It is believed the protective film began forming within the first three years and has been growing slowly thicker ever since. The process is extremely slow. After 1,600 years, the film has grown to about one-twentieth of a millimeter thick. But it has been enough to preserve the ancient iron pillar so that it appears as it did when first cast.

So why can’t we make contemporary iron and steel manufactured parts that last like the ancient pillar in India? Modern blast furnaces use limestone instead of charcoal molten slag and pig iron that gets converted into steel. This process strips the phosphorous away in the slag.

Modern steel makers either refuse to try to develop the ancient methods, or they simply don’t know how. Consequently the cars we drive and all of the other things made of steel are destined to rust away with time.