The enigma of the ashoka pillar


A testimony to ancient metallurgical skills in Delhi, India is called the Ashoka Pillar. Standing over 23 feet, it averages 16 inches in diameter and weighs about 6 tons. The solid wrought-iron shaft is made up of expertly welded discs. An inscription on the base is an epitaph to King Chandra Gupta II, who died in A.D. 413.

Despite being well over a millennium and a half in age, the Pillar's constitution is remarkably preserved. The smooth surface is like polished brass with only occasional instances of pock-marks and weathering. The mystery is that any equivalent mass of iron, subjected to the Indian monsoon rains, winds and temperatures for 1,600 years or more would have been reduced to rust long ago.

Production of the iron and the techniques of preservation are far beyond 5th century abilities. It is probably far older, maybe several thousand years. Who were the mysterious metallurgists who made this wonder, and what happened to their civilization?