This is a long answer, so here is a list of connections that the public could have made, in no particular order:
It was the work of the Gods and Goddesses
It was the manifestation of the spirit within the object
It was a form of magnetism
It was a miniaturised form of lightning
It was proof of hidden powers and magic of various kinds
It was some ...
All history is bunk -- Ford
All history is fairy tales rewritten by the winner of the last war -- Bismarck
FWIW a lot of what we know about history is from archeology. Digs are neither bunk nor fairy tales rewritten by the winner of the last war. They're just artifacts, waiting to be analyzed.
As to texts, I invited you to pick up Chris Wickham's ...
Why would anyone care about history?
Why would anybody care about math? One can just punch those numbers into a calculator or an inexpensive math program and get the correct solution every time. Why do people even bother to learn math? If you're an engineer you have to take so much math it's crazy... Calculus, Differential Equations, Statistics.. etc ...