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What are Out Of Place Artifacts? Out-of-place artifact (OOPArt) is a term coined by American naturalist and cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson for an object of historical, archaeological, or paleontological interest found in a very unusual or seemingly impossible context that could challenge conventional historical chronology.
Out Of Place Artifacts
The term “out-of-place artifact” is rarely used by mainstream historians or scientists. Its use is largely confined to cryptozoologists, proponents of ancient astronaut theories, and paranormal enthusiasts. The term is used to describe a wide variety of objects, from anomalies studied by mainstream science to pseudoarchaeology far outside the mainstream, to objects that have been shown to be hoaxes or to have mundane explanations.
Critics argue that most purported OOPArts which are not hoaxes are the result of mistaken interpretation, wishful thinking, or a mistaken belief that a particular culture couldn’t have created an artifact or technology due to a lack of knowledge or materials. Supporters regard OOParts as evidence that mainstream science is overlooking huge areas of knowledge, either willfully or through ignorance. More in-depth studies can be done of course through good references and books such as Pseudoarchaeology: Marine archaeology in the Gulf of Cambay, Alfred Rosenberg, Thule Society, Out-of-place artifact, Zecharia Sitchin. A very good resource here!
In some cases, the uncertainty results from inaccurate descriptions. For example: the Wolfsegg Iron was said to be a perfect cube, but in fact it is not; the Klerksdorp spheres were said to be perfect spheres, but they are not; and the Iron pillar of Delhi was said to be stainless, but it has some rust near its base.
Many writers or researchers who question conventional views of human history have used purported OOPArts in attempts to bolster their arguments; they are used to support religious descriptions of pre-history, ancient astronaut theories, or the notion of vanished civilizations that possessed knowledge or technology more advanced than our own.
In rare cases, the validity of claims is validated by mainstream science; i.e., it is proven that some artifact was created with a technology not previously thought to have existed in the ancient culture that built it. One piece that changed mainstream understanding of ancient technology is the Antikythera mechanism, a type of mechanical computer which has been fully validated as a real object from about 150–100 BC. Before X-ray examination, its clockwork-like appearance (dating about 1,000 years before clocks were invented) was cited as evidence of alien visitation by fringe sources.
A partially validated example is the Maine penny, from the Goddard site in Blue Hill, Maine, United States. It is an 11th century Norse coin found in an American Indian shell midden. Over 20,000 objects were found over a 15-year period at the site. The sole non-Native artifact was the coin. Some argue it demonstrates Norse visits to North America unknown to archaeology; mainstream belief is that it was brought to the site by a native trader from near Labrador.
These are examples of objects that have been argued by various fringe authors (see list) to have been OOPArts. They are categorised according to their current status in the eyes of the mainstream scientific community (for references on this, see the linked article on each item). Here “validation” means that the object in question has been validated as evidence of technological developments that were present in an ancient society and which were previously unknown to us.
* Dropa stones: Invented by David Gamon (as David Agamon) as part of his false document Sungods in Exile.
* Acámbaro figures: Mid-20th century figurines of dinosaurs, attributed by Waldemar Julsrud to an ancient society.
* Crystal skulls: supposedly demonstrate more advanced stonecutting skills than were available in pre-Columbian South America. Appear to have been made in the 19th century.
* Ica stones: Depict Inca dinosaur-hunters, surgery, and other modern or fanciful topics. Collected by Javier Cabrera Darquea who believed them to be prehistoric.
* Kensington Runestone: Purports to have been made by 15th century descendents of Leif Ericson’s colony. Generally believed to be a modern-day hoax.
Natural objects mistaken for artifacts
* Baigong Pipes: Their natural vs artificial status is uncertain; see the article for details.
* Eltanin Antenna: Actually a sponge
* Klerksdorp spheres: Actually Precambrian concretions
Erroneously dated objects
* Coso artifact: Thought to be prehistoric; actually a 1920s spark plug.
* Malachite Man: Thought to be from the early Cretaceous; actually a post-Columbian burial.
* Wolfsegg Iron: Thought to be from the Tertiary epoch; actually from an early mining operation. Inaccurately described as a perfect cube.
* Dorchester Pot
* Kingoodie artifact
* Fuente Magna: A bowl with what appears to be a Sumerian inscription on it, but was found in Tiwanaku.
Unorthodox interpretations of real ancient artifacts
* Baalbek megaliths: Supposedly impossible to move with Bronze Age technology.
* Dendera Lamps: supposed to depict a light bulb, but made in Ptolemaic Egypt.
* Iron Man (Eiserne Mann)
* Iron pillar of Delhi: supposedly demonstrates more advanced metallurgy than was available in 1st millennium India.
* Nazca Lines: supposedly impossible to design without the aid of an aerial view.
* Pacal’s sarcophagus lid: Described by Erich von Däniken as a depiction of a spaceship.
* Saqqara Bird: supposed to depict a glider, but made in Ancient Egypt.
* stone spheres of Costa Rica: inaccurately described as perfectly spherical, and therefore as demonstrating greater stoneworking skills than were available in preColumbian times.
Formerly orthodox interpretations of artifacts
* Baghdad Battery: Vase and rods made in Parthian or Sassanid Persia. May have been used as a galvanic cell for electroplating. But no electroplated artifacts from this era have been found.
* Lake Winnipesaukee mystery stone: Originally thought to be a record of a treaty between tribes; but later analysis has called its authenticity into question.
* Maine penny: May be a sign of pre-Columbian contact.
* Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca head: said to be a bust in the Classical Roman style, found in a Mexican tomb.
* Antikythera mechanism: a set of gears from an orrery, dating to the 2nd century BC.
A classic out of place artifact: The Baghdad Battery
The Baghdad Battery, sometimes referred to as the Parthian Battery, is the common name for a number of artifacts created in Mesopotamia, during the Persian dynasties of Parthian or Sassanid period (the early centuries AD), and probably discovered in 1936 in the village of Khuyut Rabbou’a, near Baghdad, Iraq. These artifacts came to wider attention in 1938 when Wilhelm König, the German director of the National Museum of Iraq, found the objects in the museum’s collections. In 1940, König published a paper speculating that they may have been galvanic cells, perhaps used for electroplating gold onto silver objects. This interpretation continues to be considered as at least a hypothetical possibility. If correct, the artifacts would predate Alessandro Volta’s 1800 invention of the electrochemical cell by more than a millennium.
Description and dating
The artifacts consist of terracotta pots approximately 130 mm (5 in) tall (with a one and a half inch mouth) containing a copper cylinder made of a rolled-up copper sheet, which houses a single iron rod. At the top, the iron rod is isolated from the copper by bitumen plugs or stoppers, and both rod and cylinder fit snugly inside the opening of the jar, which bulges outward towards the middle. The copper cylinder is not watertight, so if the jar was filled with a liquid, this would surround the iron rod as well. The artifact had been exposed to the weather and had suffered corrosion, although mild given the presence of an electrochemical couple. This has led some scholars[who?] to believe lemon juice, grape juice, or vinegar was used as an acidic electrolyte solution to generate an electric current from the difference between the electrochemical potentials of the copper and iron electrodes.
König thought the objects might date to the Parthian period (between 250 BC and AD 224). However, according to St John Simpson of the Near Eastern department of the British Museum, their original excavation and context were not well recorded (see stratigraphy), so evidence for this date range is very weak. Furthermore, the style of the pottery (see typology) is Sassanid (224-640).
Most of the components of the objects are not particularly amenable to advanced dating methods. The ceramic pots could be analysed by thermoluminescence dating, but this has apparently not yet been done; in any case, it would only date the firing of the pots, which is not necessarily the same as when the complete artifact was assembled. Another possibility would be ion diffusion analysis, which could indicate how long the objects were buried.
Copper and iron form an electrochemical couple, so that in the presence of any electrolyte, an electric potential (voltage) will be produced. König had observed a number of very fine silver objects from ancient Iraq which were plated with very thin layers of gold, and speculated that they were electroplated using batteries with these being the cells. After the Second World War, Willard Gray demonstrated current production by a reconstruction of the inferred battery design when filled with grape juice. W. Jansen experimented with benzoquinone (some beetles produce quinones) and vinegar in a cell and got satisfactory performance.
However, even among those who believe the artifacts were electrical devices, electroplating as a use is not well regarded today. Paul Craddock of the British Museum said “The examples we see from this region and era are conventional gold plating and mercury gilding. There’s never been any untouchable evidence to support the electroplating theory.” The gilded objects which König thought might be electroplated are now believed to have been fire-gilded (with mercury). Reproduction experiments of electroplating by Arne Eggebrecht consumed “many” reproduction cells to achieve a plated layer just one micrometre thick. Other scientists noted that Eggebrecht used a more efficient, modern electrolyte; using only vinegar, the battery is very feeble.
Skeptical archaeologists see the electrical experiments as embodying a key problem with experimental archaeology, saying that such experiments can only show that something was physically possible, but don’t confirm whether it actually occurred. Further, there are many difficulties with the interpretation of these artifacts as galvanic cells:
* the bitumen completely covers the copper cylinder, electrically insulating it, so no current can be drawn without modifying the design;
* there are no wires or conductors with them;
* no widely accepted electrical equipment is associated with them. (Controversial stone reliefs depicting arc lights have been suggested, however the voltages obtained are orders of magnitude below what would be needed to produce arc lighting);
* a bitumen seal, being thermoplastic, is excellent for forming a hermetic seal for long term storage. It would be extremely inconvenient however for a galvanic cell, which would require frequent topping up of the electrolyte (if they were intended for extended use).
The artifacts strongly resemble another type of object with a known purpose—namely, storage vessels for sacred scrolls from nearby Seleucia on the Tigris. Those vessels do not have the outermost clay jar, but are otherwise almost identical. Since it is claimed these vessels were exposed to the elements, it would not be at all surprising if any papyrus or parchment inside had completely rotted away, perhaps leaving a trace of slightly acidic organic residue.
 In the media
The idea that the battery could have produced usable levels of electricity has been put to the test at least twice.
On the 1980 British Television series Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World, Egyptologist Arne Eggebrecht used a recreation of the battery, filled with grape juice, to produce half a volt of electricity, demonstrating for the programme that the battery could electroplate a silver statuette in two hours, using a gold cyanide solution. Eggebrecht speculated that museums could contain many items mislabelled as gold when they are merely electroplated. However, doubt has recently been cast on the validity of these experiments.
In 1999, the Disney Channel original TV series So Weird featured the battery in the opening portion of the show.
The Discovery Channel program MythBusters determined that it was indeed plausible for ancient people to have used the Baghdad Battery for electroplating or electrostimulation. On MythBusters’ 29th episode (which aired on March 23, 2005), ten hand-made terracotta jars were fitted to act as batteries. Lemon juice was chosen as the electrolyte to activate the electrochemical reaction between the copper and iron. However, the batteries which they reproduced did not produce a substantial voltage and had to be connected in series in order to achieve 4 volts of electricity.
The show’s research staff proposed three possible uses: electroplating, medical pain relief (through acupuncture), and religious experience. It was discovered that when linked in series the cells indeed had sufficient power to electroplate a small token. For acupuncture, the batteries produced a “random” pulse that could be felt through the needles; however, it began to produce a painful burning sensation when the batteries were grounded to two needles at once. For the religious experience aspect of the batteries, a replica of the Ark of the Covenant was constructed, complete with two cherubim. Instead of linking the cherubim’s golden wings to the low power batteries, an electric fence generator was connected. When touched, the wings produced a strong feeling of tightness in the chest. Although the batteries themselves had not been used, it was surmised that, due to the apparent lack of knowledge of electricity, any form of electrical sensation from them could equate to the divine presence in the eyes of ancient people. In the end, the Baghdad battery myth was found plausible on all three accounts.
The Bible tells us that God created Adam and Eve just a few thousand years ago, by some fundamentalist interpretations. Science informs us that this is mere fiction and that man is a few million years old, and that civilization just tens of thousands of years old. Could it be, however, that conventional science is just as mistaken as the Bible stories? There is a great deal of archeological evidence that the history of life on earth might be far different than what current geological and anthropological texts tell us. Consider these astonishing finds from about.com’s paranormal ooparts section:
1. The Grooved Spheres
2. The Dropa Stones
3. The Ica Stones
4. The Antikythera Mechanism
5. The Baghdad Battery
6. The Coso Artifact
7. Ancient Model Aircraft
8. Giant Stone Balls of Costa Rica
9. Impossible Fossils
10. Out-of-Place Metal Objects
AS SOPHISTICATED TECHNOLOGICALLY as we have become on this planet, we are still pretty much in the dark when it comes to matters of our own existence. Where do we come from? What is our purpose here? What happens after we die?
These are the age-old questions. Science attempts to answer the first question only and doesn’t yet know how to deal with the other two. Religion, in its many forms, provides as many “certain” answers to all three questions, but with little or no evidence. A multitude of other philosophies have their own ideas.
With all our investigation, pondering, faith and meditation, however, we are no closer to knowing. The more we dig for answers to these questions, it seems, the more questions are raised.
Many fascinating questions are raised with regard to “where do we come from?” in Brad Steiger’s book, Worlds Before Our Own. First published in 1978 and out of print for several years, the book has recently been reprinted by Anomalist Books (along with several other of Brad’s titles, including Strange Guests and Shadow World, all of which I can heartily recommend).
Obviously, I have always been fascinated by discoveries and human experiences that don’t fit into the standard templates of what conventional science and even religion would have us accept. Thus, my preoccupation with ghost phenomena, psychic experiences and sightings of Bigfoot, to specify a few. This fascination also includes archaeological discoveries that do not fit neatly into the timelines currently laid out in scientific texts. (See “The 10 Most Puzzling Ancient Artifacts”.) Yet these discoveries exist, annoying as they may be to the commonly accepted theories.
Brad shares my excitement and wonder about these anomalies, which is why I gleefully relish books like Worlds Before Our Own. These anomalous findings – and there are thousands of them – stand out as real evidence that there very well may have been civilizations (possibly advanced) that pre-date any we are aware of. They may stretch back hundreds of thousands or even millions of years further than conventional histories.
IMPOSSIBLY OLD HUMAN REMAINS AND TRACKS
- In the 1880s, anthropologists found the remains of a modern-looking man, woman and two children in glacial strata that were dated at 10 million years old – far older than the currently accepted model, which says modern man (homo sapiens) has only been around for about 200,000 years.
- In 1971, while exploring a mine, an amateur geologist and archaeologist found a human tooth embedded in strata that was dated as 100 million years old.
- In 1932, an experienced trapper found human footprints imprinted in the gypsum rock at White Sands, New Mexico. More astonishing, the prints measured 22 inches long!
- Two brothers digging into ancient Indian mounds in Minnesota unearthed the skeletons of men that would have stood over eight feet tall.
- In 1930, the New York Times reported the discovery by a mining operation in Mexico of human remains “averaging eight feet in height.”
PREHISTORIC SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
- In 1968, a Russian archaeologist found a large-scale metallurgical factory dating back to some unknown civilization 4,500 years ago, where they made vases, knives, bracelets and more of copper, gold, iron and bronze.
- In Haifa, Israel in 1966, researchers found in a cave a piece of manufactured glass measuring 11 feet long, 7 feet wide and 1½ feet thick and aged at 1,400 years old. Such a feat of glass making was not matched until the creation of the mirrors for the Mount Palomar telescopes in the 20th century.
- The ancient Peruvians may have invented ballooning. In 1690, a Portuguese Jesuit priest recorded that he had actually seen the Peruvians flying about in hot-air balloons.
Again, this is just a small sampling of the wealth of intriguing anomalies Brad Steiger has assembled in Worlds Before Our Own.
Of course, we call them “anomalies” only in relation to current scientific belief. More correctly, they should be regarded as concrete evidence that we know very little about the true history of humankind on Earth – a history that is almost certainly far richer and older than we have imagined. Who knows what other astonishing discoveries await us in the coming years.