Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Top 10 Mysterious Artifacts

(Image: Tony Freeth via Wikipedia)
Simply put, out-of-place artifacts are objects of historical and archaeological significance discovered out of context, seemingly defying explanation of how they came to be, and potentially challenging conventional history. 

Myriad theories seek to explain or debunk such phenomena, and it’s sometimes hard to know where the lines between serious archaeology and pseudo-science blur. Proponents point to the discovery of mysterious, ancient objects in remote locations devoid of human life as evidence of advanced civilisations lost to history. Others dismiss such claims, suggesting more ‘down to earth’ explanations. This article features a series of out-of-place artifacts that continue to fuel controversy and debate.

The Antikythera Mechanism
(Image: Marsyas )
What It Is: The Antikythera Mechanism is a brilliant piece of computing technology that was accidentally discovered in an ancient shipwreck near Crete. Imaging and dating has put its creation at about 100 to 150 BC; at its most basic, it’s a device created from a system of gears and wheels that track the position of the sun and moon. It also keeps track of the phases of the moon, predicts eclipses, and tracks the movement of the zodiac through the sky. The seemingly out-of-place artifact has 80 separate pieces, including gears, dials, hands, and pieces of casing.


The Theories: Discovered in 1901, this early precursor to the computer has long been held as clear evidence for a once-technologically advanced civilisation on earth – probably one that was wiped out in some kind of catastrophe. The Antikythera Mechanism, not surprisingly, has long been used in arguments for Atlantis or the presence of extraterrestrials on earth. The fact that nothing like it has ever been found since gives credence – according to some – to the idea of a catastrophic event wiping out a lost civilisation.

(Image: Marsyas )
With new computer technology, however, we’re finally able to start unraveling the mysteries behind the Antikythera Mechanism. Recovered alongside the object was its case; high resolution scanning has allowed researchers to reconstruct just what was on the case. The motion of the ancient gears has now been identified, and it was actually invented by an astronomer named Hipparcus of Rhodes in the 2nd century BC. They’ve even found another small, easily overlooked inscription that allows the device to keep track of the Olympic Games.


While the Antikythera Mechanism hasn’t given up all its secrets, researchers are now beginning to suspect that – thanks to the identity of the movement-maker – it was part of a horde of objects looted from Rhodes. It seems likely that the supposed out-of-place artifact was on its way to Rome when the ship that was transporting it sank. And as for it being one of a kind? Well, the bronze that the mechanism, and others like it, was made from was often melted down and recast into other objects.


The Iron Pillar of Delhi, India
Image: Sujit Kumar

What It Is: An iron pillar, weighing 6.5 tons and standing 7.3 meters (almost 24 feet) tall, stands in Delhi. It’s inscribed with text and has intricate scroll-work at the top. According to the inscription, it was erected in honour of Vishnu during the reign of Gupta King and was originally erected sometime between 375 and 413. While the Iron Pillar of Delhi is now located in the centre of the Quwwatul Mosque, it was only moved there about a thousand years ago, from somewhere in Madhya Pradesh. Where it came from, how and why the 6.5 ton pillar was moved, and why it hasn’t rusted in 16 centuries has long baffled historians, archaeologists and chemists alike.

The Theories: Many questions remain unanswered, but one mystery about the out-of-place artifact has been solved. According to legend, it’s good luck for a person to be able to stand with their back against the pillar and touch their fingertips on the other side. Countless tourists and visitors have tried, and it’s led to rust beginning to form on the bottom of the pillar. Metallurgists at a Kanpur college studied the Iron Pillar of Delhi, and found that a thin, protective layer had formed on the pillar. Created from iron, hydrogen and oxygen, the layer formed because of the metal’s high phosphorus content – a byproduct of traditional smelting methods – and protected it from rust over the centuries.

We’re still waiting for answers to the rest of the questions, but weirdly, the out-of-place artifact isn’t the only strange iron pillar out there. Another massive, rust-free pillar, known as the Iron Man in the Kotternforst, stands in Germany. Made from pig iron, the strangely lonely pillar stands where it has for centuries – and remains rust-free.

The London Hammer
What It Is: In 1934 (or 1936), Max and Emma Hahn were walking near their home in London, Texas, when they came across what looked like a piece of wood sticking out of a rock. They didn’t think much of it until later (1947) when their son chipped away at the rock and broke it open to reveal the head of an iron hammer. The head was about six inches long, largely free of rust and confirmed to have been made from iron.

The Theories: The London Hammer has long been one of the star exhibits of the Creation Evidence Museum. According to Creationists, the hammer is a pre-Flood discovery – it was, the Hahns stated, found in rocks that have since been dated as being between 400 and 500-million-years-old. But since the out-of-place artifact clearly isn’t 400 to 500 million years old, that means the dates for the rock formation it was buried in must be wrong.

The circumstances in which the London Hammer was found are questionable. There’s no actual evidence that it was found where the Hahns say, and there are no pictures or other documentation to back up the removal of the hammer from its supposed resting place. There’s another theory, too. Even if everything the Hahns said was legit, there’s a process by which ancient minerals can harden around a relatively new object – like a hammer dropped by a Texas miner a couple of hundred years ago. Geologists would be able to tell the difference, but the museum that currently owns the alleged out-of-place artifact won’t allow scientists to test it.

The Maine Penny
What It Is: In 1957, amateur archaeologist Guy Mellgren was conducting a dig along the Maine Coast. He came across an odd coin; further examination seemed to confirm that it was an ancient Norse coin that dated back to the 11th century. It was identified as being minted during the reign of a king named Olaf Kyrre, between 1065 and 1080.

The Theories: Just who made it across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World and in what order they did it has long been up for debate, and at a glance, it seems like the presence of the Norse coin establishes the Vikings as a front-runner. The site of the dig was dated to between 1180 and 1235, making it not unlikely that the so-called Maine Penny would have been in circulation at the time of the other artifacts unearthed. The coin was, however, the only Norse item found at the site – which yielded about 30,000 different artifacts. Because it was originally misidentified as a British coin, no particular note was taken of when it was first excavated. There are no records of precisely where the out-of-place artifact was found, or photographs of it being uncovered. Some researchers believe the Maine Penny was planted as a hoax, or that it was simply part of a vast trade network that had found its way to the site through other means.

The Dendera Light
What It Is: The Dendera Light is actually a stone relief found at the Temple of Hathor in Dendera, Egypt. On the walls of a crypt beneath the temple, there’s a peculiar mural that – some claim – offers definitive proof that the ancient Egyptians had access to some rather impressive technology. The Dendera Light appears to show several people holding what look like over-sized light bulbs, with a bright spotlight emanating from them. The crypt, one of five similar rooms and described as accessible only through a secret opening, is thought to have once been a storehouse for the temple’s most prized possessions, which are now long gone.

The Theories: Aliens. Proponents of the idea that the ancient gods were actually aliens that bestowed some of their technologies upon the human race point to the out-of-place artifact as proof that they had access to some sort of electrical and lighting technologies, which were probably once housed in the crypts beneath the temples.

A more mainstream idea holds that the murals, at a glance, seem to show light bulbs and electricity because that’s what our modern minds see. Another interpretation for the murals falls in line with ancient Egyptian mythology. The son of Hathor is commonly depicted as taking the form of a snake, which explains the ‘rays’ that seemingly emanating from the light-bulb – they’re actually him in snake form. According to the story of Horus’ birth, he was born from a lotus flower that bloomed as the sun rose on the first day of the new year. That’s the light-bulb-like apparatus they’re holding, with one of their gods bursting forth from it.

The Lake Winnipesaukee Mystery Stone
What It Is: In 1872, workers were digging holes for fence posts in the area of Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire. In one hole, they found a fist-sized, egg-shaped rock with a series of intricate carvings that appeared to depict various Native American images: a teepee, an ear of corn, a face. Two holes had been drilled into the object.

The Theories: Some have posited that the supposed out-of-place-artifact is of Celtic or other European origin, and that it’s actually a thunderstone. Thunderstones were thought to be stones given to people by the gods, and they were put in homes to ward off evil. They got their power from storms, and were thought to be especially potent against the demons that could steal the soul of an unbaptized child, drive an animal mad or sour a cow’s milk.

Area historians have suggested that the Lake Winnipesaukee Mystery Stone might have been made to symbolize an event of monumental importance in Native American culture. What’s still unclear is how the holes in it were made – they seem completely smooth, as if bored by a power tool. Because the exact spot the so-called Lake Winnipesaukee Mystery Stone was found in was never documented, it’s also impossible to know just what else may have been buried in the same place.

The Ica Stones
What They Are: In 1966, physician-turned-archaeologist Dr. Javier Cabrera opened the Museo de Piedras Grabadas to display literally thousands of stones that he found in a cave near Ica, Peru. The Ica Stones were engraved with a variety of scenes that seemed to go against every single thing that has been scientifically accepted about our history. According to Cabrera, the stones were engraved by an ancient South American civilization and left in the cave as a sort of history book. Scenes carved into the Ica Stones depict the use of telescopes, doctors performing advanced surgeries, and others using technologies like flying machines. Other stones show humans using what appears to be dinosaurs as beasts of burden, and other stones even show them fighting the dinosaurs.

It’s not known how many Ica Stones exist, but the out-of-place artifacts number in the thousands. Cabrera (portrait seen in photo below) claims that his team has found about 50,000 of them, yet they remain undocumented and strewn across the world. The cave that he says he found them all in has never been identified.

What They Are: In 1966, physician-turned-archaeologist Dr. Javier Cabrera opened the Museo de Piedras Grabadas to display literally thousands of stones that he found in a cave near Ica, Peru. The Ica Stones were engraved with a variety of scenes that seemed to go against every single thing that has been scientifically accepted about our history. According to Cabrera, the stones were engraved by an ancient South American civilization and left in the cave as a sort of history book. Scenes carved into the Ica Stones depict the use of telescopes, doctors performing advanced surgeries, and others using technologies like flying machines. Other stones show humans using what appears to be dinosaurs as beasts of burden, and other stones even show them fighting the dinosaurs.

It’s not known how many Ica Stones exist, but the out-of-place artifacts number in the thousands. Cabrera (portrait seen in photo below) claims that his team has found about 50,000 of them, yet they remain undocumented and strewn across the world. The cave that he says he found them all in has never been identified.

The problem really starts when we try to look at the Ica Stones as a whole. In 1975, a Peruvian farmer was arrested for selling the esoteric stones to tourists. A little digging revealed that a couple of locals had perfected the art of engraving rocks and making them look real – a little carving followed by time to weather in their chicken coop gave them the perfect, aged appearance. They admitted finding their source materials from pop culture and comic books.

However, science holds that some of the stones are real. There are records of various Ica Stones being brought back to Spain in the 16th century, and not all the carvings depict amazing scenes like brain surgery.

In fact, many supposed depictions of dinosaurs or fantastic beasts are themselves up for interpretation. Some of the so-called dinosaurs aren’t engraved, but created from stains on the ancient rocks. So far, the scientific response to the idea of the Ica Stones has been decidedly mixed.

Baigong Pipes

What They Are: The Baigong Pipes were discovered in 1996 by a man named Bai Yu and named for their location – Mount Baigong, a strangely shaped mountain with what’s said to be a pyramid on top. Within Mount Baigong are a series of caves, some of which have collapsed and are impassable, and others that can be explored. Inside them is what appears to be a pretty wild system of pipes. They range from almost too tiny to see to 16 inches in diameter, and those who see the out-of-place artifacts state that they were clearly put there for a reason. The pipes, which appear to be made from metal, run deep into the rock and connect the cave system to a nearby lake.

The Theories: Aliens. Based on their age, it’s been put forward that the Baigong Pipes were installed by some race of ancient aliens as a sort of plumbing system. The theory gained so much momentum that a radar dish was installed on top of the mountain, just in case they were ever coming back.

Various scientists have examined the Baigong Pipes and their findings are intriguing. They’re 92 per cent common minerals and the remaining eight per cent of their makeup is unknown. Thermoluminescence testing can tell how long it’s been since a substance has been subjected to light or heat, and in the case of samples from the pipes, it’s been between 140,000 and 150,000 years.

The Stone Spheres of Costa Rica
What They Are: The stone spheres of Costa Rica are exactly that – stone balls allegedly created with incredibly accurate precision. They’re so precise, in fact, that many claim they couldn’t possibly have been made with the simple tools that were available at the time they were created, which has been estimated at sometime between 500 and 1500 AD. They range from 0.7 meters (2.3 feet) to 2.5 meters (8 feet) in diameter, and are a relatively new discovery. The stones are mentioned briefly in documents from the late 19th century, but the first real records of them date to the 1930s. Unfortunately, it’s not known how many of the out-of-place artifacts once existed, as some were destroyed by the heavy equipment used by those who found them (when clearing trees for farmland), and others were blown up by people hoping to find gold or buried treasure within. About 300 now remain, the largest ones weighing a staggering 16 tons. The four sites where the stones were found have been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.


The Theories: The stone spheres of Costa Rica have been tied to a number of different mythical civilizations, from Atlantis to mysterious, extraterrestrial societies. One of the most popular extraterrestrial theories states that the out-of-place artifacts are navigation aids somehow related to other megaliths around the world.

Several stones, however, aren’t as perfectly smooth or spherical as claimed; researchers have found some that still have trace marks of the tools that were used to create them. They were made – quite literally – by banging two rocks together. What’s not known is why they were made. The civilization that created them pre-dates the Spanish conquest of the region. By all accounts, they left no written records, paintings or carvings, nothing to indicate why the stone spheres were so important to them or what legends and mythology had grown up around them.

The Calixtlahuaca Head
What It Is: In 1933, a bizarre artifact was found during the excavation of a burial tomb at Calixtlahuaca in Mexico’s Toluca Valley. The tomb, dated to between 1476 and 1510, contained the usual, culturally-appropriate burial offerings, along with a terracotta head that looked out of place. The Calixtlahuaca Head, as it became known, had a distinctly Roman feel, but it was surprisingly forgotten until 1961. It was only then that an Austrian anthropologist took another look at the out-of-place artifact and declared that it not only had all the features of the Hellenistic-Roman art movement, but that it also could be dated to around 200 AD – an age and interpretation that has been supported by a number of other archaeologists. The style of the hair and the beard are distinctly Roman, a fashion that had largely disappeared after the third century.

The Theories: Just when the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean first came into contact with each other has long been up for debate, and the head suggests that it’s much earlier than originally thought. It’s known that Cortez didn’t conquer the area until 1521, meaning that when the tomb was sealed, they were still considered a pre-Hispanic culture. Thermoluminescence has established that the head dates from anywhere between 870 BC and 1270 AD, but there is precedent for tombs and burial chambers containing artifacts that are far older than the burial itself.

That being said, it’s still not clear-cut, solid proof of European contact before Spanish colonization. There are no photographs of the head in the tomb where it was found, and there’s no documentation of the head being processed along with other artifacts from the same dig. Additionally, there’s no guarantee that the Calixtlahuaca Head wasn’t just planted to stir up some attention around the dig, or that its dating was wrong and the alleged out-of-place artifact was introduced to the area after the Spanish arrived.



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