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Artefacts that turn up in unexpected places, objects that appear to be much older than Good Archaeology would allow, evidence of high technology in the remote past… all these things excite Bad Archaeologists, but for all manner of different reasons.

Out-of-place Artefacts

Many Bad Archaeologists make extensive use of ‘out-of-place artefacts’ or ‘archaeological erratics’. The purpose of drawing these artefacts to their readers’ attention is to cast doubt on the orthodox interpretations of the past that have been developed by archaeologists, usually by questioning what they wrongly perceive to be a linear view of cultural evolution or by trying to undermine conventional chronologies. Occasionally, they are used to cast doubt on models of human evolution (either to demonstrate the creationist claim that humans were created a little over six thousand years ago on the sixth day of Genesis or to demonstrate that humans have been around for billions of years or originally came from elsewhere). More frequently, they are used to cast doubt on the origins of technological civilisation and to show that phenomena such as electricity were known and exploited in the distant past. A few have used them as evidence for time travel or clairvoyance.

What constitutes an out-of-place artefact? William Corliss provides a list of criteria for inclusion in his compendium of ‘archeological anomalies’:

  • the object must have an unexpected age (too old or too young),
  • be in the wrong place (Roman artefacts from Mexican sites),
  • have an unknown or contested use,
  • be of anomalous size or scale,
  • have a composition that would not be possible with current understanding of ancient technology (aluminium in ancient China),
  • possess a sophistication not commensurate with those models (electric cells in ancient Parthia),
  • or have unexpected possible associations (mylodon bones from Argentinean caves suggestive of domestication by humans).

Corliss also lists ‘affiliation’, which he defines as “similarity in style… ancient pottery in Ecuador resembling Japanese pottery”, which is effectively the same as his criterion of locality. Most authors are very liberal in their interpretation of these criteria and even more so in their definition of artefact: in their catalogues of such objects, they regularly include human (or other hominin) remains and sometimes even animal remains.

Most out-of-place artefacts do not fit in to the neat categories discussed on the rest of this site, as they have been used in diverse ways to buttress the wide variety of fringe views explored there. Even so, they are interesting and some of them are worth examining in their own right. Many of them are not even artefacts, if we follow a strictly archaeological definition of the term; some are ecofacts (animal and plant remains) and others are structures. Looking at a selection of them will reveal patterns showing how fringe writers use them and how their interpretations differ from those of conventional archaeology. It will also become apparent that the same pieces of evidence are used to bolster very different interpretations and that a controversial interpretation made by one antiarchaeologist becomes established fact in the writings of those who depend on them.

Human (and other) remains

Animal (including human) remains are perhaps the least popular items in this diverse collection. However, they are popular with creationists for obvious reasons: if it is possible to show that humanity has been around since the early days of the earth (whether six thousand or billions of years ago), then by their logic, it adds weight to the claims of special creation.

Artefacts

Artefacts are things made or modified by human beings, which may or may not have a ‘practical’ purpose. Some are portable, others are not. Things such as petroglyphs and inscriptions fall into the latter category.

12 Responses to Out-of-place artefacts

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  • steve lorenz says:

    To whom it may concern,
    I am a novice at everything,my passion is rocks,and what I find on them,,I am currently enfused with my self determined( image transfer from vectrification) a procsess best exemplified,,as the remnants of xray photography after the atomic blasts of heroshima and nagasaki japan ,,of which the shadows of items were infused,as a photo graph of sorts,,my theory is,that ,,ive many ,,many items of tangible evidence,yet this is not recognized ,in the various arenas of life on this planet s past,,minitureization of whole current species ive proof of,

  • Angela Conti says:

    If I am to be honest, I have to admit that I am a huge sci-fi freak. I love the idea that there could be aliens, Bigfeet and an ancient civilization that lived on the Earth millions of years ago. One of my favorite series, “The Saga of the Pliocene Exile” by Julian May, follows the adventures of time-travelers who go back far enough in time that they believe they will leave nothing for modern archeologists to find. The premise is very interesting to me, because if we look at the objects and fossils that scientists have discovered we see there is just not a whole lot there. Scientists are notoriously hard-headed and stubborn, unwilling to relinquish their theories even in the face of good evidence. Case in point: the controversy over how long ago ancient native Americans came to North America, particularly the Clovis-as-first versus the pre-Clovis theories (http://www.pbs.org/opb/timeteam/sites/topper/diary_adrien.php). Researchers have been digging and investigating sites around North America for over a hundred years, and not until recently have they found good, hard evidence of peoples inhabiting the continent before the accepted date of approximately 12,000 to 14,000 years ago. This can only mean that stuff just doesn’t hold up well to the ravages of time. We’re only talking tens of thousands of years! This leaves me with the possibility that that there could have been an ancient civilization and we simply have not yet found evidence to prove it. This does not mean that I believe every story of OOPARTS, but it’s intriguing!

  • Richard Field says:

    I’m not a Christian, but neither an Aetheist, yet I have read and explored the Old Testament which specifically mentions an ongoing ‘program’ of human intervention by otherworldy denizens. Obviously this can be taken as human myth legend and storytelling, but if you read the Old Testament it contradicts itself by mentioning ‘special Creation’, then details the practically free acts of non-earth beings, i.e., the Nephilim.

    The argument then should be ‘Evolutionary Intervention Vs Special Creation’.

    But then i feel that the argument contradicts itself even more-how do we believe a God made Man, but we do not believe that the same God, or close associates has had period intevention in human development.

    Consider a genetic argument: Specific tribes of Isreal according to the Old Testament were’chosen’, and a covenent was made in which all sons were circumcised as a sign of this covenent. The development and evolution of the tribe/s in particular by God are described in detail in the Old Testament, especially since the Garden of Eden exile………….any thoughts?

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      If I could understand what you’re saying, I might be able to make a sensible reply.

      I think you are claiming that passages in the Torah can be read as evidence for extraterrestrials (specifically with regard to the Nephilim/‘Sons of God’) meddling in human evolution. I have to say that is not the reading I have of this passage.

      Surely the whole of the Torah is meant to be an account of how YHWH interfered in the affairs of a particular people whom he had ‘chosen’ and how that people must behave in order to avoid his wrath. There is nothing about evolution in this except in the sense of the evolution (development) of political groupings, and even that is pretty limited and simplistic.

      I hope that I’ve answered your points. If not, please let me know.

  • Yatjeeca says:

    Seems to me what an Out of Place Artifact is or OOPART as some call it fondly, is an Anomaly. And if the OOPART has been determined by those who study, analyze and investigate it as an anomalous artifact or feature then I feel that person and that artifact merits it’s anomalous discovery status and all the questions that befall it whilst be respected for their theories as long as based on demonstrable facts and data gathered. I believe a person or the discoverer/s and investigator/s have the right to do this whether they be an archaeologist, geologist or any person who is scientific or not. All human beings have a right to knowledge. Isn’t the by-product of archaeological practice enrichment of the culture and people’s knowledge and awareness, socioculturally, universally and consciously.
    History shows that revolutionary changes in Science, modern and ancient have come about in the wake of findings and phenomenon that at first were found to be anomalous or out of place. Anomalous findings and observations are what paves the way for revolutionary changes in current accepted thought and what can transform current paradigms!

  • Henderson says:

    I have two ideas about this. First idea. We have been at the level of technology that we have today before. Maybe many times before. Something happen and the RESET button got hit. Just look how fast we went for horse and buggy to jet planes. That could have happened many many times over the past millionnot years. Second idea. Time travel is real. It may or may not be a machine but could be a odd fact of time its self. It may of may be be something that can be controlled. It maybe a random thing and that is why we do not have time travelers visiting us to doday.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      The problem with this view is that human beings are extraordinarily wasteful creatures and the problem is only exacerbated by high technology: the more technologically accomplished a society is, the more rubbish it creates. Where are the remains of the technology you claim that former civilisations once possessed that are at the same level as ours? Certainly not in any society currently recognised by archaeology. And even allowing for the destruction of more and more remains the farther back in time we look, one would think that there might be, say, the odd Palaeolithic wheel (which is hardly high technology!). The fact that there is nothing other than highly dubious evidence touted by Bad Archaeologists makes it likely that there never has been a society so reliant on technology as ours.

  • aayawa says:

    Like Angela Conti I find the idea of a civilisation that existed millions of years ago to be inspiring. However the best case I could find, the Dashka Stone, about which I wrote some time ago http://alexk2009.hubpages.com/_aayawa/hub/Mysteries-of-the-Map-of-the-maker seemed to hit a wall fairly rapidly, and I remain intrigued but skeptical of the idea of a 123 million year old relief map of the Urals. There IS an anomaly or mystery here but for me the mystery is as much where the discoverer has gone.

    I also argued (http://alexk2009.hubpages.com/_aayawa/hub/Would-we-recognise-Lemuria-if-we-found-it) that the passage of time would render many artefacts unrecognisable. I speculated on whether anyone would be able to recognise the existence of advanced technology if they found a CPU that had been in the ground for a million years or so. Bottom line: a really ancient civilisation could be undetectable simply because of the passage of time.

    I find the majority of revisionists, even those that try hard to be rigorous, lack really strong arguments for their case: often 20 minutes (max two hours) on Google is enough to refute their ideas.

    Are there any OOPARTS that cannot be explained in conventional terms without straining credulity?

  • Keith Osmond says:
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