Out of place artifacts (OOPArts) are seeming anachronisms that can seem intriguing to some, a validation of alternative history to others, and hoaxes or misinterpreted evidence to skeptics. In a delightful recap of some of these, skeptic leader Brian Dunning examined the evidence or lack thereof for what claimants make of them.
We’ll start with the Acámbaro Figures, a collection of tens of thousands of small ceramic figurines that are a mix of dinosaurs, humanoids, sleestaks, and the like. Some of them vaguely resemble the dinosaur set I had as a kid. That set, incidentally, included cavemen, which would have made any Young Earth Creationist proud. As such, the Acámbaro Figures are beloved among YECs, who think the critters lend credence to the notion of humans and terrible lizards co-existing. Attempts to carbon-date the items has proven inconclusive.
However, Dunning wrote that the figures suggest “large-scale production by small artisan communities for the tourist trade,” and are thus not worthy of serious archeological study. Indeed, archaeologist Charles DiPeso saw some of the figures being retrieved from their shallow Earthly grave and deduced they had been recently planted just below the surface in a failed attempt to trick him. Dunning notes that the figurines’ surfaces were conspicuously free of scratches, blemishes, or other aging signs. Any last chance of these being genuine evaporated when thermoluminescence dating showed the figures to have been made around 1940 as opposed to 1940 BCE.
We now move to the Dorchester Port, a discovery made in Massachusetts in the mid-19th Century. The tale has it that workers dynamiting rock came across the remnants of an ornate silver pot embedded within that rock. Since the rock was 500 million years old, the Dorchester Pot is a favorite of the ancient advanced civilization enthusiasts. These folks are at the opposite end of the universe-age spectrum from YECs but are their brethren when it comes to selectively interpreting evidence to bolster their passions.
However, looking at photos of the object, it becomes clear that none of them are the same. They are from different hookah bases common in 19th Century India, are in good shape, and none look like they have been blown in two. The idea of an extremely ancient pot is merely a hoax and not a very thorough or thought-out one, either.
Next we consider the Upshur Bell, found in 1944 by youngster Newton Anderson while shoveling coal in his family’s basement. The bell seemingly appeared from a lump of this coal. Newton kept the object for 63 years and learned it was a Hindu ceremonial featuring the deity Garuda. Anderson sold the bell to a creationist website, where it is touted as the work of a blacksmith named in Genesis, Tubal-cain. Why he would have been making a Hindu god in a time that, per Genesis, was a religion not yet in existence, is unexplained. Moreover, Dunning noted that the bell resembles countless others in the world. To state the obvious, zero evidence supports the Tubal-cain narrative.
We have highlighted two objects fawned over by YECs, so for balance, we will close with a supposedly ancient tale, that of the Dashka Stone. This refers to an enormous slab discovered in Russia in 1999 that is said to be a 120 million-year-old writing tablet. Physicist Alexander Chuvyrov asserts the stone depicts a topographical map of the Ural Mountains, and he believes the pattern of inscriptions covering it are early Chinese characters.
According to Dunning, Chuvyrov considers two thin layers of different type of rock on the surface as proof the ancients manufactured it as a writing tablet. But Dunning consulted with a geologist, who informed him that the face of the Dashka Stone “was probably a bedding plane between two layers of sedimentary rock, along which some movement may have occurred during a period of deformation in which the other cracks perpendicular to the face also formed. These cracks are textbook compression shear fractures, and their three directions indicate at least three deformation events.”
When it comes to OOPArts, the only thing out of place is the trust their adherents have in them.