Out-of-place Artifact

Anachronism

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.

The term ‘out-of-place artifact’ is rarely used by mainstream historians or scientists. Its use is largely confined to cryptozoologists (who study big foot, the loch ness monster, and other cryptids), proponents of ancient astronaut theories, Young Earth creationists, and paranormal enthusiasts.

The term is used to describe a wide variety of objects, from anomalies studied by mainstream science to pseudoarchaeology (interpretations of the past from outside of the academic archaeological community) 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.

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. Creation Science relies on allegedly anomalous finds in the archaeological record to challenge scientific chronologies and models of human evolution. Claimed OOPArts have been 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, a claim 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 set of gears from an orrery), a type of mechanical computer which has been fully validated as a real object from about 150–100 BCE. 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 Maine. It is an 11th century Norse coin found in an American Indian shell midden (refuse pile). 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 from Labrador or Newfoundland by native trade.

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