Oopart meaning out-of-place-artifact was coined by zoologist Ivan T. Sanderson and is used to describe historical archaeological or palaeontological objects that are found in very unusual or impossible locations.
The term is mainly used by crypto-zoologists and paranormal enthusiasts and is rarely used by historians and scientists. Ooparts are used to question or challenge the conventional views of human history as evidence of their arguments. Creationists arguing against evolution, believers in time travel and alien visitations use ooparts to support their theories.
It is argued that ooparts exist because of mistaken interpretation, wishful thinking or because it is believed the culture in question couldn't have been responsible for creating the artifact because the materials and/or methods that were used to create the object were not available or even known at that time.
On June 22, 1844 in Rutherford-Mills, England the Times reported that a mechanically manufactured gold thread was found embedded in sandstone at a depth of eight feet. The sandstone was estimated to be about 60 million years old.
In 1891 a gold chain was found embedded in a chunk of coal in New England. The coal was estimated to be about 232-260 million years old and originated in Illinois. In 1968 at Antelope Springs, Utah a shoe print was found in split shale, it had trilobites (prehistoric organisms) embedded beneath it. The shale was estimated to be 213-248 million years old. In 1969 at the Paluxy River, Texas human footprints were found underwater in limestone. When they excavated the site dinosaur footprints were also found on the same level of strata.
These are all relatively recent discoveries and a plausible explanation would be that the artifact was lost among the rocks at some point in time and the sedimentary process caused it to become fused within the rock. It is also now believed that some coal beds form much faster than was once thought, taking only 3500 years to transition from organic material to coal.
Other explanations are that it could have been a practical joke or someone desperate to have their name associated with an important discovery planted the object, archaeology was all the rage in the 1800's. All these are rational explanations that can be argued to refute just about every oopart that has been discovered but the fact still remains that they are arguments of speculation and not fact.
The following ooparts are a little harder to explain.
The Temples of Ta Prohm (circa 11th century AD) in Cambodia very clearly show the image of a Stegosaurus. It has been determined to be an original carving because the depth and style of this carving are the same as the rest of the temple carvings.
In Rajasthan, India an area was being excavated for a housing development, during construction the high occurrence of birth defects and cancer led to testing. It was discovered that a three square mile area had a layer of radioactive ash covering an ancient city destroying it between 8,000 and 12,000 years ago. Radiation levels are so high that the Indian government has restricted access and the site is under investigation. It is believed that the blast that caused the destruction was as powerful as one of the atomic bombs that were used on Japan in WWll.
The Mahabharata, an ancient Indian document, is very detailed in its description of a 'projectile with all the power of the universe' and the devastation it caused sounding very much like an atomic blast. References to an ancient battle involving fighting sky chariots, final weapons and entire armies "being carried away as if they were leaves". Translations from other temples in the area reveal that they "prayed to be spared from the great light that was coming to lay ruin to the city".
Most people have heard of the crystal skull because of Indiana Jones. The crystal skull is real, although there are some questions surrounding its discovery. Anna Le Guillon Mitchell-Hodges claims to have found it at a Mayan ruin dig site that her father was overseeing in 1924. The British Museum supposedly has documents that prove it was bidding against her father for the skull at a Sotheby's auction in London in 1943.
Regardless of the questions surrounding its discovery, it is real and very difficult to explain. The skull is made from clear quartz and measures about five inches high by five inches wide and seven inches long and is anatomically correct except for shallow concave cavities on the temples and cheekbones.
In 1970 the Hewlett-Packard labs tested the skull and discovered that it was carved against the grain which would cause it to shatter, even by using today's methods. They also found nothing to indicate that it had been made by metal tools. It is speculated that diamonds were used to rough carve the skull and then a mixture of silicon sand and water was used to refine the details. Assuming that this is how the carving could be done calculations show that it would have taken 300 years to complete. Experts say 'it shouldn't exist'.
My questions to this puzzle are, why would they have invested so much time and effort into this skull and wouldn't there be microscopic marks from the sand solution used to refine the carving?