Mental Floss

The Quick 8: Eight Out-of-Place Artifacts

Stacy Conradt

Imagine being on the archaeological dig of a lifetime, searching for dinosaur bones or ancient Egyptian treasures, when you finally find something embedded in centuries-old rock or sealed in a tomb that you know hasn't been opened in thousands of years. But it's not a bone or a gem "“ it's"¦ a Game Boy? How in the world did that get there? That exact situation hasn't happened yet, but some similar incidents definitely have. They're called "Out-of-Place Artifacts," or OOPArt: things that don't appear to make sense in the context that they were found. Sometimes a perfectly logical explanation is to be had, sometimes the whole thing is a hoax or a misunderstanding, and in some cases, we still don't understand what happened. Here are some examples of each.

maine penny
maine penny /

2. Acambaro figures. In 1944, thousands and thousands of little figurines resembling dinosaurs were dug up in Acambaro, Guanajuato, Mexico. The problem? As far as we know, people and dinosaurs didn't exist at the same time, so the existence of ancient carvings depicting such creatures when the people carving them didn't have any knowledge of them "“ it doesn't make any sense. Some people insist that no one person or people could have possibly carved 32,000 pieces by themselves; the carvings must be evidence that people and dinosaurs did simultaneously exist. Others say that the fact that all 32,000 pieces are intact or cleanly broken (but still grouped within the collection) shows in and of itself that the collection is a hoax "“ in reality, nothing that old with that many pieces is ever found in its entirety. One dating technique found that the pieces did, in fact, date back to 2500 BCE. But when that technique was later improved and then repeated, the result was different and found that the pieces were much newer.

runestone /

4. The Gympie Pyramid. This one has pretty much been figured out over the years, but I'll give you the back story anyway. In 1975, a pyramid-shaped earthen terrace was discovered in Queensland. It was thought to prove that the ancient Egyptians had mining operations in Australia "“ not only did the pyramid "prove" this, but so did a stone block with inscriptions on it that was dug up in the same general area. Although most scoffed at such an idea, a small number in the archaeological community supported the theory that an ancient civilization of some sort "“ be it Egyptian, Chinese or South American "“ had inhabited the area. Much research was done and the reason for the pyramid shape was revealed: in the 1880s, a farmer constructed the terrace and retaining wall to try to slow erosion. Pretty simple explanation, huh?

5. The Saqqara Bird. Speaking of Egypt, it has its own weird artifact. The Saqqara Bird was found in a tomb in Saqqara and has been dated to 200 BC. A carving of a bird doesn't seem like a big deal, right? It wouldn't be, but some have theorized that the shape of the bird is much different than other carvings that exist from the same time period "“ namely, it looks more like a modern-day aircraft than a bird. This would indicate, of course, that the Egyptians had much more advanced technology than we have ever imagined. You might notice that the bird lacks a tailplane, which would really indicate that it was similar to our airplanes, but the thought there is that it originally had one and it has been lost over the years. Replicas of the Saqqara Bird with a tailplane have been made, but the reports as to how it functioned vary. Some people swear that it glided beautifully just like an airplane, and others say that even with the addition of the tailplane, the Bird didn't glide well at all and was clearly never meant to do as much.

MYSTERY stone /

7. The Baigong Pipes. A group of American scientists were on the hunt for dino fossils in China when they stumbled upon this series of of mysterious, pipe-like structures. They're situated in front of a pyramid-like formation which contained the mouths of three caves, which is there the pipes seem to come from. Although two of the cave mouths have collapsed, the third (and largest) contains two huge pipes "“ we're talking up to 16 inches in diameter. So far these specific pipes have gone largely unexplained, leaving the door open for theories about aliens and advanced prehistoric technology and all of that fun stuff, but clues can be found in a couple of similar structures elsewhere in the world. In Louisiana, cylinders a lot like the Baigong Pipes were found in the Florida parishes "“ they were determined to have been formed naturally when ironstone formed around the tap roots of pine trees. The trees are long gone, of course, but the "pipes" were so enduring that they stayed put

head /

Do you know of any more artifacts that seem to be out of place? Those suspicious runestones seem to be scattered across the country "“ there's one in Oklahoma and one in Tennessee as well.