History is an irresistible, inexorable force, moving on and plowing through time to leave many things simply buried in its wake even as it carves and barrels its way to the future. Of course there are the discoveries and artifacts from past times that we know of and which have helped to shape our view of what the world was once like and how it developed. We know of the past through the various pieces of it we manage to dig up throughout the world, which illuminate history and allow us to cobble and piece together a cracked, often foggy window through which we can glimpse past events. However, sometimes a relic or artifact will emerge that shatters that window through time, sending spiderwebs of cracks through what we thought we could see and distorting our sense of what we think we know, something so jarringly out of place as to make us question even reality itself. Here are some of the strange objects from the depths of time that have been dug up only to remain anomalies stuck in some fringe realm of history like strange ancient insects in amber, and indeed by all rights should not even exist at all.
Probably the most widely known ancient technological anomaly was found quite by chance in 1900, when sponge divers off the remote coast of the Greek island of Antikythera found an ancient shipwreck that held ensconced within it a device from the far corners of history that would eventually go on to baffle the scientific world. At first the artifact looked to be merely a rusted out misshapen blob of bronze corroded and degraded over millennia banished under water, and it was placed in the National Museum of Archaeology in Athens along with other artifacts from the wreck, where it sat collecting dust for years before anyone would take another look at it, seemingly an unimportant, ugly mass of metal and rock at the time.
It was the archaeologist Valerios Stais who first realized that there was perhaps more to this strange lump of crud than met the eye, when he uncovered what appeared to be a whole gear wheel embedded within its mishmash. Stais surmised that this was perhaps part of some complex ancient machine, but at the time the scientific community was skeptical of this, and so the exciting discovery sat there without any further serious research for several more decades, a mere curious anomaly that no one could really make any sense of or was even willing to try. It would not be until the 1970s that another close look was taken at it, and what would come to be called the Antikythera Mechanism would finally have its ancient mysteries revealed after 2,000 years of being buried at the bottom of the sea.
In the 1970s, advanced imaging procedures allowed archeologists to peer into the device for the first time, and they were astounded by what they found. Rather than a solid clump of bronze and rock, it was found that there were dozens of complex gears, dials, and rotating hands embedded within, all precisely positioned into some sort of clockwork machine, with some marked with cryptic inscriptions. Over the years the complexity of this amazing machine was slowly revealed, and it quite frankly stumped the scientific community. Here was an ancient machine entwined with the mists of time, utilizing complicated, incredibly precise gear works far ahead of its time, with the earliest such machines of this quality previously thought to have emerged in around the 14th century. It was amazingly, impossibly advanced for its era, far beyond what was thought possible, and by all rights this thing should not have existed at all, but there it was.
At first it was unknown as to just what the purpose of the device could have possibly been, and it was often speculated at first to be some sort of navigational device. However, later research would show it to have most likely been a sort of early analog computer of sorts, in this case one for making precise astronomical calculations and mapping out the positions and movements of the sun, moon, planets, stars, as well as track the lunar phase and predict lunar and solar eclipses. Although there are parts still missing, reconstructions have shown that such is the amazing craftsmanship, sophistication, and ingenuity of the device that it was shockingly accurate, and could even compensate for the extra quarter-day in the astronomical year, long before the idea of a leap year had even been introduced into the mainstream Julian calendar. Considering that it is all still a mystery as to who built the machine, how it was made, or why it ended up on that unassuming ship, as well as the fact that nothing else remotely like it has been found from that era, the Antikythera Device is quite a perplexing anomaly indeed.
While the Antikythera Mechanism is the one of the most studied such historical oddity it is certainly not the strangest, and for that we have to take a look at some of the supposed discoveries of objects that physically should not exist at all. In June of 1936 there was a truly bizarre discovery made in London, Texas, in the United States, by a middle-aged couple who had been just out for a leisurely stroll near their home. During their walk, Max and Emma Hahn spotted something odd on the ground ahead of them and went to investigate what looked to be a rock with a piece of wood strangely protruding from it.
Curious as to why there should be this length of wood sticking out of a rock in the middle of nowhere, Max took it home and went about breaking the rock open. After breaking pieces of the rock away with a hammer and chisel, the couple were startled to see that the wood appeared to be the remnants of a handle of some sort of metal hammer head firmly encased within the rock. This is quite odd enough as it is, but it would get even stranger still when they took the unusual finding to a museum and the rock itself was found to be more than 400 million years old, and the head of the hammer itself was estimated at perhaps 500 million years old, with parts of its handle having supposedly begun to turn to coal over the eons as a testament to its vast age. Yet the object was obviously artificial, perfectly formed and the head possessing iron with a purity that could not occur in nature, unmistakably a hammer. How could this be?
The discovery was baffling, as of course there could not have been anyone around to fashion such a hammer so long ago, so was this the work of aliens, time travelers, or what? Creationists were certainly quick to jump on the discovery as well, and speculation soared. However, in the end although it is certainly odd, there is likely a more rational explanation. The problem is that the type of rock the hammer was found in, ancient limestone, is soft and could have been soluble and malleable enough to mold and form a concretion around the object over time under the right conditions, meaning a modern object such as a hammer could feasibly find its way into the midst of 400-million-year-old rock replete with fossils of long extinct organisms.
Although this would be very rare and unusual, it still is seen as more probable than a modern human being losing a hammer hundreds of millions of years ago. In the end we will probably never know, as the so-called London Hammer has not since been studied and the hammer head itself has never been reliably carbon dated for its age, just the rock around it. Making answers all the more elusive is the fact that the mysterious hammer now resides at the Creation Evidence Museum, which is obviously run by creationists who don’t seem to want it examined any further, meaning we will likely never know what is going on here or even what truth any of it holds.
The London Hammer is reminiscent of other seemingly modern tools, parts, and equipment that have been anomalously found within stone or other materials that are often millions of years old. In 1820 some tools such as hammers and picks were found suspended in a layer of ancient limestone 50 feet below the ground at a stone quarry in Aix-en-Provence, France. Then, in 1852 a drill bit of all things was found ensconced within a solid chunk of coal that had been buried within a bed of ancient prehistoric clay and boulders in Scotland. There was no sign of any puncture in the coal or any indication as to how the drill bit could have been inserted within it, suggesting that it had been there when the coal formed, hundreds of millions of years ago.
More recently, in 1961 a group of friends in Olancha, California were looking for geodes when they found within one of them a modern spark of all things, and allegedly a geologist estimated the object as being 500,000 years old. In October of 1996 a group of researchers in the Kaluga region of western Russia located a screw complete with the fully formed head and nut embedded within rock that was found to be 300 to 350 million years old. Examination by various scientists showed that the object is most certainly artificial, but as to how it got into that rock no one knows.
Some other anomalous ancient artifacts are a little harder to adequately classify, and defy easy categorization. In 1885, a strange object was found by an iron smelter at a foundry in Vocklabruck, Austria. There, within a block of solid coal, was discovered a perfectly-formed cuboid object of what seemed to be iron or some other type of metal, measuring 2.64 by 2.64 by 1.85 inches and weighing 1.73 pounds, its purpose unknown. The outlandish cube-like object was sent to the Salzburg Museum, where it was analyzed by the Austrian physicist Karl Gurls and found to be made not of iron, but rather of a strange alloy composing steel and nickel, although it would later be deemed to be actually made of a forged iron.
Further analysis showed that the object, whatever it was, was too precise in shape and made of too refined a metal to have been caused by any known naturally occurring phenomenon such as a meteorite strike, and was most likely machine-tooled and even probably just a part of a larger device or mechanism, although what type no one knows. What has come to be known as the Salzburg Cube or the Wolfsegg Iron has apparently been studied by scientists at the Geological Institute of Austria, who have also come to the conclusion that it seems to indeed be indeed artificial, and the object has even been featured in an 1886 edition of the scientific journal Nature, as well as an 1887 issue of the French journal L’Astronomie.
What was this strange object and how did it get within a chunk of coal dating to tens of millions of years ago? Was it truly a manufactured object, and if so what sort of enigmatic mechanism did it once belong to? It is difficult to tell for sure, as the Salzburg Cube has since disappeared completely, leaving only these vague 19th century reports behind. It might have been lost, misplaced, mislabeled, or filed away in some darkened backroom of a museum collection somewhere gathering dust, perhaps even stolen for unknown reasons. We only know for sure that it did exist, but without modern scientific analysis we will probably never know for sure what it was. Mysterious technology of the ancients, aliens in prehistory, time travelers, or unknown natural phenomena? Who knows?
Another truly bizarre historic discovery was made near Nampa, in Idaho, the United States in 1889 by workers who were in the process of digging a water well. The project necessitated drilling equipment, and at a depth of 300 feet under the earth a very strange object was spat forth from the steam pump of the machine, regurgitated up from the subterranean depths. There lying upon the ground was a miniature, brown figurine of some sort, which upon examination seemed to be made of some sort of clay. The figure had come up with a myriad of chunks and balls of the same material, and it was all coated with what was believed to be iron oxide. What was truly remarkable about the figurine was that it was a very skillfully carved likeness of what seemed to be a human woman, striking in its detail, including even faint markings that might be meant to represent clothing and jewelry. George Frederick Wright, a geologist at the Boston Society of Natural History, would later describe its discovery and the figure itself:
The record of the well shows that they had penetrated first about fifty feet of soil, then about fifteen feet of basalt, and afterwards passed through alternate beds of clay and quicksand, down to a depth of about three hundred feet when the sand pump began to bring up numerous clay balls, some of them more than two inches in diameter, densely coated with iron oxide. There is no ground to question the fact that this image came up in the sand pump from the depth reported. The object is about an inch and a half long, and remarkable for the perfection with which it represents the human form. It was a female figure, and had the lifelike lineaments in the parts which were finished that would do credit to the classic centers of art.
The thing is, how did it get into that strata deep down in the earth? The mysterious figurine was sent to be studied, and was found to have quartz grains that had been cemented by iron molecules, hinting at a vast age, and the rock where it was found was estimated to be around 2 million years old. This is obviously strange considering that this was the age of Homo habilis and Homo erectus, and these human ancestors at this point in time were not making detailed clay figurines, and even if they were why should it resemble in any way at all a modern human woman complete with clothing and jewelry? The so-called Nampa Figurine has of course been used to challenge current theories of human evolution and migration, with one researcher and author of The Hidden History of the Human Race, Michael Cemo, writing of it:
Other than Homo sapiens sapiens, no hominid is known to have fashioned works of art like the Nampa figurine. The evidence therefore suggests that humans of the modern type were living in America at the Plio-Pleistocene age which dates about 2 million years ago. According to current Darwinian theories of evolution, figurines like the Idaho image are made only by humans of the modern type, who came into existence only about 200,000 years ago.
It is a far-out theory indeed, and there have been other ideas as well, such as that this was dropped off by a time traveler or that it was, of course, aliens. However, skeptics have pointed out that the figurine may be more modern than it seems, and may have been lying on the surface before drilling even began, or that it was even an intentionally crafted hoax. Nevertheless, much controversy and debate has surrounded the Nampa Figurine, and its origins remain wreathed in mystery and lost to time. Equally as perplexing and controversial is a discovery allegedly made in 1938 in the Baian-Kara-ula mountains on the border of China and Tibet, by Chinese archeologist and professor Chi Pu Tei. His expedition purportedly came across an underground network of tunnels, caves, and caverns that seemed to have been artificially excavated, leaving smooth glazed walls suggesting some immense heat had been used. Tei claimed that within this strange subterranean world they had found pictograms carved into the walls, which depicted star systems, the sun, and the moon, and even more bizarrely graves that supposedly held the remains of tiny humanoids measuring about 4 feet tall and with outsized heads. Perhaps even stranger were the objects they found half buried in the earth all around them.
The objects in question were a series of over 700 perfectly circular discs measuring up to a foot across, and which were said to have two grooves that emanated out from a perfectly round, 3/4" hole in the center to form a double spiral. Within the spirals were claimed to be minuscule hieroglyphics of an unknown type, so small that they were barely visible to the naked eye, and which required a magnifying glass to make out in any significant detail. Although this would have been seen as a monumental discovery, the discs allegedly found themselves locked away in storage at Beijing university for decades until 1962, when Chinese archeologist Tsum Um Nui supposedly took a look at them and the story would get even more bizarre still.
After careful analysis of the discs, this Tsum Um Nui claimed that he had actually managed to decipher them, and that they told an epic tale and often tragic tale of visitors from the stars. According to Nui, the discs spoke of a spaceship that had crashed into the mountains carrying a contingent of alien beings called the Dropa. The crash smashed the ship beyond their ability to repair, and so these mysterious beings had been forced to find refuge in the mountains and adapt to life on Earth, creating the tunnels and caverns in the process. The discs even supposedly give the harrowing account of some of these Dropa being mercilessly slaughtered by the Han Chinese.
It sounds completely absurd, and the general scientific community agreed, refusing to publish Nui’s paper on the matter and generally looking upon his claims with raised eyebrows and outright disdain. According to some accounts, the archeologist was even forbidden from even talking about the discs anymore after that, but the whole weird tale caught the attention of Russian scientist W. Saitsew, who apparently acquired some of the discs and studied them himself in 1968. Saitsew allegedly found the composition of the discs to be quite odd, comprised of a strange mix of cobalt and other metals that made the surface nearly impenetrably hard and deepening the mystery of the hieroglyphs etched upon them. He also claimed to have discovered that when placed on a specialized turntable the discs hummed and oscillated as if they had once held an electrical charge or served as conductors of some type.
It is unclear what happened to what have come to be known as the Dropa Discs after this, and Tsum Um Nui himself allegedly fled China to Japan, where he vanished into obscurity. We are left with very little to go on, and indeed there is much to cast doubt on whether the Dropa Discs ever even existed at all. For one there are no discs now to examine, with the estimated 712 discs all allegedly disappearing over the years. There is also rather suspiciously a lack of any photographic documentation of them at all. The only supposed photographs of the Dropa Discs were purportedly taken by the Austrian engineer Ernst Wegerer, who apparently located two of the discs during a visit to the Banpo Museum in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province in 1974. However, the photographs are fairly controversial and the discs themselves are obscured by camera flash.
Other damning evidence against the existence of the Dropa Discs is that there are no real official scientific papesr written on them, with only the writings of Tsum Um Nui, the Russian scientists, and some second or third hand accounts to go on, and these are of questionable veracity at best. In fact, Tsum Um Nui appears to have no mention in any university or academic institution as an archeologist, and indeed it has been pointed out that Tsum Um Nui isn’t even a real Chinese name at all. There are likewise no official museum records to show that such discs were ever within their collections, nor is there any official documentation of the Chi Pu Tei expedition that supposedly found them in the first place, and indeed there is no way to know if it ever happened at all. Considering such a lack of any concrete evidence, if the Dropa Discs ever did exist then the Chinese have gone through great efforts to cover it all up. Perhaps more likely is that this is an intriguing archeological urban legend that has sort of taken up a life of its own. Regardless, these mysterious discs crafted by unknown hands have continued to be discussed and debated to this day.
With such mindbogglingly strange artifacts of course there have been numerous theories proposed over the years. One is that, in cases like that of the Antikythera Mechanism our understanding human technological development may be incorrect or skewed. Perhaps these ancient peoples were more advanced than previously thought, but we are still left with the conundrum that such discoveries are isolated and unique. If these civilizations had access to the ability to create such marvels, then where is the documentation of them and their schematics and plans? Indeed, if this technology was available shouldn’t there be more of these artifacts to be found rather than just single anomalies? Or was this perhaps just an expensive and exclusive technology and there are perhaps more examples out there that simply haven't been found? There is no way to know.
Other ideas branch further out into the fringe. Besides the obvious creationist theories, there are the ideas that this is evidence of ancient aliens meddling with human affairs, that these are evidence of time travel, or even that it is all indicative of some sort of inter-dimensional phenomena. Perhaps it is even something beyond our ability to understand, some new phenomenon that we have no inkling of. Whatever the case may be, there sure have been some strange things dug up from the earth and from below the sea, and these ancient mysteries will likely go on to puzzle and baffle for some time to come.