Nov 24, 2022 I Brent Swancer

Some Bizarre Fossils and Ancient Artifacts That Should Not Exist

History can be a difficult thing to try and comprehend. We are mostly left to look at written accounts and artifacts left behind by people from the past to try and peer through a foggy window into time. Going out beyond that we get into prehistory, the realm of dusting off fossils and trying somehow to piece together the natural history of our planet through the fossilized remains of the creatures that once inhabited past eras before humans were not even a glint in the eye of the universe. The fossil record of course is patchy, fossils are rare, and we have far from a complete picture of the millions of years that preceded our arrival. We are constantly unearthing new species and even whole new types of amazing organisms from the fossil record, and it can be quite wondrous. Yet, every once in a while there is a supposed fossil find that truly is meant to shake the foundations of what we think we know. From humans walking amongst the dinosaurs to mysterious prehistoric giants, here are some of the weirdest alleged fossils and ancient artifacts that should in no way exist.

Some of the more well-known and numerous of what are often called “impossible fossils” are anomalous human tracks impressed into ancient rock that seem to stride up right alongside the lumbering dinosaurs that once crashed across the earth, as if there were humans out taking a stroll with the terrible lizards of before the dawn of time. This was a time long before humans or even our most remote ancestors were anything more than tiny rodent-like creatures cowering in the dark from the looming, terrifying  presence of our hulking reptilian overlords, yet some weird findings seem to almost absurdly suggest that there were modern humans walking around.

By far the most controversial such case is a discovery made in 1908, along the Paluxy River of Texas, in the United States, near the city of Glen Rose at a place called Dinosaur Valley State Park. The area gets its name from the numerous well-preserved fossilized dinosaur footprints found meandering across the ancient river bed, but what wouldn’t be expected are the remnants of what appeared to be human tracks as well. These anomalous tracks became quite the tourist attraction during the 1930s, but were eventually discredited by a paleontologist named Ronald Bird, who came to the conclusion that some of the mysterious tracks were simply misidentified tracks of bipedal dinosaurs, which had been twisted by time and the way they were imprinted so as to look vaguely human, and others were actual fake forgeries chiseled into the rock by enterprising locals in order to draw in more visitors and of course make money.

This was not the last word on the Paluxy tracks, also called the Burdick Tracks, and in the 1970s they were embraced by Creationists, which will become a running theme throughout this article, but the tracks themselves have largely been debunked on several occasions by paleontologists claiming that they are actually just elongated prints from known dinosaurs. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that the “human” footprints of the Paluxy River have managed to remain debated and discussed to this day, with numerous Creationist sites touting their authenticity and claiming conspiracy theories of a cover up by the scientific community. Indeed, there have been ongoing digs carried out there and new finds reportedly made by creationists all the way up to the present.

The most mysterious, oft-discussed, and most recently discovered of the anomalous tracks found at the Paluxy River is one most often referred to as the Alvis-Delk track, or just the Delk print, which is rather bizarrely an imprint of an Acrocanthosaurus track overlaying with what appears to be the print of a human foot measuring around 11 inches long. It is baffling in that it looks very much like a human made a print in the mud, only for the dinosaur to come lumbering by moments later and squish right into it. This particular bizarre track was supposedly found in 2000, by an Alvis Delk and James Bishop, who apparently removed it and had it sent to a laboratory, where it underwent vigorous X-ray and CT scan analysis and was allegedly found to have not been carved or altered in any way.

It is all very intriguing, but of course the footprint has been the target of much skepticism, especially since it has been kept hidden away by the Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose, Texas, and most of the information available on the print has been released by creationists, which is perhaps enough to raise a few eyebrows for many. There is also not much that can be done to corroborate the veracity of the original analysis, and subsequent looks at the photos by paleontologists have produced criticism that the track does not seem to be genuine, leading to the idea that the print was nothing more than a forgery crafted by Delk for money. A good, detailed analysis of the mystery print can be found here for those who are interested. Whatever the case may be, the Delk track has continued to be controversial and debated.

While certainly the most well known of these anomalous prehistoric human footprints, the numerous, mostly officially debunked Paluxy tracks are far from the only examples found over the years. In the 1880s there was discovered some fossilized tracks in Jackson County, Kentucky, embedded in a layer of rock dating back to the Carboniferous Period, from about 359.2 to 299 million years ago. There in the stone were found some assorted tracks, including two clear human footprints, as well as what looked like those of a horse and a bear, none of which had any business roaming the swamps of this prehistoric era.

There was also a human footprint discovered in 1987 by paleontologist Jerry MacDonald in the U.S. state of New Mexico. MacDonald came across a sheet of rock from the Permian Period, 290 to 248 million years ago, that possessed the tracks of several ancient birds and assorted wildlife, as well as a clearly defined human footprint. Interestingly, once again, none of these tracks, human or not, should have been there in that stone, yet there they apparently were. The puzzling finding featured in a 1992 article in the Smithsonian Magazine, and still has not been satisfactorily explained. There have even purportedly been truly outlandish findings of what appear to be actual shoe prints in prehistoric rock, such as that found in a seam of 15-million-year-old coal at Fisher Canyon, Nevada. The size 13 footprint bizarrely shows what appears to be the imprint of the sole of a shoe, complete with visible stitching and uneven wear and tear. Natural phenomena or evidence of time travel? Who knows?

Some of these impossible handprints, footprints, and other weird fossils don’t even always appear to be from normal humans at all, but rather from some sort of giants. Take a fossilized footprint found near the towns of Mpaluzi and Lothair, South Africa, right on the Swaziland border. Called the “Goliath’s Footprint,” it seems to be a very human looking print pressed into the prehistoric stone, measuring a whopping four feet long and estimated as having been imprinted over 200 million years ago. Many skeptics point out that it is most likely just a very strange looking natural formation. There is also a “giant’s footprint” found in 1925 in the area of Bushy Peak, California, by a James Higgins, which measured 5 feet long, as well as prints of even greater size in the same region, which were written of in an article in the Hayward Semi-Weekly:

Pioneer residents claim a “footprint” similar to the description given by Higgins of the one on Bushy Peak, only of greater size can be seen on the John Bunting ranch near the Mission San Jose.This footprint measures nearly eight feet in its length. It is said, and is very deeply embedded In solid rock.The third mysterious foot mar is said to hare been seen on the Indian Reservation, near the Pleasant Valley road, between Sunol and Pleasanton. This footprint, like the others, is of immense size and deeply marked on a granite cliff.

Is this indicative that giants once roamed the earth, and left their inscrutable footprints etched into history? It is quite probable that these are natural anomalies or even hoaxes, yet many insist that these are true unexplained mysteries deserving of further attention. In the end, with all of these cases we are left with some rather compelling, yet ultimately not very helpful "evidence." It is just incredibly difficult to fit such fossils into what we know of natural history without having to rewrite everything. From what we know of evolution and the fossil record these findings should be impossible, there should be nothing even approaching human remains or footprints dating back tens or even hundreds of millions of years, and considering that there is nothing to prove any of this either way it has made for a perfect environment for endless debate and wild theories.

Of course creationists love this sort of thing, as it is a chance for them to latch onto some sort of evidence that humans did in fact co-exist with dinosaurs, yet how this helps their view that the Earth is young when these rocks date back hundreds of millions of years is anyone's guess. There are also the wild theories that this is indicative of the existence of time travel, with these explorers accidentally leaving evidence of their passing behind during their journeys through the recesses of ancient history and prehistory, and there is even the idea that ancient aliens could be behind such finds. While it seems so exciting to think that our natural history could be so spectacularly misunderstood up to now, it seems more likely that sadly this is mostly either hoaxed evidence or misinterpretation of natural phenomena, but whatever the case may ultimately be we are unable at this point to say for sure whether any of these discoveries are real or deduce what they mean. We just don't know, and they are curious oddities that will likely continue to fuel debate no matter what one's personal opinion might be.

Besides fossil footprints are relics or artifacts that have emerged to shatter what we understand of our Earth’s history, 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 we have 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.

If finding a fossilized human footprint or shoe print isn’t weird enough for you, how about finding an actual fossilized shoe? A curious account was first published in 1999 in a book called Why Do Men Believe Evolution Against All Odds? by Carl Baugh. Within the book is contained the strange case of a decidedly odd discovery supposedly made in 1980 at a creek bed near Iraan in west Texas. Amateur archeologist Jerry Stone reportedly was looking through the area when he stumbled across a leather boot which was claimed to have within it an actual fossilized human foot. The boot and its foot were apparently taken in for analysis, when the foot was purportedly found to be around 40 million years old, while the boot was not fossilized at all, and was estimated to have been manufactured in the 1950s. No explanation was given as to why the human foot should be fossilized while the boot remained normal.

Of course this bizarre artifact was snatched up by the Creationist Evidence Museum, where they claim it was subjected to various tests in 1997 and 2006, the findings which have been kept under wraps. Interestingly, the boot was suddenly removed from display for unexplained reasons, and has never been offered for independent analysis, which along with the lack of available lab results makes it all rather suspicious indeed. Despite the fact that there is no way at all to know if this boot was ever really examined or if it ever really even existed or not, there have nevertheless been efforts to try and explain it, such as that the boot had become filled with some sort of sediment that hardened and gave the impression of a fossil foot, or that it was even the result of the foot being liquified from the fall of an airplane, after which the flesh re-hardened into what appeared to be stone.

Without any further documentation there is no way to know at all how true any of it is or just what we are supposed to think of this one, and the so-called “Limestone Cowboy” remains just a weird curiosity that we will never be able to prove or disprove, fertile grounds for conspiracy theories. A similarly strange fossil find was made in 1968 in the state of Utah, where an apparent fossilized sandal was found in a chunk of rock about 300 million to 600 million years old, right beside the fossil of a trilobite. Even more amazingly, the trilobite in question, a creature which it is worth mentioning died out 280 million years ago, even appears to have been actually stepped on and crushed by the sandal. Time traveller, ancient alien, hoax? In addition to footprints there are also even supposed fossilized handprints, such as one that was apparently found in the 1995 near the city of  Weatherford, Texas. The fossil shows what appears to be a human hand with clear fingers splayed out, pressed into Cretaceous rock that is estimated to be around 110 million years old, with the Creation Evidence Museum saying of it:

The fossil handprint(sic) is so specific that it displays impressions of the thumbnail, impressions of the tissue webbing between the thumb and index finger, and the impression left by penetration of the middle finger into the mud.

Considering that there is very little information on who found it or under what circumstances, plus the fact that it is another specimen kept by the Creation Evidence Museum and that no data has been released, this is another one that can be filed as questionable. Perhaps equally questionable is a supposed fossilized human hand print complete with fossil human finger kept by the museum, which is claimed to have been pulled up from Cretaceous limestone at the Commanche Peak Limestone formation in Texas. Speaking of strange fossilized remains, in 1981 archeologist Ed Conrad was inspecting an area of prehistoric coal dating back to the Carboniferous Era, around 360 million years ago, when he uncovered what appeared to be a human skull embedded within. How did it get there? No one really knows.

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

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 looked 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.

The Dropa Discs

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 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.

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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