William Corliss provides a list of criteria for inclusion in his compendium of ‘archeological anomalies’:
- the object must have an unexpected age (too old or too young),
- be in the wrong place (Roman artefacts from Mexican sites),
- have an unknown or contested use,
- be of anomalous size or scale,
- have a composition that would not be possible with current understanding of ancient technology (aluminium in ancient China),
- possess a sophistication not commensurate with those models (electric cells in ancient Parthia),
- or have unexpected possible associations (mylodon bones from Argentinean caves suggestive of domestication by humans).
From Bad Archaeology
Examples of ooparts:
An Illinois woman reportedly found a gold chain in a chunk of coal in 1891. The newest coal formation happened one million years ago and as long as 400 million years ago.
There are many more:
- An iron nail was found in a Cretaceous block from the Mesozoic era (mid-1800s).
- A gold thread was found in stone in England (1844).
- An iron nail was found in quartz in California (1851).
- A silver vessel was found in solid rock in Massachusetts (1851).
- The mold of a metal screw was found in a chunk of feldspar (1851).
- An intricately carved and inlaid metal bowl was found in solid rock (1852).
- An iron nail was found in rock in a Peruvian mine by Spanish conquistadores (1572).
So are these real? Many have been debunked as hoaxes or misinterpretations of the discovery.
But the possibilities for story ideas if they were real discoveries is intriguing.
I would write a story about an accident-prone, but brilliant time traveler. She loses things, makes mistakes and generally stumbles through her job, but she gets the job done with her smarts. When it becomes known that she’s left behind a tool or object to become an anomalous artifact, she’s sent back to fix the situation, often with comic results.
How would you explain out-of-place artifacts?