At home, I’m always finding out-of-place objects, but they’re usually fairly mundane – a CD in the wrong case, a spoon in the fork tray, that sort of thing. In archaeological terms, however, out of place artefacts (or OOPArts, as some people insist on calling them) are a bit more interesting. These are objects that technically shouldn’t exist, that appear in impossible places and that challenge our understanding of the past. They can be a bit confusing.
In this series, we’ll be taking a look at five OOPArts from around the world. Perhaps some of these objects provide evidence of alien contact (or time travel, or a prehistoric, Planet of the Apes-style civilisation). Perhaps they don’t. You decide…
The Abydos helicopter | Egypt
This ancient Egyptian carving appears to depict things that people at the time could not possibly have known about. It seems to show technologies that (as far as we know) weren’t invented until thousands of years later.
The carving, found in a temple in Abydos, Egypt, features a number of unusual looking objects; the most striking of which is (what appears to be) a modern-style helicopter. It’s lucky for us that the helicopter is a modern one, otherwise we might not have recognised it – 150 years ago, they wouldn’t have known what it was (and, in 150 years time, they’ll probably wonder why the Egyptians bothered carving such an old-fashioned chopper).
As you might expect, explanations for these carvings vary greatly (from the scientific to the less-scientific). Typically, one theory is aliens – some proponents even point out that the images were found in the temple of Seti (like SETI, get it?), inadvertently suggesting that the whole thing might be a conspiracy between NASA and the pharaohs. Other, serious studies have shown that the stones may have been carved twice – once during Seti I’s reign then again during the time of Ramesses II – with this layering creating the curious patterns that we’re now misinterpreting. This explanation is by far the more convincing of the two although, it has to be said, the carving really does look a lot like a helicopter. I wonder if they had to carry their travel insurance around carved on stone tablets back then?