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 Coso artefact | USA
The Coso artefact is a small, metal and porcelain object that was found in California in 1961. There’s nothing unusual about that (I’m sure there are lots of small, metal and porcelain objects in California), but this one was found inside a geode, which would’ve taken around 500,000 years to form. It shouldn’t really have been there – the artefact was clearly manufactured by someone (or something), so how could it have become trapped in a rock that formed before modern humans even existed?
Experts who’ve studied the Coso artefact say that it’s very similar to a spark plug from a car’s engine. Specifically, they say it’s very similar to a 1920’s Champion brand spark plug, as used in the engine of a Model T Ford.
Fortunately, the identification of the artefact as a 20th century spark plug means that there’s very little chance of anyone claiming that aliens must’ve visited and left it behind. Unfortunately, with the extraterrestrial explanation off the table, time travel is seen by some as the second most credible theory. What motivation scientists would have for sending an old spark plug back through time isn’t really clear, and it seems unlikely that it would’ve been part of the time machine itself (the only time-travelling car I know of, Michael J Fox’s DeLorian, ran on nuclear power rather than a conventional engine). There’s also the possibility that, rather than being deliberately transported, the spark plug could’ve been accidentally sucked into the past through a naturally occurring wormhole.