Out-of-Place Artifacts

Sometimes things are discovered in this world that seem a bit extraordinary and “out-of-place” considering their location, nature of design and functionality (if applicable). Archaeologists, amateur explorers and common people just going about their daily lives have come upon these objects, which are officially called out-of-place artifacts. Although many other websites and publications have written extensively about this subject, perhaps these are a few you haven’t heard about:


1. The 38,000-year-old neanderthal skull that was apparently “shot”

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An early paleolithic skull excavated in 1921 in modern Zambia shows evidence of being damaged by a high-speed projectile, which, considering the very primitive technology level of that age, seems impossible.

The skull dates back to over 38,000 years ago and features a round hole measuring 1/3rd of an inch in diameter. No marks or “split-lines” are visible around the hole, which are common in instances of spear or arrow injuries. Curiously enough, the other side of the skull was almost completely destroyed, indicating the being was actually shot with some sort of firearm, such as a rifle. According to ballistics research, slow moving objects normally do not produce holes like the one found in this skull or fragmenting effects.

According to website Bibliotecapleyades, forensic experts have examined the ancient skull and agreed “the cranial damage could not have been caused by anything but a high-speed projectile, purposely fired at the prehistoric victim, with intent to kill.”

Gunpowder, which is needed to create ammunition, was invented by the Chinese almost 2,000 years ago; the very earliest possible reference appeared in 142 AD, according to Wikipedia.

If the skull is over 30,000 years old, then how was this particular neanderthal killed by a fast-moving projectile, let alone a bullet? Perhaps it was a naturally occurring ricochet from a meteorite that crashed nearby. If so, that would probably make this being one of the most unlucky that has ever lived on Earth as, according to National Geographic, “the lifetime odds of dying from a local meteorite, asteroid, or comet impact [is] 1 in 1,600,000.”

But, just maybe, the primitive man was actually killed by a piece of then futuristic technology, such as a modern-day firearm or something equally as deadly. If this was the case, the final question remains: who… or what killed him?


Perhaps that question has already been answered.

Website Bad Archaeology posted an article back in 2008 which essentially debunked the various claims about the skull, which they call the “Kabwe Skull.” They claim the hole formed after the neanderthal’s death.

Here is another view of the skull:

out-of-place artifacts kabwe skull

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In their article they state:

“The Kabwe skull (often known as ‘Broken Hill Man’ after the name of a nearby town) is older than the claim, at 125,000 to 300,000 years old, and it was found on 17 June 1921 by a Swiss miner, Tom Zwiglaar, in a limestone cave. It was the first early human fossil to be found in Africa and was sent to Arthur Smith Woodward (1864-1944), who gave it the new species name Homo rhodesiensis (Rhodesian Man). More recent anthropologists have preferred to see it as a primitive form of Homo sapiens, but are undecided on the precise species. It may be related to Homo heidelbergensis, the ancestor of the predominantly European Neanderthals (there were never any Neanderthals in Africa) or it may indeed be a separate species, Homo rhodesiensis, as Arthur Smith Woodward originally proposed, which would be our direct ancestor.”

“So much for the species and the date. What about the ‘bullet hole’? Well, for one thing, it did not kill the individual. The edges of the lesion have started to heal, so whatever caused the hole was not the cause of death. Instead, the wound appears to have been a pathological, rather than a traumatic lesion, caused by an infection in the soft tissue over it. Few individuals survive a bullet to the brain; needless to say, the parietal bone on the opposite side is not shattered, as is claimed, but is mostly intact. Although part of the lower parietal bone has broken off, the break is not a result of shattering. It looks more like damage that occurred after the flesh had decayed. The individual may thus have died from a pathological condition, perhaps an abscess or ulcer that had become septic.”

Needless to say, this is an interesting take on the subject.

We will leave it up to you to decide if this “Neanderthal Man” was “shot” by modern-day type weaponry or simply died by other means unrelated to the hole, as the other website’s author suggests.

Now, onto more out-of-place artifacts…


2. The Lanzhou Stone

out-of-place artifacts lanzhou stone china

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On June 26th, 2002, the Lanzhou Morning News reported on an unusual find in Gansu Province, China. They stated more than 10 geologists and physicists from various institutes had gathered to study the discovery of a mysterious stone.

The man who stumbled upon it, Mr. Zhilin Wang, originally described the odd stone as being pear-shaped, approximately 6 x 8 cm in size, weighing almost 500 grams and, upon handling, feeling extremely hard. The most peculiar feature of the stone was the fact that a small metal bar, which was threaded much like a screw, was found inside after breaking it in half.

The news station reported:

“After a discussion about its possibility of being man-made and the possible reasons for its formation, the scientists unanimously labeled the stone as one of the most valuable in China and in the world for collection, research and archaeological studies.”

Following an examination by the experts, they proposed quite a few hypotheses about not only the formation of the stone, but also how the artifact embedded inside could have possibly been there without some sort of unnatural intervention or trickery. Upon even further inspection, the scientists determined the screw-like metal bar was enclosed within the stone so tightly, the object’s entrance (which originally appeared as an exposed tip) could not have been man-made.

According to blog The Biggest Secrets Of The World:

“The screw thread width remains consistent from the thick end to the thin end, instead of varying due to the growth of organisms. One of the hypotheses says that this stone could be a relic from a prehistoric civilization, since a civilization equivalent to ours is thought to have existed on earth before our current one. Another theory is that it could be a stony meteorite and it could have brought the information of an extraterrestrial civilization.”


Many online are skeptical of the legitimacy of both the find and overall story itself. A few users on /r/pics expressed their doubts:

civex: “Here’s a hint: use your favorite search engine to search for ‘lanzhou stone’ and see what Web sites it turns up in. (answer: The Biggest Secrets of the World, The Arrow of Truth, Chip & Tracy’s Place — all the big, reputable science and news sites.)”

Bardfinn: “Here’s the problem with the Lanzhou stone: There is no provenance. There are no tests. It could be a chunk of creosote with a bolt embedded in it. It’s “mysterious”. Woooooo.”

kevie3drinks: “So, have any reputable geologists examined it? No disrespect to the scientists of the Gansu province, but you would think they would try to find out what the composition of the stone and the metal are.”

User SwissToe, the thread submitter, replied with additional information originating from here:

“Usually rocks and stones are of interest to geologists and possibly archaeologists, but few others, but every now and then, one pops up that draws the attention of scholars from multiple disciplines as well as theorists, conspiracy buffs and the idle curious.”

Watch Mystery History‘s video about the stone:

3. The Lycurgus Cup

out-of-place artifacts green lycurgus cup ancient rome

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Another item that could be included in the out-of-place artifacts category is an ancient Roman glass cup which dates back to the 4th-century AD. Called the Lycurgus Cup, its material is specifically composed of dichroic glass and gilt-bronze mounts.

The cup’s design is not only appealing to the eye due to its masterful craftsmanship, it is also unique in that the object turns a different color depending on which angle light passes through it. When lit from the front, the cup turns green and when lit from behind, the cup turns red:

out-of-place artifacts green red lycurgus cup goblet ancient rome

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This may not seem too spectacular, but Smithsonian.com goes into much more detail explaining why this particular cup is so special:

“The glass chalice, known as the Lycurgus Cup because it bears a scene involving King Lycurgus of Thrace, appears jade green when lit from the front but blood-red when lit from behind—a property that puzzled scientists for decades after the museum acquired the cup in the 1950s. The mystery wasn’t solved until 1990, when researchers in England scrutinized broken fragments under a microscope and discovered that the Roman artisans were nanotechnology pioneers: They’d impregnated the glass with particles of silver and gold, ground down until they were as small as 50 nanometers in diameter, less than one-thousandth the size of a grain of table salt. The exact mixture of the precious metals suggests the Romans knew what they were doing—’an amazing feat,’ says one of the researchers, archaeologist Ian Freestone of University College London.”

The article further explains how this “ancient nanotech” worked:

“When hit with light, electrons belonging to the metal flecks vibrate in ways that alter the color depending on the observer’s position. Gang Logan Liu, an engineer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who has long focused on using nanotechnology to diagnose disease, and his colleagues realized that this effect offered untapped potential. ‘The Romans knew how to make and use nanoparticles for beautiful art,’ Liu says.”

Whether the Roman artisans were actually aware that nanoparticles and other microscopic molecules existed, or were simply experimenting with different techniques without in-depth technical or scientific knowledge about the subject, remains unknown. Some have speculated that the cup’s creators stumbled upon the effects made by the metal flecks through “accidental contamination.”

As for the chalice’s purpose, it is said it was only taken out for special events. The design itself showed “King Lycurgus ensnared in a tangle of grapevines, presumably for evil acts committed against Dionysus, the Greek god of wine,” according to the Smithsonian.

4. The nearly 300-million-year-old stone that held a dire warning for the future Communist Party of China

out-of-place artifacts hidden words stone china communist party warning

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Reported on various websites some time ago, a 270 million-year-old tablet deemed the “hidden words stone” was discovered in June of 2002 in the Guizhou Province, China. More specifically, the find was made in a largely untouched, isolated area near the village of Zhangbu. Surprisingly enough, Chinese characters originating from at least the 16th century were revealed when a large crack formed in the stone possibly due to erosion or other natural occurrences.

The Epoch Times states the stone’s characters clearly spell “The Chinese Communist Party perishes” when translated from Chinese into English:

“Zhongguó gòngchandang wáng ??????.” The character ‘perish’ [wáng ?] is especially large.”

They further reported the discovery garnered an enormous amount of attention at the time by Mainland China’s official media, including Xinhuanet. The only problem was these news outlets excluded the word “perish” and only revealed the portion about “The Chinese Communist Party.”

Continued from their article:

“The ‘hidden words stone’ was split in half after it fell from a cliff, and the gap is wide enough for two people to walk through side-by-side. The two sections are each 23 feet in length, nearly 10 feet tall, and weigh about 100 tons. The words ‘The Chinese Communist Party perishes’ can be clearly seen on one of the sections, and every character is nearly a square foot in size.”

It is not precisely clear when the stone split in half, which adds a bit of confusion as to whether this particular incident revealed the ominous message or if the message had already been discovered and an accident happened afterward.

Moving along, The Epoch Times described an instance when a number of Chinese academics and researchers gathered to study the out-of-place artifact:

“Li Ting-Dong and Liu Bao-Jun of the Chinese academy of Sciences, and Li Feng-Lin of the China University of Geosciences, were part of a team of 15 researchers who analyzed the stone. They concluded that the characters were not engraved, refuting theories that modern people wrote them to gain attention or bring tourism to the area. They displayed all the geological signs of natural formation. Given the clarity of the characters, many have found it difficult to believe that they were naturally formed—hence the mystery.”

out-of-place artifacts tourists viewing hidden words stone china

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Per a 2012 article posted by Jianquan Mao on xzbu as well as ATV China’s Mystery Files, “The origin of the characters remain a subject of dispute. There were some early speculations that the characters were put there by the People’s Liberation Army, but according to the path of the Long March, they never went to Pingtang. The characters also read left to right, which was not practiced at the time. The inclusion of a Simplified character before the CPC did any simplifications also ruled them out.”

5. The ancient Egyptian model plane

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A model made of sycamore wood and crafted in Egypt in the 3rd century BC was discovered hundreds of years ago in Saqqara. It has since been named the “Saqqara Bird.”

Back then, the people who stumbled upon this ancient relic only thought of it as a wooden toy since it featured bird-like decorations in addition to the fact that human flight (as we know it) had not been invented yet. It wasn’t until 1969 when Egyptian Doctor Khalil Messiha noticed the model closely resembled an airplane.

Messiha had a fascination with birds and model planes since early childhood and pointed out a few peculiar discrepancies regarding this item: it had no legs, no painted feathers and no horizontal rudder (which is commonplace among birds). The model instead featured a very straight wing, located on top of the fuselage, and a vertical rudder, which is extremely important for man-made aircraft as it keeps them stable and moving forward.

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In his book, African Experimental Aeronautics: A 2,000-Year-Old Model Glider, Messiha stated the following:

“The wing is made of one piece of wood, and its span is exactly 18 cms. The part of the body is the thickest—8 millimeters. Then it tapers in thickness towards the tips. One can note also that there is a Dihedral angle which is slightly unequal on both sides due to slight distortion of the wood, caused by the passage of time.”

out-of-place artifacts khalil messiha dihedral angle diagram

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As you can see from the above diagram, Messiha believed there was originally a tailplane that was attached to the vertical stabilizer. This piqued glider designer Martin Gregorie‘s curiosity, resulting in him spending some time studying the Saqqara Bird and building an exact replica, with the exception of an added tailplane.

out-of-place artifacts saqqara bird replica

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On his website, Gregorie noted the following regarding the possibility of the ancient model originally having a tailplane:

“Any model flyer knows that any aircraft with the same general layout as the Saqqara Bird needs a tailplane if it is to fly stably, but no tailplane has ever been found for the Saqqara Bird and a careful look at photos of its tailfin show that its very unlikely that one was ever attached there, and certainly not where various speculative drawings have sketched one in.”

He concluded by saying:

“In my opinion the Saqqara Bird was probably made as a child’s toy or a weather vane. As such it is an interesting artifact and is certainly not an example of Pharaonic High-tech or ancient lost knowledge.”

Videos of his replica glider flights can be found here.

In a short documentary, The History Channel consulted a few experts and entertained the possibility that the Saqqara Bird was, in fact, more than just a child’s toy. Watch below:

Main image credit: Max Allouche on Unsplash


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