Today I bring you another set of mysteries….objects discovered “out of time.” In other words, objects found in seemingly impossible
circumstances that would date the object to antiquity or imply contact between nations before known contact existed. Before I began, let me assure
you that yes, I’m aware these objects have been discussed before on ATS. However, this thread is meant to be a summary of these unusual objects and
to provide an opportunity for our newer members to learn about them.
First up…The Antikythera Mechanism
The Antikythera Mechanism was discovered in 1901 in the wreckage of a ship off the isle of Antikythera. The ship supposedly sank in 87
BCE, and is believed to be of Greek origin. The Mechanism is thought to have been used to calculate the movement of the moon and stars. Some have
even called it the “first analog computer known to man.”
X-rays of the device have indicated that there are at least 30 different gears present in it. British historian Derek Price has done extensive
research on what the antikythera mechanism may have been used for. It was not until 1959 that Price put forth the theory that the device was used in
astronomy to make calculations and predictions. In 1974, Price presented a model of how the antikythera mechanism might have functioned. When past or
future dates were entered into the device it calculated the astronomical information related to the Sun, Moon, and other planets.
There is no question about the authenticity of the Antikythera Mechanism, and scientists continue to study it today.
Next up….The Goddard Norse Coin
(aka the Maine Penny)
in 1957, amateur archeologist Guy Mellgren unearthed an unusual coin in the central Maine coast. The coin was eventually determined to be a medieval
Norse penny, found in a large Native American settlement at the site.
This identification was confirmed in 1979 by Kolbjørn Skaare, a leading authority on Medieval Norse coinage, who examined the coin at the Maine State
Museum and arranged for neutron activation testing of a small fragment from it. Skaare's analysis confirmed the coin's authenticity as a Norwegian
penny issued during the first half of King Olaf Kyrre's reign, AD 1065-1080. The Goddard coin remains the only pre- Columbian Norse artifact
generally regarded as genuine found within the United States.
So the question becomes….how did a Norse penny end up on the Maine coast, in a large Native American settlement? Is it possible the Norse visited
the area before Columbus? Could the Norse, in fact, have been trading with the Native Americans?
A more likely scenario for the coin involves the trade routes of the time. The area was a central hub for trade, including trade with the Great Lakes
area. It is probably more likely that the coin found its way from L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland (a known Norse settlement) through routine
trade to the Native American village. Still, it’s an interesting thought, isn’t it?
The Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca Head
In 1933, archeologist Jose Garcia Payon discovered an interesting burial site. Located under a pyramid like structure, with other grave goods
(including gold, copper, turquoise, pottery, and the like) Payon found a small, terracotta head shaped in the Roman style. The grave was dated to
1476-1510 A.D. This begs the question: how did a Roman artifact find its way into a Mexican burial in the late 1400s? Could this head, if indeed
Roman in origin, indicate a pre-Columbian
“An assessment of the case was made in 2001 by Romeo H. Hristov of University of New Mexico and Santiago Genovés T. of National Autonomous
University of Mexico. This result clears up the doubts of Colonial manufacture of the artifact, and makes the hypothesis of Roman origin –among
other possibilities- applicable.
The identification of the head as Roman work from the II-III century A.D. has been further confirmed by Bernard Andreae, a director emeritus of the
German Institute of Archaeology in Rome, Italy. According to Andreae "[the head] is without any doubt Roman, and the lab analysis has confirmed that
it is ancient. The stylistic examination tells us more precisely that it is a Roman work from around the II century A.D., and the hairstyle and the
shape of the beard present the typical traits of the Severian emperors period [193-235 A.D.], exactly in the ‘fashion’ of the epoch."
On the other hand, an examination of the field notes of the archaeologist in charge of the excavation as well as the site itself have not revealed, in
either case, signs of possible disturbances of the context (Hristov and Genovés 1999). A thermoluminescence test performed in 1995 by P. Schaaf and
G.A. Wagner in the FS Archäometrie unit in Heidelberg, Germany, established its age range to somewhere between the 9th century BC and the middle of
the 13th century AD, confirming its pre-colonial provenance.
However, Schaaf and Wagner have objected to the way the dates were described by Hristov and Genoves. Bernard Andreae of the German Institute of
Archaeology in Rome, Italy, who examined photographs of the artifact, stated that he believed that it was Roman and proposed the 2nd century AD as its
date of origin, based on the hairstyle and the beard.”
Are there alternative theories for the presence of the head? Possibly: some believe the head is a hoax, planted at the dig site. Or, perhaps, a
mistakenly introduced artifact (although that hypothesis seems like a stretch to me). More likely would be that the head made its way to Mexico via
trade, although again….that’s quite a journey.
So there you have it, ATS....three items out of time. Hope you enjoyed it!