The Quick 8: Eight Out-of-Place Artifacts

Imagine being on the archaeological dig of a lifetime, searching for dinosaur bones or ancient Egyptian treasures, when you finally find something embedded in centuries-old rock or sealed in a tomb that you know hasn't been opened in thousands of years. But it's not a bone or a gem "“ it's"¦ a Game Boy? How in the world did that get there? That exact situation hasn't happened yet, but some similar incidents definitely have. They're called "Out-of-Place Artifacts," or OOPArt: things that don't appear to make sense in the context that they were found. Sometimes a perfectly logical explanation is to be had, sometimes the whole thing is a hoax or a misunderstanding, and in some cases, we still don't understand what happened. Here are some examples of each.

maine penny1. The Maine Penny. So an archaeologist finds a silver coin while digging in Maine. No big deal, right? It is when the archaeological site was an old Native American settlement and the coin is found to be a piece of Norse currency dating from 1065-1080 AD. Although more than 30,000 pieces were recovered from the site, they were all Native American save for the coin. There's no evidence that the Vikings ever had a settlement there, however, and no evidence that they even came that far south in the interest of trade. The only Norse settlement ever found in North America is in Newfoundland. The strongest theory thus far suggests that Native Americans acquired it through their trades and travels. There's no doubt that the coin itself is authentic, but how it ended up at the site is still in question "“ was it planted or did it really end up in Maine by honest means?

2. Acambaro figures. In 1944, thousands and thousands of little figurines resembling dinosaurs were dug up in Acambaro, Guanajuato, Mexico. The problem? As far as we know, people and dinosaurs didn't exist at the same time, so the existence of ancient carvings depicting such creatures when the people carving them didn't have any knowledge of them "“ it doesn't make any sense. Some people insist that no one person or people could have possibly carved 32,000 pieces by themselves; the carvings must be evidence that people and dinosaurs did simultaneously exist. Others say that the fact that all 32,000 pieces are intact or cleanly broken (but still grouped within the collection) shows in and of itself that the collection is a hoax "“ in reality, nothing that old with that many pieces is ever found in its entirety. One dating technique found that the pieces did, in fact, date back to 2500 BCE. But when that technique was later improved and then repeated, the result was different and found that the pieces were much newer.

runestone3. The Kensington Runestone. If the Vikings didn't make it as far as Maine, they definitely didn't make it as far as Minnesota"¦ at least, we don't think they did. But the Kensington Runestone says otherwise. The stone was found tangled in the roots of a tree by a farmer and is covered in runes. Roughly translated, one side says "8 Geats and 22 Norwegians on ?? acquisition expedition from Vinland far west. We had traps by 2 shelters one day's travel to the north from this stone. We were fishing one day. After we came home, found 10 men red with blood and dead. AVM (Ave Maria) Deliver from evils." Another side says, "(I) have 10 men at the inland sea to look after our ship 14 days travel from this wealth/property. Year [of our Lord] 1362." Not only does the stone not make sense historically, some people have noted how sharp and well-preserved the carvings are and question if it should be that way after hundreds of years of exposure to the elements. However, what appear to be authentic glacier marks (which are thousands of years older than the carvings supposedly are) are also quite sharp and easy to see on one side of the stone, suggesting that however the stone was lying must have kept it relatively untouched.

4. The Gympie Pyramid. This one has pretty much been figured out over the years, but I'll give you the back story anyway. In 1975, a pyramid-shaped earthen terrace was discovered in Queensland. It was thought to prove that the ancient Egyptians had mining operations in Australia "“ not only did the pyramid "prove" this, but so did a stone block with inscriptions on it that was dug up in the same general area. Although most scoffed at such an idea, a small number in the archaeological community supported the theory that an ancient civilization of some sort "“ be it Egyptian, Chinese or South American "“ had inhabited the area. Much research was done and the reason for the pyramid shape was revealed: in the 1880s, a farmer constructed the terrace and retaining wall to try to slow erosion. Pretty simple explanation, huh?

5. The Saqqara Bird. Speaking of Egypt, it has its own weird artifact. The Saqqara Bird was found in a tomb in Saqqara and has been dated to 200 BC. A carving of a bird doesn't seem like a big deal, right? It wouldn't be, but some have theorized that the shape of the bird is much different than other carvings that exist from the same time period "“ namely, it looks more like a modern-day aircraft than a bird. This would indicate, of course, that the Egyptians had much more advanced technology than we have ever imagined. You might notice that the bird lacks a tailplane, which would really indicate that it was similar to our airplanes, but the thought there is that it originally had one and it has been lost over the years. Replicas of the Saqqara Bird with a tailplane have been made, but the reports as to how it functioned vary. Some people swear that it glided beautifully just like an airplane, and others say that even with the addition of the tailplane, the Bird didn't glide well at all and was clearly never meant to do as much.

MYSTERY stone6. The Mystery Stone. Construction workers were digging near Lake Winnipesaukee (anyone else immediately think of What About Bob?) in 1892 when they found a strangely-shaped lump of clay. When the clay was cleaned off, what was underneath was an egg-shaped rock covered with carvings "“ a rock not native to New Hampshire by any means. The carvings include an ear of corn, a face, arrows, dots and a spiral. There's a hole that goes right through the middle of the stone, which is what has helped us realize that the stone may not be what it was originally thought to be (a peace treaty between two Native American tribes). When an analysis of the bore hole was conducted, it was determined that it had been made with modern day equipment. To this day, that's really all of the information we have on the Mystery Stone. If you think you can figure out the enigma, though, the stone is on display at the Museum of New Hampshire History in Concord.

7. The Baigong Pipes. A group of American scientists were on the hunt for dino fossils in China when they stumbled upon this series of of mysterious, pipe-like structures. They're situated in front of a pyramid-like formation which contained the mouths of three caves, which is there the pipes seem to come from. Although two of the cave mouths have collapsed, the third (and largest) contains two huge pipes "“ we're talking up to 16 inches in diameter. So far these specific pipes have gone largely unexplained, leaving the door open for theories about aliens and advanced prehistoric technology and all of that fun stuff, but clues can be found in a couple of similar structures elsewhere in the world. In Louisiana, cylinders a lot like the Baigong Pipes were found in the Florida parishes "“ they were determined to have been formed naturally when ironstone formed around the tap roots of pine trees. The trees are long gone, of course, but the "pipes" were so enduring that they stayed put

head8. The Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca head. A broken piece of statue found in Mexico seems pretty plausible, until you look closer at the poor decapitated piece: it appears to be Roman. The hairstyle and the beard match up closely with the style of Roman statues during the second century A.D. or so. So how did it end up in grave goods (items buried with a body) from pre-Columbian times, when we thought that had only occurred once, and nowhere near Mexico (The one time was when the Vikings made it to Newfoundland)? That's a good question, and one that is still in the process of being answered. Of course a lot of scientists and archaeologists are quick to point the hoax finger, but others argue that a shipwreck washed ashore could have eventually brought such an artifact to Central Mexico.

Do you know of any more artifacts that seem to be out of place? Those suspicious runestones seem to be scattered across the country "“ there's one in Oklahoma and one in Tennessee as well.

10 Sweet Facts About Candy Canes

The sweet and striped shepherd’s hooks can be found just about everywhere during the holiday season. It's time you learned a thing or two (or 10) about them.


While the origins of the candy cane are a bit murky, legend has it that they first appeared in hooked form around 1670. Candy sticks themselves were pretty common, but they really took shape when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany got the bright idea of twisting them to look like shepherd’s hooks. He then handed them out to kids during church services to keep them quiet.


It’s no surprise, then, that it was a German immigrant who introduced the custom to America. The first reference we can find to the tradition stateside is 1847, when August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decked his home out with the sugary fare.


Candy canes without the red don’t seem nearly as cheery, do they? But that’s how they were once made: all white. We’re not really sure who or exactly when the scarlet stripe was added, but we do know that images on cards before the 1900s show snow white canes.


Most candy canes are around five inches long, containing only about 50 calories and no fat or cholesterol.


The world’s largest candy cane was built by Geneva, Illinois chef Alain Roby in 2012.  It was 51 feet long, required about 900 pounds of sugar, and was eventually smashed up with a hammer so people could take home a piece.


Fifty-four percent of kids suck on candy canes, compared to the 24 percent who just go right for the big crunch. As you may have been able to guess, of those surveyed, boys were nearly twice as likely to be crunchers.


According to the National Confectioners Association, about 1.2 billion candy canes are made annually, and 90 percent of those are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Which honestly begs the question: Who’s buying the 10 percent in the off season?


Bobs (that’s right; no apostrophe) Candies was the first company to really hang its hat on the sweet, striped hook. Lt. Bob McCormack began making candy canes for his kids in the 1920s, and they were such a hit he decided to start mass-producing them. With the help of his brother-in-law, a Catholic priest named Gregory Harding Keller (and his invention, the Keller Machine), McCormack was eventually able to churn out millions of candy canes a day.


December 26 is National Candy Cane Day. Go figure.


Here’s how they make candy canes at Disneyland—it’s a painstaking (and beautiful) technique.

10 Actors Who Hated Their Own Films

1. Sylvester Stallone, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Sly doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to his film career. Despite co-starring with the delightful Estelle Getty as the titular violence-prone mother, Stallone knows just how bad the film was:

"I made some truly awful movies. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was the worst. If you ever want someone to confess to murder, just make him or her sit through that film. They will confess to anything after 15 minutes."

2. Alec Guinness, Star Wars.

By the time he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, Guinness had already appeared in cinematic classics like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Great Expectations and Lawrence of Arabia. During production, Guinness is reported to have said the following:

"Apart from the money, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue - which is lamentable - keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young."

The insane amount of fame he won for the role as the wise old Jedi master took him somewhat by surprise and, ultimately, annoyed him. In his autobiography A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal, Guinness recalls a time he encountered an autograph-seeking fan who boasted to him about having watched Star Wars more than 100 times. In response, Guinness agreed to provide the boy an autograph under the condition that he promise never to watch the film again.

3. Bob Hoskins, Super Mario Brothers. He was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. As far as I’m concerned, Bob Hoskins is forgiven for Super Mario Bros. Hoskins, though, doesn’t seem to be able to forgive himself. Last year the Guardian spoke with the veteran actor about his career and he summed up his feelings rather succinctly:

What is the worst job you've done?
Super Mario Brothers.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Super Mario Brothers.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I wouldn't do Super Mario Brothers.

4. George Clooney, Batman & Robin. Sure, Batman & Robin made money. But by every other imaginable measure, the film was a complete failure, and a nightmare to the vast majority of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent fanatics. Star George Clooney recognized what a stinker he helped create and once plainly stated, “I think we might have killed the franchise.”

5. David Cross, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. When actors have a movie out, it's customary that they publicize the film by saying nice things about it. Earlier this year David Cross took a different approach. When it came to describing his new film Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, the veteran comedian — better known for Mr. Show and Arrested Development — went on Conan and called the film a “big commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines” and told people not to go see it.

6. Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up. Judd Apatow’s unplanned pregnancy comedy was a huge hit and helped cement her status as a bankable film actress. After the film’s release, however, Heigl didn’t have all good things to say. In fact, what she specifically said about it was that the film was:

"…A little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.”

7. Charlize Theron, Reindeer Games. The 2000 action film Reindeer Games starred Ben Affleck, Gary Sinese and Charlize Theron and was directed by John Frankenheimer. But it all somehow failed to come together. In the end the film lost a lot of money and compiled a wealth of negative reviews – including one from its star actress who simply said, “Reindeer Games was not a good movie.”

8. Mark Wahlberg, The Happening. Mark Wahlberg doesn’t exactly seem like a guy who lives his life afraid of trees. But that is the odd position M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 film The Happening put him in. Wahlberg, as it turns out, doesn’t look back too fondly on the film. He went on record during a press conference for The Fighter when he described a conversation with a fellow actor:

"We had actually had the luxury of having lunch before to talk about another movie and it was a bad movie that I did. She dodged the bullet. And then I was still able to … I don’t want to tell you what movie … alright “The Happening.” F*** it. It is what it is. F***ing trees, man. The plants. F*** it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook."

9. John Cusack, Better Off Dead. John Cusack reportedly hated his cult 80s comedy so much that he walked out of the screening and later told the film’s director Steve Holland that Better Off Dead was "the worst thing I have ever seen" and he would "never trust you as a director again."

10 Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music is considered a classic and has delighted many generations of fans. But the film's own lead actor, Christopher Plummer, didn't always sing its praises. Mr. Von Trapp himself declined to participate in a 2005 film reunion and, according to one acquaintance, has referred to the film as The Sound of Mucus.


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