From time to time archeologists and palaeontologists discover objects in seemingly impossible contexts that don’t fit their models of how they think things happened to get us here. These are often categorised as OOPArts (Out-of-place Artefacts) by cryptozoologists, ancient astronaut theorists, Young Earth creationists and those interested in the paranormal. Archeologists and scientists argue that almost all of the OOPArts, which are not hoaxes, are simply misinterpreted. But to supporters, they are hard evidence that mainstream science is covering up the truth, either deliberately or through ignorance.
OOPArt proponents present a range of incredible artefacts to support their theories, for example the famous London hammer with its wooden handle, discovered in London, Texas in 1936. It is claimed that it was found in rock dated to 130 million years old. Despite creationist assertions that the hammer is a dramatic pre-Flood relic, no clear evidence linking the hammer to any ancient formation has been presented. The hammer was more probably dropped within the last few hundred years, after which dissolved sediment hardened into a concretion around it. With extraordinary claims, the burden of proof is on those making the claims, not on those questioning them.
But to many, these fascinating objects challenge conventional history and are used to support notions of vanished ancient civilisations with knowledge and technology more advanced than that of modern times. Over the last twenty years I have interviewed the owners and keepers of some of the world's most famous OOPArts. With experience, I have developed an simple yet highly effective method for examining and determining the validity of "history-challenging" artefacts.
Considering 99.9% of them have been proved as elaborate hoaxes or misinterpretations, I approach OOPArts wearing full-body sceptic armour. Before asking the owners any questions I sit back and look at the artefacts, drawing no conclusions, as I familiarise myself with their form, texture, shape and colour. After this brief period of contemplation I begin gathering what is inevitably 'bias data' by asking the owners some simple questions; when, what, how, who, why and when? After correlating these basic facts and figures about the artefacts, I venture outwards and question the circumstances and people surrounding the moment of discovery.
THE 130 MILLION YEAR OLD FOSSIL
All afternoon the professor presented me with Pre-Colombian artefacts and unheard of OOPArts, all of which could be used to support the idea that mankind reached its current state of evolutionary development hundreds of millions of years ago. My examination of each of these artefacts will be presented in my new documentary series next year. After filming the interview I asked the professor if there is anything else he wanted me to see. It turns out he had kept the best for last! He led me to a hidden safe-room located in the bowels of his sprawling mountain top property to show me something that I really was not prepared for. He led me into a large, dark and very dry room. Before my eyes adjusted to the darkness the professor flicked on a table light and I found myself standing in a kaleidoscope of Pre-Colombian artefacts; gods, heroes, warriors, burial urns, charms, jewellery, tools and clay pottery.
Located at the centre of the room stood a wooden table with an object covered with a black velvet cloth.
Dr. Gutierrez urged me to sit down. He is 84 years old yet he pulled up a chair like a teenager, with passion flaming in his eyes. He tugged away the cloth and I gazed upon a large, charcoal grey fossil. My eyes flirted with the object for a few seconds before the focused on an ancient seashell surrounded by a matrix of long slim bones.
"Don't you see it?" asked the professor, as he pointed to the gaps between the bones. "They're knuckles Ashley, finger joints." I was convinced that I was looking at two human hands, but this fossil was dated to 130 million years old. Wtf?
Even having to ask myself that question was a huge problem for me. As a sceptic, I held onto the thought that a fundamental piece of data must be missing, or was being held back. I was being asked to consider that human beings were at an advanced stage of evolution 130 millions years ago. As much as the fanciful aspect of my personality wishes this were the case, the concept challenges everything I understand about the history of mankind. I was both intrigued and pissed off at the same time. Was the professor making a fool of me? Were the camera guys rolling in secret?
The professor explained that I was examining a high-quality replica of a fossil which he dug up in 1999 near Bogota, Columbia, in Cretaceous rock dated to around 130 million years old. After a frustrating hour questioning the professor about the fossil the predictable chink in the story manifested when I asked him which university confirmed the fossils were human hand bones. He replied:
Well. Shiver my timbers. Kent Hovind lives in Alabama, US, where he is an Evangelist, Christian theme park operator. This scientist, and advocate of Young Earth creationism, was recently convicted of tax-related crimes and was sentenced to10 years imprisonment. Carl Baugh is a Baptist minister who claims to be an archeologist with a Ph.D. from the California Graduate School of Theology in Los Angeles. Baugh is a tireless proponent of the claim that human footprints appear alongside dinosaur tracks in the Paluxy Riverbed of Glen Rose, Texas. He is the founder and Director of the Creation Evidence Museum of Texas in Glen Rose where he exhibits famous OOPArts, such as the London Hammer, as evidence that evolutionary theory is wrong.
These two scientists are Biblical creationists who believe that man and dinosaurs lived at the same time because God, said that He created man and land animals on Day 6 (Genesis 1:24-31). Dinosaurs are land animals, so logically they were created on Day 6. In contrast, those who do not believe the plain reading of Genesis believe the rock and fossil layers on earth represent millions of years of earth history and that man and dinosaurs did not live at the same time.
This was an utterly terrible situation. I had come across these two scientists while researching other OOPArts. Was I to be the one to break the professors heart?
Since 2002, these two strict Young Earth creationists have maintained Professor Gutierrez's fossil is a pair of human hands and they present it as further indisputable proof that dinosaurs and humans lived together. It was late in the day and I decided to keep my knowledge of these two scientists to myself, for the meantime, and asked my assistant to cover the bones with her hands. Of course, they fitted perfectly.
The internet is awash with Young Earth creationist, cryptozoologists and Ancient Alien theory websites which present the same OOPArts, interpreted differently, to support their conflicting ideas. However, they all believe this fossil is hard proof that evolutionary theory is wrong and that mankind's legacy on planet Earth is not as we are led to believe.
Based on aesthetic values alone one could be forgiven for believing this fossil is a pair of human hand bones. Unfortunately this sentiment is as far as many people get, and with no further questioning they blindly accept that this fossil is human. To a casual observer with little knowledge of evolutionary theory or the animal kingdom, the fossil can only be human hand bones. But to someone versed in these subjects, the bones have a compelling alternative interpretation.
The primary reason OOPArts exist is because Young Earth creationists, cryptozoologists and ancient alien theorists don't read scientific papers and update their belief systems according to the latest research. In this case, proponents of the 'human hands' theory haven't accounted for the conflicting interpretations of three biologists and palaeontologists.
In 2007, Glen J. Kuban (biologist) sharpened his sceptic-spear and set out to directly challenge the "human hands" theorists. He first identified three scientists whom he believed could solve the mystery:
Dr. Peter Prichard: Herpetologist and author of the Enclyclopedia of Turtles.
Dr. Peter Meylan: Marine reptile researcher at Eckerd College in Florida.
Dr. Walter Joyce: Turtle fossil expert at the Yale Peabody Museum division of Vertebrate Palaeontology.
SCIENTISTS Vs CREATIONISTS
The published works and observations of these three scientists clearly demonstrate six rudimentary differences between the fossilised bones and human digits, and they positively identified them as fossilised sea turtle bones. Glen J. Kuban reported that the three scientists accepted that the flipper of a sea turtle resembles that of a human hand and noted that they both have the digital formula (2-3-3-3-3), that is, the thumb has two phalanges and the four digits have three. In addition, both humans and sea turtles have two rows of four carpal bones and the thumb of both sea turtles and humans are shorter than the other digits.
However, I'm sure these tidbits are poisoned pills, because soon after offering his understanding to those who see human hands Dr. Walter Joyce was not only so sure that the bones belonged to a sea turtle, but he went so far as to define that it belonged to the superfamily Chelonioidea, which includes green turtles, loggerheads, and hawksbills. The following observations distinguish human hand bones from sea turtles flippers:
1. The distal phalanx of turtles is more flattened and pointed than in humans.
2. The carpals of humans cluster together towards the arm to allow maximal movement, and they are small, whereas the carpals of sea turtles are more flattened and angular and only allow a slight bending movement
3. Human thumbs point outwards and the other digits are notably straight and almost equal in length. In most sea turtles the first two digits are claw bearing and point outwards, and are both much shorter than the rest
4. The articular surfaces of human phalanges are well formed to allow finger movement; the articular surfaces of marine turtle phalanges are blunt to help stiffen the flipper.
5. The pisiform (a bone of the carpus) is tiny in humans, but gigantic in sea turtles to help enlarge the surface of the flipper.
6. Last not least, humans hands are typically not associated with turtle shell fragments.
The principal observation underpinning the sea turtle hypothesis is that the pisiforms on sea turtles are circular and protrude, whereas on humans pisiforms are oblong and don't protrude, as illustrated opposite.
The following two photographs highlight this primary difference between human hands and sea turtle flippers. The following examples taken from Kuban's report are not likely from the same genus or species as the fossil bones, but illustrate the same structural features.
In light of these very clear scientific observations the 'human hands' advocates must now provide detailed descriptions of the fossilised bones detailing the individual shapes and sizes of each of the ten digits. This data set must then be compared to both human hands and various Cretaceous sea turtle flippers. This is the only acceptable way in which a rational thinking human will, or should, accept the assertions of the "human hands" proponents. I must quickly advise readers not to hold breath for this study, as it is virtually impossible to achieve.
Before drawing conclusions and deciding whether to write and article or a documentary episode about such an artefact, at the end of every investigation I retreat with the hard data and apply the principle known as Occam's razor. I cut out all the features of the theory that cannot be observed. This foolhardy principle dictated that Professor Gutierrez' 130'000'000 year old 'fossilised human hands', are actually sea turtle flippers.
I have since informed the professor of my findings and he was not that surprised. I must make it clear that he doesn't agree with the creationists interpretation. No. The professors theory is something else altogether! My complete interview with Professor Gutierrez and his OOPArts will be aired internationally in a new documentary series next year.