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Oopart (out of place artifact) is a term applied to dozens of prehistoric objects found in various places around the world that seem to show a level of technological advancement incongruous with the times in which they were made. Ooparts often frustrate conventional scientists, delight adventurous investigators open to alternative theories, and spark debate.
According to the conventional view of history, humans have only walked the Earth in our present form for some 200,000 years, with our ancestors’ history extending back perhaps 6 million years. The Earth’s coal is said to have formed hundreds of millions of years ago. That’s why the appearance of a man-made iron instrument resembling a drill bit in the heart of a large chunk of coal puzzled the historians who found it in the 19th century.
It appeared that a man-made tool as advanced as the tools used in the 19th century was deposited in the organic matter that formed the coal before it became coal. Was a civilization advanced enough to use drill bits present hundreds of millions of years ago as this coal was forming?
John Buchanan, Esq., presented the mysterious object to a meeting of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland on Dec. 13, 1852. His accompanying statements are recorded in the Society’s proceedings, which are quoted in full at the end of this article.
In summary, Buchanan said that the iron instrument was found within a seam of coal about 22 inches thick, which was in turn buried in a bed of diluvium or clay mixed with boulders some 7 feet thick.
He said: “I quite agree in the generally received geological view, that the coal was formed long before man was introduced upon this planet; but the puzzle is, how this implement, confessedly of human hands, should have found its way into the coal seam, overlaid as the latter was by a heavy mass of diluvium and boulders.”
The Society decided that the instrument was of a modern level of advancement. But, it concluded that “the iron instrument might have been part of a borer broken during some former search for coal.” Buchanan’s detailed report did not include, however, any signs that the coal surrounding the instrument had been punctured by drilling. He seemed to describe, rather, an iron instrument completely and bewilderingly encapsulated by coal.
The passage about this iron instrument in the Dec. 13, 1852 Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland is recorded here in its entirety:
A communication was then read from John Buchanan, Esq., relative to the discovery of an iron instrument, lately found imbedded in a natural seam of coal in the neighbourhood of Glasgow. The instrument which was exhibited to the Meeting was considered to be modern. In his communication Mr. Buchanan remarks: ‘I send herewith, for the inspection of the Society, a very curious iron instrument found last week in this locality. The interest attaching to this singular relic arises from the fact of its having been discovered in the heart of a piece of coal, seven feet under the surface. To explain particulars, I beg to mention, that a new line of road, called the Great Western Road, was opened a few years ago, leading to the Botanic Gardens, which, you may be aware, are situated about two miles north-west from Glasgow. At a point on this new road are the lands of Burnbank, now in course of being extensively built upon. The person conducting these building operations is Mr. Robert Lindsay, wright and builder, a most respectable individual, well known to me, and on whose veracity implicit confidence may be placed. Now, when Mr. Lindsay came to excavate the foundations along the north side of the road for the range of houses, he cut through a bed of diluvium or clay mixed with boulders, seven feet thick, and then came on a seam of coal about twenty-two inches thick, cropping out almost to the very surface, and resting on freestone. It was necessary to remove this coal and cut into the stone below, which last was very opportune for building purposes. A quantity of the coal so removed was carted over to Mr. Lindsay’s workshop or yard for use; and while his nephew, Robert Lindsay junior, an apprentice, was breaking up a block of the coal, he was surprised to find the iron instrument now sent in the very heart of it. At first neither he nor the others about him could make out what it was, but after scraping and cleaning it from the coaly coating, it presented the appearance now before you. I send along with it a portion of the coal. Having been made aware of this discovery, I lost no time in seeing Mr. Lindsay senior; and accompanied him this day to the spot, and had the circumstances detailed to me by his nephew, and several of the respectable operatives who saw the instrument taken from the coal; and all of whom, Mr. Lindsay senior assures me, are persons whose statements may be implicitly relied upon.’
The affidavits of five workmen who saw the iron instrument taken from the coal were also sent, and Mr. Buchanan further adds: ‘I quite agree in the generally received geological view, that the coal was formed long before man was introduced upon this planet; but the puzzle is, how this implement, confessedly of human hands, should have found its way into the coal seam, overlaid as the latter was by a heavy mass of diluvium and boulders. If the workmen who saw the relic disinterred are to be depended on (and I have no reason whatever to doubt their perfect veracity), then there may and must be some mode of accounting for the implement finding its way down eight or nine vertical feet from the surface.’
It was suggested that in all probability the iron instrument might have been part of a borer broken during some former search for coal.
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