The Coso Artifact

April 16, 2009 Updated: April 17, 2009

An Oopart (Out Of Place ARTifact) is a term applied to dozens of prehistoric objects found in various places around the world that, given their level of technology, are completely at odds with their determined age based on physical, chemical, and/or geological evidence. Ooparts often are frustrating to conventional scientists and a delight to adventurous investigators and individuals interested in alternative scientific theories.

Collecting specimens for their rock shop during an expedition in 1961, treasure hunters Wallace Lane, Virginia Maxey, and Mike Mikesell came across a strange artifact high in California’s Coso Mountains. 

The group was on their usual field search, looking for geodes for their store. But the next day when Mikesell began cutting the finds open to prepare them for display, one specimen proved so hard that it ruined his new diamond saw blade. Instead of the quartz crystal layer normally present inside a geode, he found a porcelain-like component embedded in the stone.

Maxey contacted a geologist who, noting the fossilization present around the embedded specimen, dated the stone-trapped artifact between 100,000 and 500,000 years old. Unsure of what to do next with their unusual find, the group sent their artifact to the Charles Ford Society, which produced x-rays that were able to offer further detail to the object.  

Researchers were stunned to find that the component found inside exhibited a technological level similar to that of our current civilization. This finding suggested that an ancient culture may have attained a technical ability similar to modern times. 

Naturally, not everyone believed the ancient artifact story. In particular, researchers Pierre Stromberg and Paul Heinrich insisted that the find was simply a modern spark plug. They argued that it could have remained trapped in the ferrous concrete formed by the oxidation of the object, giving the appearance of an ancient relic. 

As investigation into the Coso artifact continued, x-rays of the object were sent to four different spark plug collectors throughout the U.S. to test the “spark plug” theory.

In 1999, Spark Plug Collectors of America (SPCA) President Chad Windham, who initially believed that the x-rays were a practical joke being played on the spark plug collector community, concluded that the specimen was actually a Champion model spark plug from the 1920s. He identified it as the kind of plug that would have been found in the Ford Model-T. Thus many concluded that the specimen was merely a component from an old vehicle that had been up in the mountains.

Yet many still insist that the rock-embedded component exhibits noticeable differences from the plug Windham describes. They point to a spring or helix at one end of the component that is not exhibited in a modern spark plug. Some even believe that the component may be a part from a time machine that got left behind. However, further study of the specimen is now impossible. The whereabouts of the Coso Artifact, like that of other contentious Ooparts, remains unknown.