I MUST admit I take a fiendish delight in hearing about things which just don’t fit in with conventional thinking.
Like the discovery of the Mountain Gorilla in 1902 on the ridges of the volcanic Virunga mountains by German explorer Captain Robert von Beringe.
Reports of the animal’s existence were pooh-poohed by some experts, until von Beringe proved them wrong.
It’s not that I like to see lofty-minded know-it-alls brought down a peg or two (Oh, go on then, I suppose I do, really).
But the truth is that history is filled with delicious examples of things that just weren’t supposed to happen or weren’t supposed to be there.
In 1933, during the excavation of a gravesite in the Toluca Valley near Mexico City, a terracotta head was found.
It had obviously been part of a larger statue at one time, but had become detached.
The Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca head, as the object became known, caused a not-inconsiderable degree of consternation among archaeologists.
The problem with the head was that it was wearing a quite sporty hat very similar to those worn during various periods of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire – in Rome.
The head also sported a beard – odd, considering that the growth of facial hair was not something that the pre-Colombian Indians were capable of.
The facial features of the head were also distinctly European.
The question was, could the object have been transported to the Americas during the period of the Spanish colonization?
The site certainly appeared too old for that, but testing was needed.
In 1995, scientists from Heidelberg in Germany carried out thermoluminescence tests on the head and determined that it was no older than the 9th century BC but – and this is the interesting bit – no younger than the 13th century AD; a good while before the arrival of the Spanish.
Further examination of the artifact by the German Institute of Archaeology in Rome (no, I don’t know why it’s based in Rome, either) pinned the age of the object down to the 2nd century AD.
So, how on earth did the head of a 2nd century AD Roman statue find its way to Mexico, long before any European contact was supposed to have taken place?
The simple answer is that some Romans must have sailed to South America on a ship and took it there.
Except that they couldn’t have, for the experts had deemed such a journey a gross violation of the Right to Know Better law, which protects their professional integrity.
The head got to South America anyway.
Sometimes there are rational explanations for what researchers have deemed “ooparts”, or Out-of-Place-Artefacts.
In fact, the vast majority can be explained away, even if it does sometimes involve a radical rethink of history as taught in our educational establishments.
Occasionally, however, we are left scratching our heads.
Years ago some pieces of pottery emerged from a coal seam at Westoe Colliery.
They were taken away for investigation, but the miners I spoke to said they never heard any more about the affair.
How could pieces of pottery end up stuck in a coal seam which presumably had been formed long before the pot?
I recall reading an article, years ago, about a fish which can only be found in two coastal waters off Tasmania.
Somehow, one of them found its way to Florida.
Whether it ever found its way home again was never stated. Maybe it wanted to visit Disney World?
In the 1800s a creature which looked suspiciously like the now-extinct thylacine or Tasmanian tiger was spotted running around Jesmond.
Nicknamed the Boojum by locals, it put the wind up man and beast before it disappeared as mysteriously as it arrived.
What is it with Tasmania and wandering critters?
Answers on a postcard please …
* Seen something strange? Tell Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org