Timeless Mystery: How did a Swiss Ring Watch End up in a Sealed Ming Dynasty Tomb?

OOPArts are “out-of-place-artifacts”, which is a rather simple description of unique and little-understood objects from the archaeological record that fall within the ‘anomalous’ category. In appearance, OOPArts are objects that have been found out of place, thus challenging our conventional historical understandings. One such Timeless Mystery: How did a Swiss Ring Watch End up in a Sealed Ming Dynasty Tomb? Could it, perhaps, have been time travel?

In 2008 several media outlets supposedly reported that a team of archaeologists and journalists filming a documentary of a dig at a 400-year-old sealed tomb dating back to the Ming Dynasty made a puzzling discovery when they uncovered a modern-looking, mud-encrusted artifact. This artifact was a small golden ring with a watch face front, with tiny hands frozen in time. The inscription on the back was supposed to have said “Swiss” or “Switzerland” (and was written in English). The problem? The 400 year-old sealed Ming Dynasty tomb couldn’t possibly hold a century-old artifact that appeared to have been created after the establishment of the present state of Switzerland (in 1848). Or could it?

The Ming Dynasty, also called the Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China for 276 years, between 1368 and 1644, following the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, who have been described as “one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history” was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic Han Chinese. The only Ming tomb to have ever been officially excavated was that of the Wanli Emperor, with the dig completed between 1956 and 1957. Unfortunately neither the technology nor the resources to preserve the excavated artifacts existed at that time and many of the artifacts deteriorated. Further, political impetus behind the excavation created pressure for quick completion and as a result, in the haste to complete the dig the documentation was extremely poor.

Given that the only official archaeological dig of a Ming Tomb occurred in the 1950’s, I’m going to hazard a guess that there might be inaccuracy in this alien-type time-travelling report. In fact, the fact is that OOPArts – despite the excitement they exact – have never actually stood up to much scrutiny. They have either served to increase our historical understanding (like the Antikythera Mechanism) or have been fairy tales (the Dropa Stones), sensationalized reporting of the ordinary (the Coso Artifact) or they fit into the historical re-writing agendas of alien/extraterrestrial/UFO proponents and conspiracy theorists. While there are other somewhat logical explanations, there are some pretty far-out explanations too (aliens? time traveling?) Either way, my ruling is that this story is a hoax. But, what say you?

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