Created By: Wooboo on March 1, 2012 Last Edited By: Arivne on March 26, 2016

Out Of Place Artifact

An artifact that makes no sense being where it is found.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
(Do We Have This One?? Also, it could probably use a snappier title and probably some linking work. Perhaps separating the types of artifacts into categories like a sliding scale would also be a good idea? Also, I confess, I am no expert with the scripting here, so that probably needs a fix or two. Or ten.)

Greame: Any idea what these are?
Sebastian: No, you?
Greame: No.
Maxwell: Well it's a good thing we brought the experts.
Greame: Yeah it is a good thing, because this is like finding Moses' DVD collection..

Alice the Archeologist is doing excavation work in an old temple, when she suddenly finds a strange artifact. It's clearly not something anyone else has ever found there, because it simply does not fit there. Maybe it's a bottle cap imbedded in the stonework of a pyramid in Ancient Egypt, or it could be a supercomputer in the pharaoh's tomb. Alice has just found an Out Of Place Artifact.

Out Of Place Artifacts are Exactly What It Says on the Tin, artifacts that do not fit at all with the established history of the civilization that it was found with. In fiction, these are often the story's MacGuffin's, driving the plot and resulting in a frantic race to find them or protect them from the enemy, acting on its own as a great power or the key to even more crazy ancient tech. Frequently, these are the calling cards of time travelers or sufficiently advanced ancient astronauts or even Eldritch Abominations, though could just as likely be be something as simple as finding a a viking helmet in the sealed tomb of a Han Dynasty Emperor. Since this typically involves people going into dusty old tombs to find them, expect this to show up a lot in Adventurer Archaeologist stories and the reason why Hitler gets a jetpack.

Compare Schizo Tech, where the society with the crazy, mixed-up technology could just as likely be the current one, or even the future and most importantly, is still around to explain just what the hell is going on.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime & Manga 
  • A driving force behind the plot of Spriggan. - ZCE

    Film 

    Literature 
  • Sphere starts off with the protagonists being asked to investigate a mysterious ship found at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, which is thought to be an alien spacecraft. As it turns out, it's a time travel machine from the U.S, carrying an even stranger artifact.
  • Occasionally crops up in Clive Cussler's works, due to Dirk Pitt's status as an Adventurer Archaeologist. One example is Sahara, where Dirk chases down leads taking him to a Confederate ironclad in the middle of the Sahara Desert, though there is a perfectly good reason for it being there.
  • The H.P. Lovecraft story At the Mountains of Madness has the protagonists discover a temple complex created by the Elder Things, a race of Starfish Alien Ancient Astronauts.

    Video Games 
  • A frequent plot device in Tomb Raider, pretty much the framework of the plots for every game except 2. - ZCE
  • Endless Ocean has the character frequently discover these, with both games used to find the remnants of an ancient civilization. - ZCE
  • The "Pieces of Eden" in the Assassin's Creed series. - ZCE

    Real Life 
  • The Crystal Skulls. Claimed to have been discovered in a Mayan temple, and made out of pure quartz, one of the hardest minerals to cut and sculpt and way outside the technological capabilities of the Mayans. Most however, regard it as nothing more than a forgery.
  • A more mundane example is the Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca Head. It shares similarities to Roman sculpture, but was found in a Mexican archeological dig.

Community Feedback Replies: 28
  • March 1, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    A few suggestions:
  • March 1, 2012
    Ryusui
  • March 1, 2012
    billybobfred
    • One of the songs in The World Ends With You is called Ooparts. In keeping with the title, it contains out-of-context lines lifted from other songs in the soundtrack.

    Not sure that counts as an example.
  • March 1, 2012
    Wackd
    May want to rename to avoid confusion with The Artifact.
  • March 1, 2012
    Generality
    ^ Confusion might arise, but in this case the word is used correctly and I support it.
  • March 1, 2012
    MiinU

    Video games

    • Referred to as OP3's in, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. Also becomes a minor plot point later, when the Vendeeni come Elicoor II in search of Fayt, only to learn of the Sacred Orb (revealed to be an OP3) entombed in the Shrine of Kaddan.
  • March 2, 2012
    morenohijazo
    For the real-life section, there's a whole Wikipedia entry about this.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Out-of-place_artifact

    I think there was a Cracked article as well, I'll try to find it.
  • March 2, 2012
    ZombieAladdin
    Video Games: A stage in Super Monkey Ball 2 has a large bizarre shape as its main feature; the stage is called "Ooparts."
  • March 2, 2012
    morenohijazo
    The Monolith in Two Thousand And One A Space Odyssey. The first one is found on the Moon, and the second one is orbiting Jupiter.
  • March 2, 2012
    Vidor
    No idea why that codes correctly on the Stanley Kubrick page but not here.
  • March 2, 2012
    MiinU
    You mean, like this? 2001: A Space Odyssey

    Use double brackett, work name, add space, followed by the proper heading, close brackett. Or click the edit button, here, to see how I did it.
  • November 24, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    Bump. Can we get more hats and/or comments why no more hats are coming in?
  • November 24, 2012
    justanid
    Shares a lot with Ancient Artifact & Lost Technology.
  • November 24, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Note that in order to be an out-of-place artifact it needs to be identified as such in-universe. If it only looks out of place to the audience, that's not enough. And mere Shout Outs to "OOP Arts" is not enough either.

    • One episode in Stargate SG 1 involved the team travelling back into time to retrieve an ancient device from ancient Egypt, only to have their ship accidentally discovered and impounded Ra (the most powerful Gaould System Lord) who ruled ancient Egyptian Earth during that era. Snap forward to an altered timeline where the US military has a peculiar artifact from ancient Egypt: An inexplicably well-preserved video recorder, holding a video of the SG 1 team explaining what they were trying to do, what went wrong, and how to fix the timeline.
  • November 24, 2012
    Koveras
    @Septimus Heap: Oh how often I ask that question myself. :D My answer to this is: this is the first time I see this YKTTW...

    • This is a major plot point in Final Fantasy XIII-2: due to a temporal distortion, artifacts from different times end up in time periods where/when they don't belong. Serah and Noel search for them in order to unlock Time Gates to the periods they (the artifacts) originally come from.
  • November 24, 2012
    captainpat
    A lot of the examples for this need to be elaborated.
  • March 23, 2016
    DAN004
    This needs a bump
  • March 25, 2016
    Arivne

    Several examples are Zero Context Examples and have been marked as such (ZCE). Each one needs more specific information about how it fits the trope.
  • March 24, 2016
    Chabal2
    Some SCP Foundation articles have SCP be the newer designation for these types of artifacts (or is the equivalent term used by other agencies). The Foundation serves to Secure, Contain and Protect them from humanity (and vice versa in the vast majority of cases).
  • March 25, 2016
    lakingsif
    There's also Achronological Clue I think it's called - something being out of its timezone is a clue to something being not quite right
  • March 25, 2016
    lakingsif
    (okay, that's not the name, but it's something like that)
  • March 25, 2016
    DAN004
  • March 25, 2016
    MrRuano
    Invoked in Twisted Metal 2 with Twister's ending. Twister manages to go so fast that it travels backward in time back to the Cretaceous period, where it gets stomped on by a random dinosaur. Out of that wreckage, only the driver's helmet is recovered and Calypso comments on how it confounded archaeologists that such a helmet could be so ancient.
  • March 25, 2016
    69BookWorM69
    I agree with @ DAN 004. I'm wondering if this is a subtrope of that.
  • March 25, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ that trope says "clue", this trope says "artifact".

    See what I mean?
  • March 26, 2016
    Omeganian
    There is also Blatant Item Placement
  • March 26, 2016
    Blooker
    It seems we have an index of relevant tropes, which I present for your perusal: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ThisIndexIsAnachronistic

    Edit: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AnachronismStew as well.
  • March 26, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ Just Camel Case the trope's word and you'll automatically link it.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=o7eefwtaheo1qoxqwzev9iy6