In the great Whac-a-Mole game of pseudoarchaeology, the same old claims just keep on popping their little heads up, no matter how many times the debunkers whack them. Today’s Mole popped up on my yahoo news feed as a startling revelation—from the Mirror—and was rapidly covered by Fox News, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the Sun, and other sterling source of information: the mysterious Object (or Wedge) of Aiud.
According to the headlines, experts believe this mysterious aluminium object dating back 250,000 years could be part of an ancient UFO. Which experts? What aluminum object? The story goes that workmen near the town of Aiud, Romania, uncovered a clump of three mysterious objects thirty feet below the surface on the banks of the River Mure. Two of the objects were identified as fossilized mastodon bones, dated 10K-80K BC. The third was the big surprise: tentatively identified at first as an axehead, it was then found to be made of an aluminum alloy, and dated as early as a quarter million years ago.
Now, since humans did not begin to process aluminum until the 19th century, the object was clearly not made by humans—ergo, it was made by aliens. Furthermore, the particular alloy of aluminum was not one that could possibly have been produced on Earth. The shape of the piece was interpreted as part of the landing gear of a Vertical Take Off (VTO) vehicle, no doubt of unearthly design. Its association with the fossils suggested that, long ago, an alien vessel collided with a mastodon (or in some tellings, a hairy rhino), and this bit dropped off. But because the discovery was made in 1973 (or 1974) behind the Iron Curtain, it fell under a pall of secrecy until the story was broken in the 1990s by Romanian UFOlogists.
The Object of Aiud has had a small but steady presence on UFO websites and OOPart lists ever since, but it is not clear to me why it suddenly became world news today. And it is bloody typical that the “mystery” was revived even though the whole farrago bristles with red flags, and has already been decisively debunked. Indeed, the major debunking, in a 2015 series of nine articles by a blogger nymmed Hil Blairious, is a thing of beauty, worth reading as a textbook case of how to approach such a story.
Here are the highlights. The mystery object is almost certainly an excavator bucket tooth, rather crudely fabricated of perfectly ordinary Series 2000 aluminum alloy, possibly even in the Metalurgica Aiud foundry right there on the banks of the Mure. And it was found in an excavation on a construction site, which was no doubt being excavated using heavy machinery. It seems to me there are at least two rival scenarios here.
ONE: A clamshell excavator digging a big hole into Pleistocene sediments uncovers a couple of strange objects that look like large bones, which are packed up with some of the surrounding matrix and sent off for official examination. Included in the matrix is a worn and discarded bucket tooth, which the examiners assume is one of the objects sent for assessment. A mystery is born.
TWO: A quarter million years ago, an alien spacecraft buzzing what will someday became Transylvania has a close encounter with a hairy rhino, and leaves behind a bit of its landing gear and a dead hairy rhino.
My money would be on #1.