A Year: Day to Day Men: 13th of February, Solar Year 2018

Red Bell Peppers

On February 13, 1961, the Coso artifact is discovered near the town of Olancha, California.

The Coso artifact is an object claimed by its discoverers to be a spark plug found encased in a lump of hard clay or rock. It was found by Wallace Lane, Virginia Maxey and Mike Mikesell while they were prospecting for geodes near the town of Olancha. It has been long claimed as an example of an out-of-place artifact. Such an artifact is an object of historical, archaeological, or paleontological interest found in an unusual context, that challenges conventional historical chronology by being “too advanced” for the level of civilization that existed at the time.

Following its collection, Mikesell destroyed a diamond-edged blade cutting through the rock containing the artifact and discovered the item. In a letter written to “Desert Magazine of Outdoor Southwest” a reader stated that a trained geologist had dated the nodule as at least 500,000 years old and it had contained a manmade object. The identity of the alleged trained geologist and means of geologic dating were never clarified, nor the findings ever published in any known periodical.

At the time that Virginia Maxey reported the Coso artifact being dated at 500,000 years old, there was no known method, including the use of guide fossils, by which either the artifact or concretion could have been dated as being this old. The nodule surrounding the spark plug may have accreted in a matter of years or decades, as demonstrated by examples of very similar iron or steel artifact-bearing nodules, which are discussed and illustrated by J. M. Cronyn’s “Elements of Archaeological Conservation”, a reference work for the conservational excavation of materials at sites.

An investigation carried out with the help of members of the Spark Plug Collectors of America, suggested that the artifact is a 1920s Champion spark plug. Chad Windham, President of the Spark Plug Collectors of America, identified the Coso artifact as a 1920s-era Champion spark plug, which was widely used in the Ford Model T and Model A engines. Other spark plug collectors concurred with his assessment.

The location of the Coso artifact is unknown as of 2008. Of its discoverers, Wallace Lane has died, Virginia Maxey is alive but avoids public comment, and the whereabouts of  Mike Mikesell are not known.

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