The ring or watch said to have been found by Chinese archaeologists in 2008 at a centuries-old, sealed tomb.

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

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A mystery continues to surround the curious excavation of a strange artifact and those who recovered it from the depths of an ancient tomb in China. When archaeologists reportedly recovered a modern-looking, mud-encrusted artifact from a 400-year-old sealed tomb, their astonishment was apparent. For some, this type of discovery could have only meant one thing—it was evidence of time travel. Was the discovery real? Was it a hoax? Could the find have been an intriguing artifact out of place and time?

In 2008 it was reported by several news outlets that a team of archaeologists had made a puzzling discovery. Reports described the team as comprised of archaeologists and journalists filming a documentary at a dig at a sealed tomb dating to the Ming Dynasty in Shangsi, southern China. As one of the coffins was being cleared of soil before being opened, a strange thing happened.

Interior of the Dingling Tomb, a part of the Ming Dynasty Tombs, collection of mausoleums built by the Chinese Ming dynasty emperors.

Interior of the Dingling Tomb, a part of the Ming Dynasty Tombs, collection of mausoleums built by the Chinese Ming dynasty emperors. Representational image only. Wikimedia Commons

“When we tried to remove the soil wrapped around the coffin, suddenly a piece of rock dropped off and hit the ground with metallic sound,” said Jiang Yanyu, a former curator of the Guangxi Autonomous Region Museum, according to reports.  “We picked up the object, and found it was a ring. After removing the covering soil and examining it further, we were shocked to see it was a watch.”

The strange metallic object was said to be a small golden ring, with a watch face on its front, approximately two millimeters thick. Tiny hands on the watch showed time had frozen at 10:06. Most astonishing of all, the back of the diminutive watch was said to have the word “Swiss” or “Switzerland” written in English.

The enigmatic ring-watch found in a 400-year-old sealed tomb in China. Where did the ring come from? How did it get in the tomb?

The enigmatic ring-watch found in a 400-year-old sealed tomb in China. Where did the ring come from? How did it get in the tomb? ( Image Source )

“Swiss Made” is the term used in recent decades to show that product has originated in Switzerland, especially relating to watches.

How was it possible that a tomb sealed for 400 years and dating to the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) had come to hold an artifact that could only have been created after the establishment of the present state of Switzerland, (in 1848; previous to then it was known as The Old Swiss Confederacy) and the ring-watch is said to date back only a century?

 “This is the earliest dated watch known. It is engraved on the bottom: Philip Melanchthon, to God alone the glory, 1530. There are very few watches existing today that predate 1550; only two dated examples are known--this one from 1530 and another from 1548. The perforations in the case permitted one to see the time without opening the watch.”

 “This is the earliest dated watch known. It is engraved on the bottom: Philip Melanchthon, to God alone the glory, 1530. There are very few watches existing today that predate 1550; only two dated examples are known--this one from 1530 and another from 1548. The perforations in the case permitted one to see the time without opening the watch.” Public Domain

How could such an artifact have been discovered so out of place and out of time?

OOPArts are “out-of-place-artifacts,” a description of unique and little-understood objects from the archaeological record which fall into the ‘anomalous’ category. To some, these objects have been found when and where they should not be (such as the Antikythera mechanism , the Maine Penny , and even the Nazca Lines ), and thus challenge the conventional understanding of history, and may even reveal that humanity (or otherworldly beings) had a different degree of civilization or sophistication than described and understood by officials and academia.


There are many theories as to how a modern-looking Swiss ring with a watch face might have been discovered by Chinese archaeologists from a 400-year-old sealed tomb.

Some researchers cite the possibility of time travelers who came from the future and who dropped a modern ring in an ancient location, accidentally leaving their anachronistic possession behind. The evidence for this is scant, but it is an intriguing idea.

However, it is also within the realm of possibility that the so-called ‘sealed’ tomb was not as secure as the Chinese officials and archaeologists had presumed. Early tomb-raiders or explorers gaining access to the tombs secretly cannot be ruled out, although there are no reports on any of the ancient Chinese artifacts having suffered damage or theft—something which might be expected if the tomb was entered.

Still others comment that if the strange timepiece/jewelry had been dropped in the last century or so, a rodent might have taken it and burrowed into the tomb.


If the object was covered in dirt, how could it have a "metallic ring" when it hit the ground?

The doubts cast by the author on the story are legitimate and should be well noted. The standards for archaeology and excavating sites in China are not nearly what they are in other parts of the world. It has only been during the last 35 years that the PRC has taken an interest in China's past.

Ever since the discovery of the First Emperor's Tomb which revealed all those terracotta statues, the government has made some strides to combat illegal excavating, but with so many sites and so many people, the job is very difficult.

From the story's lack of names and places, I would suspect that this is probably an illegal excavation by amateurs or criminals looking for good to sell on the black market. If, in fact the story isn't a hoax, as the article suggests.

Put this article in the "I'm from Missouri, show me" file. Until names, dates and places are verified by independent sources, this story is a non-story.

I think this is a hoax, and a bit like the game, Telephone. What kind of hoax? I do not know...due to the lack of evidence from the supposed journalists & archaeologists.

What they need to do us look at the symbol in the middle of the "face" of the ring. What does that symbol mean that looks like "11:05 with possible marks near the 3 and 9" positions.

What does the symbol say in Chinese?

Also, an x-ray of the object should reveal whether or not it has internal mechanisms or is solid throughout. That should settle the "watch" question.. If it's not a watch, then someone should examine the face to determine what the markings might really mean.

Why would you entertain this rubbish? I calls your integrity into question.

Tsurugi's picture

No. True adherence to the scientific method requires a patient and systematic inquiry into all possibilities. Most possibilities can be falsified immediately using known evidence and some critical thinking. Those possibilities that remain can then be subjected to further inquiry, and so on.

It is those who prefer to dismiss some possibilities outright without consideration whose integrity should be called into question.

Agreed! Archeology is a marvelous profession, but its practitioners have their own dogmas and presumptions that need to be challenged from time to time. I am skeptical about this "discovery," but it deserves to be checked out.
Could Swiss jewelers determine whether this ring/watch is of a type that was made in Switzerland during any particular period of history?

Tsurugi's picture

Yes. I'd particularly like to know if it is actually a "Swiss" ring watch, or if they are just calling it that because that's what it looks like.
If it isn't actually Swiss, that would be interesting because it might actually be a product of the civilization that made the tomb.
OTOH, if it really is a Swiss timepiece, it would seem (to me) the best explanation is this tomb was not "untouched" as was initially thought...someone had been in there before. Someone who left almost no sign they had been there--no looting, blasting of walls, wanton destruction typical of grave robbers--and who sealed it back up so well it appeared to be untouched when archaeologists discovered it. And that, my friend, is interesting in an entirely different way. What did they take, why were they there?

Or, it could be a hoax or misunderstanding, of course.

It wouldn’t be the first time a newly discovered tomb had been opened and explored (and robbed) years earlier (Carter – Tutankhmen).
Why is it we only ever seem to find ooparts or strange mechanical devices from our past, not OUR future? Why never from OUR future? Like a robot from 2030; a coin from 2025; a titanium ring with embedded spheres of dark matter?
I seriously doubt timetravellers left a Swiss Ring Watch in the Ming Dynasty Tomb.


Same question crossed my mind. It’ll be easy to identify coins with future date, but they would be interpreted as different year system, e.g. Coins of Nepal follow Vikram Samvat calendar which is 56.7 years ahead (in count) of the solar Gregorian calendar. Any other artifact may just be a puzzle for us and will never be identifed as artifact from future by mainstream guys.


Very good point! (Why nothing from our future?). It has the smell of a hoax or at very least what was considered undisturbed had been disturbed.

I remember buying stranger than fiction books as a boy and coming to realise that what 'evidence' there was either evaporated or was not given - i.e, unsearchable - seemingly deliberately, perhaps s in this case. That kind of 'evidence' is called hearsay.

who are these idiot researchers who you gave the space in your questionable article? the ones who stated it could be time travelers? you know if this is a true story (which i have my serious doubts), it could possibly mean that...the tomb wasnt sealed! duh.

IronicLyricist's picture

truth is stranger than fiction…

infinitesimal waveparticles comprise what we call home the earth
manipulatable by thought ability supressed in humans since birth

Send it to Rolex, they are experts on authentic Swiss watches.

Retired Colonel

I think ancient origins site here owes its followers some insight on this article, as to what all those engravings on watch are, mean and close up photos of them so we can see them on here..
And I doubt that tiny object is too small to hit the ground with a metallic sound having dirt on it.
Please prove me wrong :)

This item is FAR too tiny to contain a working watch movement, even by today's technical standards. Surprised they did not open it up. Today's smallest movement is made by Citizen and is about twice that size.

I agree with most probability that this is a false story. But, I still derived enjoyment out of it in imagining the projected scenario and with the possible stories that could be imagined from such an adventure. True or not, The contemplation is still stimulating to the mind!!!

Okay so why would anyone dig around in an archeological site then reseal the site?
Because they didn't have proper authorization that's why.
Hence there's a paper trail!
Why hasn't anyone with ancient origins researched the paper trail?
Please do so then post a follow up.
Thank you.

There is no mistery there, This academic people don't know the world so they can't think about how it happened, obviously some rich swiss traveler who owned that ring traveled to China, lost the ring watch, some bird got it as a shining piece of julerie and transported it to the nest near or inside the thumb.

Aliens? Timetravelers? Maybie in some other cases, not this one.

Tsurugi's picture

"...obviously some rich swiss traveler who owned that ring traveled to China, lost the ring watch, some bird got it as a shining piece of jewelry and transported it to the nest near or inside the tomb."

Good so far, but the tomb was sealed and below ground so the bird cannot have been the last link in the chain. That leaves the story short a satisfactory ending, so ....

... after building the ringwatch nest in a tree above the ground near the tomb entrace, the bird found a mate, made some baby chicks, fed 'em for a few weeks, then kicked them out on their arses and told them to get a friggin' job already(only she said it in Chinese/Bird, where it is much more insulting). During this period of domestic uproar the ringwatch fell to the ground beneath the tree.
It lay in the dirt near the trunk of the tree, slowly sinking with each rain. Ants diverted around it. Beetles ran into it over and over until eventually they missed it and continued on. Earthworms diverted around it. Small plant roots pushed it back and forth, and always down. During this period it developed the encrusted minerals on large protions of its outer shell.
At some point, it has sunk deep enough that it is at the level of the tomb. But the tomb is lined with stone, tightly joined, with no breaches through whicb the ringwatch could pass through. So it sits there, deep beneath the earth but above the tomb proper.

And it sits there.

Still sits there.

Continues to still sit there.

Then, just before the modern day arrived and invalidated our story, a brief(maybe), temporally dubious highly energetic series of events took place in the area involving a time traveler who was being pursued by aliens The time traveler had lost his return lock thanks to a bit of quantum sabotage by the ETs, and was thus forced to seek out the nearest ETEs(Emergency Temporal Evac station), which, it so happened, was this tomb.
Lots of amusing and interesting but irrelevant things happened very quickly, ending with both time traveler and aliens departing at tachyonic speeds for the far horizons of time, launched from within the tomb. There was a bit of bleed effect, causing the stone ceiling to phase shift slightly for a brief second, during which the ringwatch dropped through, rolled a bit, and stopped, in the spot it would later be found by a confused archaeologist.


(see, it does take time travelers and aliens to get it in that tomb, even if you start with rich Swiss traveler and bird)

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