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The Swiss ring watch found by Chinese archaeologists within a Ming Dynasty tomb. Source: EuroPics

Bizarre Finding of a Swiss Ring Watch in a Sealed Ming Dynasty Tomb

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An aura of mystery continues to surround the excavation of a curious artifact which was recovered from the depths of an ancient tomb in China. When archaeologists reportedly recovered a modern-looking, mud-encrusted Swiss ring watch from a 400-year-old sealed tomb, their astonishment was apparent. For some, the discovery could only mean one thing – that this was evidence of time travel. But, was it a hoax? Or was the intriguing artifact somehow out of place and time?

Front hall of the Dingling Tomb, a collection of mausoleums built by the Chinese Ming dynasty emperors. The Swiss ring watch was discovered within an unspecified Ming Dynasty tomb. Representational image only. (Public domain)

Front hall of the Dingling Tomb, a collection of mausoleums built by the Chinese Ming dynasty emperors. The Swiss ring watch was discovered within an unspecified Ming Dynasty tomb. Representational image only. ( Public domain )

Finding the Swiss Ring Watch in a Ming Dynasty Tomb

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

“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. “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 Swiss ring watch was said to have the word “Swiss” or “ Switzerland” written in English. “Swiss Made” is the term used in recent decades to show that product has originated in Switzerland, especially relating to watches.

The Out-of-Place and Out-of-Time Swiss Ring Watch

How was it possible that a tomb sealed for 400 years and dating to the Ming Dynasty, who ruled between 1368 and 1644, had come to hold an artifact that could only have been created after the establishment of the present state of Switzerland. Keep in mind that Switzerland was founded in 1848; previous to then it was known as the Old Swiss Confederacy. Meanwhile, the artifact itself, a Swiss ring watch, is said to date back only a century.

Out-of-place artifacts, or OOPArts, are unique and little-understood objects from the archaeological record which fall into the “anomalous” category. To some, objects such as the Antikythera mechanism , the  Maine Penny , and even the  Nazca Lines , challenge the conventional understanding of history. They can even reveal that humanity (or otherworldly beings) had a different degree of civilization or sophistication than described and understood by officials and academia.

The Swiss ring watch was discovered in a 400-year-old sealed tomb in China.

The Swiss ring watch was discovered in a 400-year-old sealed tomb in China.

Theories About the Out-of-Place Swiss Ring Watch

There are many theories as to how a modern-looking Swiss ring watch might have been discovered by Chinese archaeologists within a 400-year-old sealed tomb. Some researchers cite the possibility of time travelers from the future dropping a Swiss ring watch in an ancient location and 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 secretly gaining access to the tombs 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 had been visited earlier. Still others suggest that if the strange Swiss ring watch had been dropped within the last century or so, a rodent might have taken it and burrowed into the tomb.

Lack of Evidence Surrounding the Swiss Ring Watch

There is still much that is unknown about the story of the Swiss ring watch discovered in China. Was the tiny artifact an actual working mechanism with gears and moving hands? Or was it simply a mold or pressing of a watch face into metal?

Ring watches are fashionable jewelry pieces which were not popular until after 1780 in Europe. In 1588 Queen Elizabeth I is reputed to have worn a special ring watch which functioned as a “clever alarm” with a protrusion which would scratch her finger. Additionally, in 1755 Caron, a Parisian watchmaker created a ring watch that was wound with a key.

However, this is all academic, as the ring watches were not known to be in vogue during the Ming Dynasty , and in its reported condition the ring doesn’t seem to have been a protected grave good. Indeed, it is said the ring was on the outside of the coffin, and seemed to fall away with a light touch.

Finally, there is a lack of background evidence surrounding the entire episode. Though the story has been reported and widely circulated by media outlets, there seems to be little information on the background of the archaeologists and journalists involved in the story. It has never been revealed which tomb in particular was being excavated, by whom, nor any additional information on the coffin itself.

A locket ring which belonged to England’s Queen Elizabeth I. Representational image. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

A locket ring which belonged to England’s Queen Elizabeth I. Representational image. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Is the Swiss Ring Watch Incident a Hoax?

The strange mystery of the tiny metal Swiss ring watch has remained unsolved. There is no clear evidence to prove it as a definite OOPArt, nor enough facts to condemn it as a mere hoax. What is certain, however, is that it is a story which ignites the imagination and urges us to reconsider how it might have come to be nestled in a Ming Dynasty tomb before its time.

Top image: The Swiss ring watch found by Chinese archaeologists within a Ming Dynasty tomb. Source: EuroPics

By Liz Leafloor

References

Ancient Code Team. 2015. “The mystery of the Swiss watch from the Ming Dynasty” in Ancient Code . Available at: https://www.ancient-code.com/the-mystery-of-the-swiss-watch-from-the-ming-dynasty/

Garnham, E. 2008. “Tomb raiders baffled by Swiss watch found in ancient tomb” in  Express. Available at: https://www.express.co.uk/news/weird/76140/Tomb-raiders-baffled-by-Swiss-watch-found-in-ancient-tomb

No name. 2015. “History of Watchmaking” in Foundation High Horology . Available at: https://www.hautehorlogerie.org/en/watches-and-culture/encyclopaedia/history-of-watchmaking/

Thornhill, C. 2008. “Mystery as century-old Swiss watch discovered in ancient tomb sealed for 400 years” in The Daily Mail. Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1096959/Mystery-century-old-Swiss-watch-discovered-ancient-tomb-sealed-400-years.html

Comments

This case reminds me of the Coso artifact found in 1961, proven to be a 1920 Champion spark plug. Curiously, initialiy it was estimated than it was encasted in a half a million years old geode, which obviously, was proven totally wrong. The ring watch finding, is clearly in need of Occam’s razor use.

Allison McCormick's picture

half the 80s clothes guys in victorian or whatever the watch had to have been a previous idea left in the woodworks. swiss probably could have done a repeat, watch could have been specially made or idk they have old blueprints. everyones always on the same page doing the samething when it comes to movies or stuff like that...not literally but there was always that supposed subject link. :x. or style. hate to say it now ill be hated. but kind of like harry potter. same shit happens all the time but its cuz its what it is. blame the story!!! (ive read both on complete accident the first….read the whole thing not bad….both great honestly) 

Nice!

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.

Fini

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

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.

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