"A Relic of a By-gone Age": the Dorchester Pot

An unlikely artifact

The Dorchester Pot is a metal vase probably an alloy of zinc and silver found during some construction work in Dorchester, Massachusetts (USA), in 1851. The fact that it was embedded in a layer of puddingstone known as the Roxbury conglomerate, which was at a depth of about 15 feet which some claim to be about 320 million years ago (Precambrian origin), has prompted many independent researchers to count it as an OOPArt. Although the circumstances of its discovery are very doubtful, the first documented source referring to the Dorchester vase as "A Relic of a By-gone Age" is issue 38 of Scientific American magazine of June 5, 1852: following an explosion in the rock of the Meeting House Hill, a large amount of stone fragments of various sizes would have been generated, among which the find was also recovered.

Dorchester Pot_Scientific American magazine

The two parts joined together form a bell-shaped vessel, 4 ½ inches high, with a diameter of 6 ½ inches at the base and 2 ½ inches at the mouth. The metal was approximately 3mm ⅛ inch thick, decorated with 6 floral motifs inlaid in silver which included six flowers and a vine around the base.

Supporters of the OOPArt theory

The Dorchester Pot is considered an OOPArt by various popular books and articles on unsolved mysteries, alternative science, and different types of creationism.
Michael Cremo, a well-known Hindu creationist, argues that the Dorchester Pot is evidence for the "presence of artistic metalworkers in North America over 600 million years ago" while some Young Earth creationists consider it to be made by an ancient civilization prior to the Noachian Flood.

The presumed pudding rock from which the vase would be extracted is a basaltic conglomerate formed in prehistoric times: Upper Devonian, Permian or Pre-Cambrian.
The vase would have been incorporated into the rock at the time of its formation and would therefore have been 100,000 years old, thus entering into open contrast with the history of man known until then.

According to supporters of the mysterious origin, the plants of the decoration of the object would represent specimens of the Sphenophyllum aurea, a fossil plant dating back to the Upper Carboniferous and extinct at that time, the disturbing detail is that the fossils of those plants were still completely unknown at the time the vase appeared.
At that time and in those places, no one could certainly be able to conceive and create such an object.

The arguments of the skeptics

The circumstances of the discovery (the alleged "explosion", the absence of verifiable documents and the unreliable journalistic testimonies), do not allow us to have any certainty that the vase was included in the rock.
Since the methods of discovery do not derive from rigorous scientific research or from a full-blown archaeological excavation, skeptics have advanced numerous doubts about the possibility of a deception: the fortuitous discovery of this "anomalous" object may have actually been the hoax of some prankster.
There is no clear relationship between the land on which the city of Boston stands at the time identified and the discovery of the Dorchester vase. This artifact therefore may have been thrown into the rubble just before the workers arrived to clean up the land.

The test linked to floral decorations instead assumes that they are the realistic representation of a plant, while in the decorative field it is much more common to use stylized plant forms without any direct reference to really existing objects.

Furthermore, the original newspaper article did not contain any photos of the object, which appears instead, without any information on the source, only in recent articles. Added to this is the fact that on the object of the photo there are only four large flowers while in the article of 1852 we speak of six flowers. The appearance of the photographed vase, which shows no fracture or damage, suggests a common candlestick made in the style of the Victorian era.

A further element in favor of the debunkers is the fact that the vessel would have been found in the basalt, therefore in a rock of magmatic origin coming from the depths of the earth's crust where it is present in the molten state at temperatures between 3000 and 4000 °, with an average temperature around 3700 °: no metal, not even copper-tungsten alloys whose melting point is 3410 ° C, could remain solid.

Biagio Catalano points out how the "vase" is almost identical, in terms of shape and decoration, to an Indian pipe rest, then kept at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya in Mumbai and depicted in the book "Indian art" by K. Bharatha Iyer

The Dorchester pot_Indian Pipe Rest


The alleged disappearance of the vase, whose traces seem to have been lost, opened the way to two possible interpretations:

  • supporters of its authenticity support a conspiratorial thesis according to which the disappearance is due to the desire to hide the authenticity of the artifact from the "scientific / historical world",
  • skeptics are convinced that the disappearance is due to the fact that the authors of the "false find" believed that the hoax could have been discovered with analyzes conducted on the object.

"There's a wretch of an ultra-frowsy thing in the Scientific American, 7-298, which we condemn ourselves, if somewhere, because of the oneness of allness, the damned must also be damning. It's a newspaper story: that about the first of June, 1851, a powerful blast, near Dorchester, Mass., cast out from a bed of solid rock a bell-shaped vessel of an unknown metal: floral designs inlaid with silver; 'art of some cunning workman."

-Charles Fort

Resources related to a relic of a By-Gone Age: the Dorchester Pot

Cover Image by SecreteBase

Article image by K. Bharatha Iyer

Article image2 by Scientific American

article by: Astronaut01

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