The Crystal Gear of Vladivostok

Metal embedded in coalJust over a year ago we looked at a Brian Thomas article about a “Peruvian mummy” that he suggested was that of a biblical “giant.” The original news story – from the Daily Mail of all sources – had a slightly different nut-case theory to sell: the mummy was an alien. However, scrolling to the end of the Mail article it was revealed that intentional skull deformation of the kind that could produce features such as those being interpreted as alien (or giant) were common in the place and time that the find was from. A mundane explanation, though still an interesting one – one which Thomas didn’t even mention.

Wednesday’s article – Possible Human Artifact Found in Coal – also by Mr Thomas, has a number of parallels with the earlier story.

A resident of Vladivostok, which is sandwiched between China, North Korea, and the Sea of Japan, was adding ordinary coal to a fire when he noticed a shiny metal object peeking through a piece of the friable black rock. The portion that protruded looked suspiciously manmade, so he investigated by enlisting the help of nearby scientists.

The Vladivostok resident, Dmitry, found embedded in his coal a shiny metal bar with teeth, like those of a bar or plate gear built to mesh with the teeth of a wheeled gear.

Brian’s chosen explanation is that this is a piece of machinery from before the flood. The explanations given by his sources are, once again, related to aliens. What’s the evidence?

The Pennsylvanian coal came from the Chernogorodskiy mines from the Khakasis region north of Mongolia. According to international Russian news source Komsomolskaya Pravda, biologist Valery Brier helped analyze the odd-shaped object. X-ray diffraction revealed that it was mostly aluminum with about two to four percent magnesium. This unique alloy is not generally produced today. And Brier noted that refined aluminum implies high technology.

The Komsomolskaya Pravda source is, unfortunately, not “international” in a way that would mean that it had an English edition. What I can ascertain from translations and other sources suggests that not only is Brier a biologist – a profession that can be at best considered tangentially related to the analysis of metal alloys – but somebody who investigates “anomalies,” perhaps in the sense of a paranormal investigator. It would be nice, therefore, if somebody could replicate his findings, but in the meantime we may have to run with them.

An object like this that’s embedded in supposedly ancient coal is so difficult to explain from the long-ages perspective that some speculate ancient intelligent aliens left it on earth in some bygone era. This desperate suggestion presumes that the coal’s age assignment is true. One might as well say that the reptiles from which dinosaurs supposedly evolved, whose remains occur in some rare Pennsylvanian outcrops, were smart enough to smelt and cast metals.

I don’t think that the aliens claim comes from desperation but instead a tabloid predisposition to attribute anything and everything to aliens (remind you of anything?).

Iodine crystalsThomas goes on to talk about carbon-14 in coal and describe some other, older finds. Sticking to this discovery, what are the possible explanations? Here are a few:

  • Crystals: Sharon Hill at Doubtful News points out that crystals can grow in ways that could be mistaken for technology. For example a picture that had originally been associated with the story turns out to be of an iodine crystal (at right), nothing to do with the “gear.” While it is claimed that aluminium of this purity is “rare,” we are dealing with a rare occurrence here.
  • Meteorites: it is pointed out in some sources that an “extraterrestrial” isotope of aluminium can decay to magnesium, likely as an attempt to shore up the “aliens” claim. This doesn’t explain the shape directly, but it is something to consider.
  • Broken modern machinery: this coal had been processed, and the object was visible on the outside of a lump before it was thrown into the fire. It is possible that the piece of metal got embedded since the coal was dug up and was never in the ground. Hill thinks that this is the most likely explanation.
  • A piece of modern machinery got stuck in the coal while it was in the ground: this is similar to one of the explanations that offers for an Iron cup (mentioned by Thomas in this article) found in coal of a similar age.

    Mineralization is common in the coal and surrounding debris of coal mines because rainwater reacts with the newly exposed minerals and produces highly mineralized solutions. Coal, sediments, and rocks are commonly cemented together in just a few years. It could easily appear that a pot cemented in such a concretion could appear superficially as if it were encased in the original coal. Or small pieces of coal, including powder, could have been recompressed around the cup by weight.

  • A pre-flood civilisation made it: this is Thomas’ favoured position, but it is much less likely than any above. He claims that there were “expert metal workers … among the pre-Flood peoples,” based on Genesis 4:22 (“And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubalcain was Naamah.”). That doesn’t say anything about aluminium. Part of the reason why aluminium working would be considered to be a sign of high technology is that it was only discovered in metal form less than two hundred years ago.
    The chances that a pre-flood artifact would a) survive and b) be discovered in all the sediment it could possibly be buried cannot be good.
  • Aliens did it.
  • Time travellers did it (it would make as much sense as either of those two, come on).

To be fair, Thomas is not claiming hard and fast that this artifact must be from before the flood. Instead he is taking more of a “teach the controversy” line:

These and other apparent human artifacts embedded in coal need more investigation.

And such investigations should include the possibility that these artifacts were produced by people who lived at the same time that vast forests were catastrophically buried to become coal. Scripture states that expert metal workers lived among the pre-Flood peoples, for example. In any case, the Bible certainly makes more sense of these odd artifacts than stories of aliens. Future research may show that biblical history even makes more sense than stories of lately-added artifacts to deeply-buried coal seams.

Given that we cannot so much as tell for certain that this find is man-made, nor that it was buried in the coal before humans got to it, this is a very bad example to use when making this claim. Occam’s razor suggests that the solution is neither the flood nor aliens, and even Thomas’ “at least our explanation is better than that one” claim doesn’t stack up. I don’t know what the explanation is, but I’m not convinced that we’re down to the point where such ideas can be considered nearly likely enough to be even a legitimate “possibility.”

9 thoughts on “The Crystal Gear of Vladivostok

  1. This must be observational science in action. Don’t test every possibility, just hope that the true explanation is one which in some way seems to confirm Genesis and brings into question evolutionary and not very biblical timescales. (Or in Ken Ham’s case insist – especially when addressing kids in churches – that the fossil record and sequence is simply a product of nothing more complicated or varied than Noah’s Flood.)

    • Ashley,
      The “New World” was a -vast- wilderness only -400- years ago.
      Hawaii was not discovered by Europe until 1778 AD.
      New Zealand was not populated until ~ 1000 AD.
      Tahiti was not populated until ~ 1500 AD.
      Carbon compounds are found almost everywhere on Earth, but -no-
      carbon was found on the Moon. This is -proof- the “Big Bang”
      is -false-.
      Study – important hard evidence of the Earth’s fiat -creation-
      The eye’s optical lens has a -variable- focal length and is corrected
      for chromatic aberation. This is important evidence of
      -supernatural- engineering.

      David A. Danello
      Va Tech Community

    • David

      I don’t understand your argument(s). Assuming you have some. You are simply making a number of unconnected statements. You sound like you are parroting statements on one or more creationist websites,


    • I’m sure the native inhabitants of the “New World,” who have lived there 10,000 years or so, would disagree. Who cares when the Europeans decided to be dicks to the rest of the world? NZ may only have been settled 700 years ago, but Australia has been for 40,000 – and the landmass itself is of course far older.
      I fail to see what the abundance of carbon on the moon matters to the big bang (it’s actually quite rare on Earth too). Radiohalos are debunked on, while your evidence of “supernatural engineering” is laughable.
      Do you have any arguments that aren’t a nonsensical gish-gallop?

    • Where is your “proof” and “evidence”? You keep stating you have proof of this and important evidence of that, but all you did was make random statements that seem to have zero relation to what you’re trying to “prove.”
      So what if New Zealand was not populated until 1000CE, there are no carbon compounds on the Moon, or that the eye corrects for chromatic aberration? What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?

    • David, I thank you for your terse commentary! I am always gratified to see a Young-Earth “scientific” creationist voluntarily provide a public example of why John Derbyshire said:

      “It’s a wearying business, arguing with Creationists. Basically, it is a game of Whack-a-Mole. They make an argument, you whack it down. They make a second, you whack it down. They make a third, you whack it down. So they make the first argument again.”

      Especially when in providing such an in vivo example a Young-Earth Creationist baldly asserts an array of unconnected compound straw-man red herrings and pretends to have settled an issue (in this case, the scientific issue of the age of Earth and history of life) that has indeed been scientifically settled as: Ancient-Earth Evolution.

      You urge studying; fair enough, and in return I urge you to give a thoughtful reading of: “Polonium Haloes Refuted” at

      I’d say more, but I suspect I’ve already wasted your time and mine.

  2. Please note, I am not Alan(UK) although I am Alan and I live in the UK.

    Hi Peter

    Just a few comments about the Daily Mail (I live in England).
    The headline is not written by the author of the “news” story. Indeed, the author probably will never see the headline and may well disagree! The headline editor is writing to grab the attention of the reader.
    Invariably, the next few sentences are there to hold the reader and often come up with extreme versions of the story.
    The more you read, the more balancing detail you get
    If you read right to the end you often get a balanced story which has little to do with the headline.

    With the Daily Mail, either read it to the end or don’t bother! That tends to be true of other papers but I have seen it consistently in theDaily Mail

    As a result, it seems to attract a large readership (second only to the Sun which is hardly a newspaper) while still presenting some interesting “stuff”, often with good photos.


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