OOPArt? The Dorchester Pot

Article published on 14 December 2014

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First, sorry if my English is not perfect, this is a translation of my original French article.

The "Dorchester pot" is a so-called "OOPArt", which means "Out Of Place Artefact". It’s a manmade object found in a place it’s not supposed to be, mainly because of anachronism. The “out of place" can be because of date, like the discovery of a picture of an ancient man fighting a dinosaur, or geographical, like an Egyptian mummy found in Sweden. Or both.

The Dorchester pot is a metallic vessel found after dynamiting a rock. It’s supposed to have been inside the rock for a long time. A really long time... We can find several versions of the story on Internet. Here is the first link I get from Google (second in fact, first is Wikipedia in my case) :

Through the years it has been examined by experts, more recently (last 30 years or so) by the Museum of fine Arts in Boston, which operates a state-of-the-art analysis laboratory built in cooperation with M.I.T. It was run through a thorough battery of tests for 2 years, which failed to confirm its origin. However, geologists dated the rock matrix the vessel was found in to 1,000,000 years old and acid testing on the vessel confirms these could be credible time parameters.

How did this vase come to be solidly embedded within 15 feet of solid sedimentary rock?

This is just one of the versions, of course. And one of the funniest mix of them.

http://secretebase.free.fr/civilisations/technologies/decouvertes/vasezincargent.jpg

Dorchester 

In 1850, Dorchester is a small town of about 8000 souls, a few miles away from Boston. It will soon be annexed. Nowadays, Boston is the Massachussets capital, North East of USA, on the Atlantic coast. Harvard University is already here, and will give birth to the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in 1861. Being a coastal city, Boston will be a huge immigration destination through the years. Dorchester town history can be consulted here and here.

Geology

Most of the rock under Dorchester is known as “Roxbury conglomerate”. Roxbury is a town near Dorchester. It’s a "puddingstone" about 570 to 595 million years old. Source

Historical facts

1852

The most ancient known mention of the "pot" first occurs on the 5th of June 1852, in Scientific American. The S.A. quotes the Boston Trancript, from "a few days ago". Too bad, there are no archives from the Boston Transcript from June 1851 to December 1853. The whole page from the Scientific American is available here:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e9/SciAm1851_optimized.jpg/320px-SciAm1851_optimized.jpg

The usual picture comes from the Wikipedia article. There’s a mistake on the picture (7 June 1851), even if the Wikipedia article gives the correct date. See later, it’s quite funny.

So we now know the location and the date. So let’s see who are the people involved.

  • Mr. Hall is the revevend Nathaniel Hall. Pastor of the church of Dorchester from 1835 to 1875. Source
  • John Kettell
    I found no precise information about him, but it seems he was a notable in the city. He is mentioned as a "fellow citizen" in 1854 . See page 85 here (page 85).
  • Dr. J. V. C. Smith
    Jerome Van Crowninshield Smith (1800-1879) was the Port Physician in Boston from 1826 to 1849. As an immigration destination, there was a real risk of deseases and epidemics (cholera for example). He was also the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal editor. (Source) He ran for mayor of the city of Boston in 1852 (136,000 hab) and lost, but was elected from 1854 to 1856.
  • Professor Agassiz was not there, but is mentionned.
    Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz (1807-1873) was born in Swiss and migrated to US. He is considered one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century. He studied botanics, zoology, ichtyology, geology and is sometime considered the father of glacial geology. (Source)
    Agassiz was also a lifelong creationist opponent of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. He wrote that “evidence of the existence of a Creator, constantly and thoughtfully working among the complicated structures that He has made” is found throughout the natural world. (Source) In 1852, he’s professor of zoology and geology at Harvard University.
  • John Doyle
    It seems he is the blacksmith in Dorchester.
  • Tubal Cain
    He is mentionned in the Hebrew Bible. Genesis 4:22 says that Tubal-cain was the "forger of all instruments of bronze and iron". For the Freemasons, he is the first blacksmith. Source

An unintentially comic report illustrates how common this kind of story was in 1850. The article in Scientific American just above the "Dorchester pot" is about a "macadamized road made by an advanced civilization at some former age". This kind of incredible stories will give inspiration to Charles Fort in The book of the damned (1919). More about him in the next chapter.

Discoveries of this sort were regularly reported in the 19th century press. Generally, scientists took little notice of them. And nowadays, nobody would pay attention to this "pot". There are millions of stories on the Internet about "incredible discoveries" no one cares about. But this one is still alive in 2014.

1919

All begins when Charles Fort publishes The book of the damned. It’s all about those kind of articles nobody believes in. Here’s what he writes at the begining of the book :

By the damned, I mean the excluded.
We shall have a procession of data that Science has excluded.
.../...
The power that has said to all these things that they are damned, is Dogmatic Science.

We read about falls of frogs, fish, nails, poltergeists, flying icebergs, corpses being pulled out of their graves up to 30 meters high during on earthquake, etc ..

So the Dorchester pot is mentionned in the book, page 125 chapter IX:

https://archive.org/stream/bookdamnedbycha00fortgoog#page/n130/mode/2up

We can already see some différences with the Scientific American article. The differences are :
- the date is no more around the 5th of June 1852, but the 1st of June 1851. We find the same wrong date on Wikipedia, which writes 7th June 1851.
- the original article was about an alloy of zinc and silver, but we now have "an unknown metal". The zinc explanation was in fact very right. More about this later.
- According to Charles Fort, the Scientific American really believes Tubal Cain made the vessel. But it seems Fort was quite skeptical and full of mocking humor in real life.

The date was corrected later. It seems still wrong in 1941, but the 2003 edition is correct and gives the right one: 5th of June 1852. Since Charles Fort died on 3th May 1932, it seems someone else did the modification.

In a French translation from 1967, (Le Livre des damnés, Eric Losfeld éditeur, translated by Robert Benayoun, page 57), half of the C. Fort text is missing and we only read this :

This time, the vessel is not even made of "an unknown metal", but of "an unknown material".

Charles Fort wrote a lot of funny things, but didn’t pay a lot of attention about them to be real. He himself was sceptikal about what he wrote. (Source)

1955

First French translation of The book of the damned by Robert Benayoun, Éditions des Deux Rives. Louis Pauwells is the director. Jacques Bergier writes the preface.

1970

Jacques Bergier’s publication of Les Extra-Terrestres dans l’Histoire. He mentions the “Dorchester pot”, and other OOParts.

There’s the same date mistake that Charles Fort did, 1851 instead of 1852. It seems that his source of information is a mix of Fort’s book and the Scientific American. If the date is wrong, he speaks about the depth where the object was supposed to be (5 meters = 15 feet). This detail is not in The book of the damned. The date error will be found again and again most of the time.

More problematic, he mentions a new fact, without explaining how he knows. So now we learn that the object travelled from museum to museum, and finally disappeared. But the information we have from 1852 is that Mr. Kettell was the last known owner.

This book will be translated in english in 1974, with the title Extraterrestrial Visitations from Prehistoric Times to the Present.

Jacques Bergier is a kind of genius, well known in France. He is able to speak 14 different languages, to read a book in 10 minutes, he is a chimist, works for the secret services, is a writer, is frequently a guest in radio shows, and even appears in Tintin Vol 741 vers Sidney.

1978

Jim Brandon writes about the pot in Weird America (E.P. Dutton NY 1978, page 108). I don’t have the book, but could find an extract on Google Books.

Jim Brandon is an interesting person. His real name is William Grimstad. He wrote books with his friend James Shelby Downard. He is known for his negationist books, for exemple AntiZion (The Nontide Press, 1976), The Six Million Reconsidered (Media Research Associates, 1977). Some say he is friend with the KKK.

1979

A very important year! Brad Steiger publishes a picture of the "pot" in Worlds Before Our Own page 236 :

Once again, the date is wrong. It’s the 1851 one from Charles Fort. But the text is the one from the 1852 Scientific American. Strange mix. Which source did Brad Steiger use ?

The picture comes from a Milton R.Swanson. According to B. Steiger, Mr. Swanson (Maine) is the owner of the vessel in 1979 and sent him the picture. There’s a Milton Read Swanson, Massachussets, buried near Sudbury (Maine) in 2005, at the age of 92. A man who may be his son is curator at the Sudbury Historical Society (Sudbury), about 20 milles from Boston. (Source page 8) I have contacted him to get some information, and also the Museum of Fine Arts of Boston, but I didn’t receive any answer.

Brag Steiger writes about paranormal activity, UFO, conspirations and secret societies, Atlantis, spirituality and many other things. He wrote about 180 books, from a biography of Greta Garbo to testimonies of people having personnally met with Jesus. He was the first one to write about reptilian extraterrestrials in his book Flying sauccers are hostiles (1967), a great idea that David Icke will re-use later.

1981

Dr. Erich A. von Fange quotes Charles Fort in Time Upside Down, simply writing:

A report was carried in Scientific American that in June, 1851, workmen were blasting near Dorchester, Massachusetts. Cast out from a bed of solid rock was a bell-shaped metal vessel. A photo of the vessel, with inlaid floral designs in silver, showed a remarkably high degree of craftsmanship (Fort, 1941, p.128).

Source

Von Fange is well-knowned for his creationnist theory. Example found in In Search of the Genesis World (2006), page 57 :

There are good reasons to suppose that at least some dinosaurs were on the ark.

He always mentions having a PhD, and being a retired professor from Concordia College at Ann Arbor (Michigan). In fact, it is a Lutheran higher education community committed to helping students develop in mind, body, and spirit for service to Christ in the Church and the World (https://www.cuaa.edu/). According to this website, Fange has a BS in Education from Concordia University, Seward, Nebraska, a MA in Educational Administration from the University of Nebraska, and a Ph.D. in Educational Administration from the University of Alberta. He is absolutely not a scientist ...

1982

The Reader’s Digest publishes "Mysteries of the unexplained". It’s online here :

https://openlibrary.org/books/OL3509188M/Mysteries_of_the_unexplained

We can find the article from the Scientific American, from 1852, but with the wrong date once again. Remember the S.A. article was : "A few days ago a powerful blast was made in the rock at Meeting House Hill, in Dorchester, a few rods south of Rev. Mr. Hall’s meeting house." Unless I’m wrong, "a few days ago" doesn’t mean "last year"...

1993/1994

Michael Cremo publishes Forbidden archeology: the hidden story of the human race. Here’s what we find in the 1998 edition:

(Leif Erikson, son of Erik the Red, is of course the Norse man who discovered North America circa 1000 AD, centuries before Christopher Columbus.)

In this video (2:25 min.) M.Cremo claims the Scientific American article is from 1951, even if he writes 1852 in his book. This date is really a problem for most of the authors... Al least, we now have a datation for the Dorchester pot: it’s 600 millions years old !

Michael Cremo was born in USA, but believes in Hindu creationism. There’s no mention of geology or archaeology in his biography. He sometimes mention the Bigfoot and the Yeti as proofs he is right.

2003

Tedd St.Rain writes about the vessel in Mystery of America, page 37. He just quotes Jim Brandon (1978). Of course, the date of the discovery is wrong, but it’s now quite usual :) There’re a lot of interesting things in this book: giants on Earth, dwarfs races, Roman relics in Arizona, proofs that the Antikythera mechanism could not have been made before the 16th century, etc. His website isn’t online anymore, but is still available on Webarchive.

2003

According to the web site http://www.pureinsight.org/node/1899, the vessel is now 100,000 years old.

This curiosity was blown out of solid pudding stone (a type of sedimentary rock) from 15 feet below the surface. Estimated age — 100,000 years. The vase was circulated from museum to museum and then, unfortunately, disappeared.

It’s quite sad to learn that the vase disappeared. I wonder how Brad Steiger was able to find a picture of it 24 years before... This website didn’t check any source. It claims: "In the June 1851 issue of Scientific American (volume 7, pages 298-299)..." The date is (once again...) wrong, and so is the page number. The article is only on page 298, not 299. It’s easy to verify here.

Here’s another datation : 100,000 years old. No information is given, so we only have to guess where this information comes from.

2006

Frank Joseph, in Discovering the Mysteries of Ancient America : Lost History And Legends, quotes Milton Swanson from Brad Steiger’s 1979 book, but adds new facts.

I hoped to learn something more definite at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which operates a state-of-the-art analysis laboratory built in cooperation with M.I.T. Its examiners ran the object through a thorough battery of tests for two years, which failed to confirm its origin. Privately, however, geologists dated the bell’s rock matrix to approximately one million Years Before Present. None of them, of course, would dare go on record with their conclusion for fear of ridicule, despite the evidence of acid testing to determine credible time-parameters.

There are a few differences ...
- The rock the vessel comes from is now 1 million years old (remember the Roxbury conglomerate is about 570-595 millions years old, according to geologists).
- It’s curious that more than a century after the discover, the vessel still has some original rock with it, which permits datation.
- I don’t know of any "acid testing" which could provide a datation for rock or metal. Any information about this would be useful.

Frank Joseph, born Frank Collin, used to be the leader of the National Socialist Party of America. After being arrested for pedophilia and child molestation, he changed his name upon his release from prison and started writing New Age and pseudo-archeology books.

2006

One of my favorite. A nice explanation from Michele Manher, author of a few books about mysterious stories, Egyptian pyramids and antediluvian civilisations. According to him, the plants in the cartouches on the vessel are a variety of "Sphenophyllum", dating from the Carboniferous. The scale of the figures on the vessel is about 2:1, which means twice bigger than the real plant, for which we just have fossils. The other ones are Sphenopteris, another fossil. With these informations, it’s easy to guess the age of the vessel: about 320 millions years old. In the next chapter, M.Manher explains that humans already lived on Earth, as well as later during dinosaurs era. Source

http://www.ismaell.net/magia/archivio-documenti/dossier/il-vaso-di-dorchester/

2013

The web site The Arrows of Truth ("Taking Aim at Lies, Hidden and Supressed Information") uses the informations from Frank Joseph 10 years before, with surprising news. No need to say the date is wrong, once again.

Through the years it has been examined by experts, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which operates a state-of-the-art analysis laboratory built in cooperation with M.I.T. It was run through a thorough battery of tests for 2 years, which failed to confirm its origin. However, geologists dated the rock matrix the vessel was found in to 1,000,000 years old and acid testing on the vessel confirms these could be credible time parameters.

Though the datation from geologist was unofficial, only admitted in private, 1,000,000 years old is now a real fact. Very strange too, the picture is not the same ! It seems this one appears in 2010, and has some success, because we can see it on several other web sites:

http://thearrowsoftruth.com/tag/the-dorchester-pot/

I could not find the book, but I believe it comes from a 1964 book, Arte Indiana by K. Bharatha Iyer (Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, 1964, picture n°81). An Italian debunker, Biagio Catalano, notices the similarity with the vessel from Dorchester.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/archive/9/98/20120703160414!Poggiapipe_indiano.jpg

2013

The French "antediluvian civilizations specialist" and "Aventurier" Dominique Jongbloed often mentions the "pot", without giving much informations about the discovery.

http://shambala-thesaga.fr/index_fichiers/shambala_books.htm

Artefact found in Massachussets, USA. The decoration looks like very old Asian style. It could be a bell used to pray or a candle holder. The datation given when found is more than 100,000 years old. It mysteriouly disappeared from the museum where it was stored. The only proof of its existence that is left is this picture from the 30’s.

The age is 100,000 y/o once again, and it was lost in a museum. I have no idea why he writes that the picture comes from circa 1930, since it first appears in the Brad Steiger book in 1979, supposely sent by the current owner.

Dominique Jongbloed qualifies himself as an "adventurer", like Indiana Jones, and claims to have made a lot of discoveries about antediluvian civilizations. No need to say that he doesn’t provide a single picture of his expeditions since 1985. A lot of information here, in French, about his adventures, his companies and his books.

2013

From the many references to the "pot", this one is also quite special. It comes from Kevin D.Randle, in Alien Mysteries and Conspiracies (2013). Remember the conclusion of the Scientific American:

This is not a question of zoology, botany, or geology, but one relating to an antique metal vessel perhaps made by Tubal Cain, the first inhabitant of Dorchester.

Kevin Randle made some research, at least, and payed a lot of attention to this last sentence. Tubal-Cain is a Freemason symbol. This is enough for Kevin Randle to suspect a secret link between Freemasonery and the "Dorchester pot", and a "code" in the Scientific American article.

This just proves that Mr Randle doesn’t pay attention to the fact that it was written in 1852… If Tubal Cain is unknown for many people nowadays, everybody understood the reference in the 19th century. Searching in archives, like here, shows that Tubal Cain appears 233 times in texts from 1831 to 1900.

2013

Derek Gunn has a picture of the “Dorchester pot” on his website Amazing Massachusetts:

Of course, I sent him an email to have details, but never got any answer. I have no idea when or where this picture comes from. Of course, the date is also 1851 according to him.

He declares he is an “independant researcher”, with a special interest in paranormal and UFO. He also discovered a raised stone he named “Devil’s Hollow”. I have no idea why .


It’s easy to see that there is a lack of precision about facts and dates. The authors or web sites writing about the "Dorchester pot" are far from beeing famous for their accuracy. Most of them copy each other, without paying attention to the only real source from 1852. Many add a few details, but don’t provide any information about where they get them. Of course, this list is far from complete. A few other books and many web sites write about the vessel. The main 2 problemes are:
- how old is it?
- what is its origin?

The more surprising fact, more than one and a half century after the discovery, is that none of them managed to answer at least the second question. If you know what to look for in your favorite search engine, it’s not difficult to find many other same looking objects.

http://www.michaelbackmanltd.com/754.html

 [1]

http://www.michaelbackmanltd.com/2460.html

 [2]

http://www.simonray.com/catalogue.php?id=105

 [3]

http://www.simonray.com/catalogue.php?id=96

 [4]

http://www.1stdibs.com/furniture/more-furniture-collectibles/more-antique-vintage-finds/two-bidri-hookah-pipe-stands/id-f_731625/

 [5]

http://jameelcentre.ashmolean.org/collection/4/891/892/all/per_page/100/offset/0/sort_by/seqn./object/11328

 [6]

http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/lot/a-bidri-hookah-base-bidar-central-india-5483307-details.aspx

 [7]

Bidriware

Let’s leave Boston, North America, and go back in time, to London in 1851. The 1851 Great Exhibition was the first one. It happened at the Crystal Palace from 1st May to 15th October 1851. Six million people — equivalent to a third of the entire population of Britain at the time — visited the Great Exhibition. There were about 15.000 exhibitors, 7000 just from the Britannic Empire. This gave the UK the opportunity to show how powerful it was. Many exhibitors came from the colonies, including India. There even was an elephant!

Source : http://www.bl.uk/learning/histcitizen/victorians/exhibition/greatexhibition.html

Many objects from India had a great success, particulary the Bidriware style. Bidriware was also famous 4 years later in the Paris Great Exhibition. We can find samples collected by Owen Jones, well known architect and decorator, who was also responsible for the London exhibitation decoration. He published a book in 1856, The grammar of ornament, that later was a source of inspiration for other artists. In this book, pages 77 to 79 and plates XLIX and following, we can see samples of this Indian style , most of them coming from water pipes.

Fleurs de la couronne à la base, en bas
http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/DLDecArts/DLDecArts-idx?id=DLDecArts.GramOrnJones
Motif dans le cartouche, en bas
http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/DLDecArts/DLDecArts-idx?id=DLDecArts.GramOrnJones

 :

Bidriware first came from Persia, and then appears in India, near the city of Bidar.

One of the most ancient testimony of it seems to be from circa 1770, on a map from the french officer Colonel Jean-Baptiste Gentil. This map can be seen in Susan Gole’s book Maps of Mughal India Drawn. The original map is now in London, and the Indian historian Dr. Rehaman Patel hopes to get it back in India.

This technics is also used in the Hyderabad area, as many artists moved there for economical reasons. It consists in incrusting patterns made of gold or silver into a zinc alloy object, generaly a plate or a vase, previously blackened with ammonium. The zinc object is made with green-sand technical for molding and pouring the alloy. The process can be seen here.

So what could be the use of the "Dorchester pot"? Maybe a look at this nice fellow may help (picture from 1867 Paris Great Exhibition).

http://oldphotosbombay.blogspot.ca/2011/09/1a-bombaymumbai-taxi-1850-to-2001-also_3982.html

A studio portrait of a Kathiawar Rajput gentleman posed with a hookah, from the Archaeological Survey of India Collections. This was taken by Hurrichund Chintamon and shown in the Paris Exhibition of 1867

Or this one, from the book The European in India: From a Collection of Drawings (Charles Doyley 1813, plate X, page 63 of the pdf file).

http://books.google.ca/books?id=VNFbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP7&lpg=PP7&dq=The+European+in+India+Captain+Williamson&source=bl&ots=C9hUxnjLQU&sig=JSh4coVLOsLR2rI6krnRUUhlsKU&hl=fr&sa=X&ei=M5PaU-_iI9anyASA5YCICw&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=The%20European%20in%20India%20Captain%20Williamson&f=false

It’s a hookah. Or waterpipe, narghile, arghila, qalyān, shisha, huqqa. Choose your favorite. The mysterious "Dorchester pot" is just the lower part, known as "vase" or "water jar". There’s one on the lower right part of the 1770 map above.

Remember Boston is an immigration port on the East coast, and the vase was discovered in 1852, one year after the 1851 London Great Exhibitation. Indian art objects had a really great success, and were available for sale, so is it really surprising to find one, broken or not, on the other side of the ocean?

Since the very first description of the vase, we already have an accurate description of a hookah:
- bell shaped
- color of zinc
- silver inlaid, with flowers or vine patterns
- a little bit smaller than most of other hookah, but it’s not a problem. More about this later.

There is one major difference: the 1852 description mentions "there are six figures of a flower, or bouquet". The 1979 Brad Steiger picture shows a 4 parts vase. Every single Bidriware object I’ve seen uses regulary spaced patterns. The whole description is quite accurate. Remember Dr J.V.C Smith was a physician and he took a look at the vase. So there are chances he made the description himself, with his "scientific" way. Whoever made it, it’s quite surprising that he noticed details, the kind of metal used, the flowers kin, and would count 6 cartouches instead of 4.

So my personal conclusion is one of those:
- Dr. Smith or anyone looking at the vase was unable to count up to 6;
- the Scientific American made a mistake while quoting the Boston Transcript;
- or the picture provided by Brad Steiger is not a picture of the actual "Dorchester pot"...

The other picture from 2010 is another hookah, but it’s clearly not correlated with the description.

Knowing about nothing at all about art or India, and certainly not about Bidriware, I contacted one of the world specialists about it. Dr. Rehaman Patel got a Ph.D from Gulbarga University. His thesis is about Bidari Art of Karnataka - A Study. He is historian and painter, president of the Indian Royal Academy of Art and Culture and professor of Visual Art at Gulbarga University. Source

I doubt I could find a better reference ... He was nice enough to answer my stupid questions (thanks again Mr. Patel !)

Q: Origin according to you?
A: Bidar 100%

Q: Which period?
A: Made between 1830 - 1880. Because the Bidri artisans not mentioned the date, year and signature.

Q: It seems a bit smaller than most of the hookahs I see on Christies or Michael Backman web site
A: There are many mini huqquas and other items having 4 "cartouches", in the collection of Victoria & Albert Museum, Indian Museum Kolkata.

Q: Muslim or Mughal ?
A: Mughal and Muslim are same

Q: What are the plants and flowers ? Maybe Persian roses or carnations on the base, but what about the others ? Vines ? Poppy ?
A: Poppy plants/flowers

So, what is actually the "Dorchester pot"? An OOPArt, 600 millions years old, or a broken waterpipe thrown in a meadow, then found among stone debris?


Update

This was the original article I wrote. There’s been an update since, and I prefer not to integrate it. Here’s the following.

A few days ago, Susan Stronge told me there’s a similar hookah in her museum.
She is Senior Curator, Asian Department, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and a specialist in the arts of the Muslim courts of the Indian subcontinent from the 16th to the early 19th century. One of her book is Bidri Ware: Inlaid Metalwork from India (1985):

After seeing so many hookahs on Internet, I have to admit I didn’t expect much more than another hookah. So her picture was a great surprise ! This hookah is not displayed at the museum, but is a part of the many archives. It is number 137-1852.

The description on the museum website doesn’t provide a lot of informations, but here is what Dr. Susan Stronge wrote:

I have finally managed to find a photograph of the huqqa base that most resembles the "Dorchester pot". Its museum number is 137-1852 and it was acquired by this museum in 1852 - and it was exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 as an example of recently produced ’industrial arts’ of India. Its designs and the way the rather low grade silver is applied are all typical of Lucknow bidri.

Bidriware is not exactely the same, depending of the area where it’s made. The ornamentation of Bidri from Lucknow is often "in bold relief (zarbuland), in which the inlaid metals are allowed to remain protuding slightly above the surface and are then further adorned with incised motifs or aditional gold overlay". Source

At first, my theory about a link with the Great Exhibition was mainly because of the dates. It seems now actually realistic. We can say the "Dorchester pot" is a hookah water jar made circa 1850 in Lucknow area. We can even imagine that the one found in Dorchester and the one in the Victoria and Albert Museum come from the same place, they really look the same.

On this picture, you can see the few differences. Excepted a few details, they are the same.

I’d like to thank A LOT Dr. Rehaman Patel and Dr. Susan Stronge for their help and spending time answering to my emails. It would have been impossible to find so many informations without them, and the brother of the "Dorchester Pot" in the cave of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

And of course Irna, who is patient enough to make the many modifications needed to correct my mistakes :)


Update - July 2015

Small update. No major news, but I managed to find the original article from the Boston Transcript, thanks to the help of the Boston Public Library. There are no archives available on the web from June 1851 to December 185, but the BPL had it on microfilm, and they were nice to send me the page from Wednesday, May 26 1852.

We can see a few interesting details which are not mentionned in the Scientific American.

The date is Wednesday, May 26 1852, and is about facts from « Thursday last » Since the Boston Transcript was a daily, the discover occured the day before, or the week before. This definitivelly solve the date : Charles Fort was wrong when he wrote it happened on June 1t of 1851. Same mistake for Wikipedia, where the date is 7 of June 1851.

###############

It has been examined by nearly 300 persons, many of whom were scientific men, but no-one has yet been able to say what it could have been made for.

Unfortunately no name is given, but it seems many people came to see the vase. Don’t forget the M.I.T. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) is just a few miles away from Dorchester.

###############

It is now in the possession of Mr. John Kettell, at his mansion house, opposite the ledge from which it was blown.

This John Kettell seems to be the one I was thinking about, who asked Edward Everett to come to Dorchester on June 4th of 1854. It’s possible to find some old maps, and even where his house was, just near the place where the blasting happened. The house doesn’t exist anymore, but with StreetView we can even see the puddingstone. The house was just on the right, at the corner of Winter et Adams streets, and the church is on the left. Reverend Nathaniel Hall lived just a bit further on the left.

John Kettell mansion house at the beginning of the 20th century.

There was the Lyceum Hall, between the church and his house, demolished in 1955. The church burned in 1896, so the one now is not the same as in 1852.

###############

We can know quite well why the blasting happened, thanks to the archives of the city. Mr. Earl Taylor from the Dorchester Historical Society gave me some information.

Meeting House Hill was a hill largely of rock outcropping composed of puddingstone. It is not surprising that blasting might occur there. The blasting was probably done a little southeast of the church along East Street. Although the place of blasting is not specified, the Dorchester report of expenditures for the fiscal year ending February 1, 1853, has an entry for $234.75 to James Glenning for 192 1/2 days of blasting and $153.70 to Andrew Glover for powder and fuse. "New roads are being made every year, and we now have about 37 miles of roads to repair."

The explosive was black powder. Dynamite will be invented in 1866 by Alfred Nobel. It is interesting to note that Meeting House Hill was blasted more than once to produce fill for other town roads. So we can’t be sure if the blasting in any particular year was to create a street on Meeting House Hill or to produce fill for other locations or both. In 1850 the town reports include a section about the widening of Mill Street, which includes an expenditure for drilling rocks at Meeting House Hill.

###############

There’s no mention of the blacksmith John Doyle in the original article from the Boston Transcript, it’s been added by the Scientific American. I couldn’t find any blacksmith with this exact name in the area, but many of them were named Doyle.
So maybe it’s a generic name for blacksmiths, like "John Smith" ?

###############

We can read too :

In the top there is a hole for a handle, and in the bottom opposite a larger hole is filled with lead, soldered up close. The inside is considerably corroded, but the outside is smooth and free from rust.

Neither Milton Read Swanson, nor Derek Gunn mention this hole in the vase they pretend to have had in hands. It seems that even the M.I.T. scientists didn’t notice it :) Of course, they never had the original vase ...

###############

A bit off topic, but quite funny. The Boston Transcript ends with a quote from a famous man:

As Pope says of the fly in amber:
"Tis not because the thing is rich and rare;
The wonder s, how the devil it got there."

Amber is fossilized tree resin, in which there’s often insects, like in the Jurassic Park movie.

The quote is supposed to be from the english poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744). But Pope never wrote this :) He wrote :

Pretty! in amber to observe the forms
Of hairs, of straws, or dirt, or grubs, or worms!
The things, we know, are neither rich nor rare,
But wonder how the devil they got there.

(Prologue to the Satires, line 169).

No fly or anything flying here… This comes from another english poet , Robert Herrick (1591-1674) (I love this one).

I saw a fly within a bead
Of amber cleanly buried;
The urn was little, but the room
More rich than Cleopatra’s tomb.

(The amber bead)

And Robert Henrick may have found inspiration in Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

Whence we see spiders, flies, or ants entombed and preserved forever in amber, a more than royal tomb.

(Historia Vitæ et Mortis; Sylva Sylvarum)

The Boston Transcript just seems a mix of all :) It seems we can’t trust anyone while quoting previous texts. What to expect from a story which was wrong from the beginning, 160 years before ? :)

Thanks to Mr Earl Taylor from the Dorchester Historical Society" and to the Boston Public Library for the help.

Notes :

[1Large Bell-shaped Silver-Inlaid Bidri Hookah Base
Bidar, Deccan, India
19th century
height: 20.2 cm, diameter of base: 24.1 cm, weight: 3.424 kg
http://www.michaelbackmanltd.com/754.html

[2Silver-Inlaid Bidri Hookah Base
Bidar, Deccan, India
circa 1740
height: 16 cm, diameter: 15 cm, weight: 1,704 g
http://www.michaelbackmanltd.com/2460.html

[3Bidri Hookah Base
India (Deccan, Bidar), mid 18th century
Height: 16.5 cm
Diameter: 16 cm
http://www.simonray.com/catalogue.php?id=105

[4India (Deccan, probably Hyderabad),
late 18th century
Height of hookah: 26.5 cm
Diameter of hookah: 26 cm
Diameter of hookah tray: 50 cm
http://www.simonray.com/catalogue.php?id=96

[6Date: 2nd half of the 18th century
Material and technique: zinc alloy, inlaid with silver (bidri ware)
Dimensions: 17 cm (height)
16 cm max. (diameter)
http://jameelcentre.ashmolean.org/collection/4/891/892/all/per_page/100/offset/0/sort_by/seqn./object/11328


Forum
Comment on this article
OOPArt? The Dorchester Pot
Oursquipense - on 24 February 2016

Bonjour,
.
je dois dire que je suis assez admiratif du travail produit et de la somme de recherches engagée. Le résultat est haletant à lire ! De plus les diverses ramifications sont passionnantes (Tubal-Cain, l’art indien...).
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Dès le début ce qui m’a sauté aux yeux c’est le nombre de remarques que l’on peut faire dès la lecture du premier article :
.
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1 - on a une éjection d’une énorme quantité de roches suite à une explosion due à de la poudre noir dans le but de construire une route. Donc l’objectif était de déblayer au maximum. Comment, étant donnée la puissance de la charge le vase contenue dans la roche se retrouve seulement coupée en deux parties ? De plus comment l’explosion parvient-elle à l’expulser de la roche sans que des résidus y restent collés ?
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2 - Comment un objet creux peut rester longtemps dans la roche en "préservant son creux" ? Les mouvement de terrains au fil du temps devraient l’écraser ou l’abîmer un minimum.
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3 - un dessin a été réalisé. Où est-il ?
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4 - la dernière phrase est typique de ce qui formate un raisonnement : "La question mérite d’être étudiée car il n’y a pas de tromperie dans l’affaire." Or, sans évoquer de tromperie de la part de celui qui a rédigé l’article il est évident qu’il ne s’est pas osé les questions 1 et 2 qui me semblent pourtant évidentes.
.
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Sinon toujours fascinant de constater cette suite de personnes qui citent les mêmes erreurs sans procéder à la moindre vérification. Ca me fait penser à un article de Stephen Jay Gould passionnant où, à force de constater que dans la quasi-totalité de la littérature scientifique la taille d’un type de dinosaure était systématiquement comparé à un petit chien, il s’était demandé pourquoi tout le monde utilisait exactement la même comparaison, d’autant plus qu’il s’était avéré que ce tye de dinosaure n’existait pas, le spécimen trouvé n’était pascelui d’un petit dinosaure de type nouveau mais le "petit" d’une espèce déjà répertoriée.
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L’erreur était pourtant relativement facile à voir si on regardait le spécimen mais ce qu’à pu constater Gould est édifiant : pendant des décennies personne n’est allé voir le spécimen, tous les auteurs parlant du "petit chien" faisaient référence à l’auteur initial soit consciemmment,soit inconsciemment (en faisaint référence à un autre auteur qui lui s’était basé sur l’auteur initial). Cet auteur initial étant reconnu comme un grand ponte dans le domaine. Bref même en se basant sur quelqu’un de sérieux on peut véhiculer une information fausse. Et le pire c’est que si ceux qui comparaient ce dinosaure n’avait pas été "fainéants" au point de prendre exactement les mêmes termes que dans l’article d’origine certains pourraient dire "Mais voyez tous ces auteurs prestigieux qui disent la même chose à ce sujet, la messe est dite". Et pourtant non, tout le monde avait tort.

OOPArt? The Dorchester Pot
Irna - on 24 February 2016

C’est l’histoire de "la dent d’or" de Fontenelle :)
https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Histoire_des_oracles

OOPArt? The Dorchester Pot
Nali - on 24 February 2016

"Je dois dire que je suis assez admiratif du travail produit et de la somme de recherches engagée. Le résultat est haletant à lire !
De plus les diverses ramifications sont passionnantes (Tubal-Cain, l’art indien...)."
.
Merci :)
Il y a eu pas mal de boulot de recherche, en effet, ça s’est étalé sur plusieurs mois, le temps de chercher et de contacter diverses personnes.
Ce qui est le plus intéressant, c’est que personne a ma connaissance n’avait fait de recherches approfondies sur ce sujet, le terrain était vierge.
J’ai donc tenté de rassembler l’intégralité des informations que j’ai pu trouver.
C’est mon bébé :D
.
PS : l’article existe en version française aussi :)


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