My current project features a contemporary scientist who is convinced that some sort of spacetime anomaly occurred in a tiny rural Yorkshire, U.K. community circa-1850; he believes a dilapidated old manor-house may have simply appeared on the outskirts of said community, with the locals being mimetically reprogrammed to remember it having existed for decades prior.

There's a lot more, of course, but further details are (probably) irrelevant to my question: could there be any subtle, inconclusive geological evidence of this event which my scientist could latch onto? I know so little about the field in question that I struggled to parse out how to even ask this at all, so apologies in advance to any geologists out there.

(NOTE: I know Yorkshire is a big place, but I haven't settled on a more precise location for all this. That decision may well depend on what kind of answers, if any, I get for this question.)

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    $\begingroup$ If manor was teleported from a different place, the rocks below and around it would be atypical for the region. If it was teleported from a different time (but same place), radio-carbon dating would give different age for the rocks, but I am not sure if a couple hundred years would make a difference here. He might have easier time dating the wood in the house walls. $\endgroup$
    – Bald Bear
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Bald Bear - that is a fine answer. Unpack those ideas! $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 16:27
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    $\begingroup$ Another differentiator is magnetic orientation (if the stone is ferrous). $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 17:20
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    $\begingroup$ You can't radiocarbon date rock. $\endgroup$ Commented May 1, 2018 at 17:57
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    $\begingroup$ Can we expand that geology tag to a genealogy one? Births, deaths and marriages were recorded (including place of residence) in England for 13 years before the manor may have appeared. A lack of any such records from 1837-1850 may be subtle, inconclusive evidence depending on the age and marital status of the people as at 1850. $\endgroup$
    – Scott
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 6:17

9 Answers 9


There is no evidence of construction in the soil surrounding the house.

A Georgian mansion would have been built on site by craftsmen. They would have done much of their work on the land surrounding the house. Generally some evidence of this work would remain buried in the soil - cut bits of wood, broken tiles, etc. Also there would probably be an area next to the house with evidence of excavation where the basement was dug and soil heaped up then later smoothed out. There would be a layer of topsoil buried under a layer of subsoil.

For this house, a Yorkshire field which had apparently been farmed since prehistoric times extends right up to the house edge, undisturbed. That is not hard proof that the house appeared. Maybe the builders were exceptionally thorough in cleaning up, or the landscapers who followed them were. Maybe forward thinking landscapers / gardeners reserved the topsoil so as not to bury it under less fertile subsoil (as I wish had been done for my house). There are other reasonable explanations. My failure to exhume any evidence of construction does not mean none exists - maybe I did not look that hard because finding anything would pop my fanciful hypothesis.

But perhaps on digging down along the basement wall, your professor finds a ancient buried standing stone. It has a recently cut edge flush up against the basement stones. That might be more meaningful...

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    $\begingroup$ Even just regular stones sheared would be a big question. Why chop small stones and how to do it without toomarks or disrupting the surrounding soil. $\endgroup$
    – user25818
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 19:16
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    $\begingroup$ @notstoreboughtdirt. "Aliens, Giant Aliens!" They are always considered more likely than spacetime anomalies! $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2018 at 7:35
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    $\begingroup$ The basement walls are panelled in wooden planks, some of the planks have warped and some can easily be slid into and out of place. Those sheared & perfectly polished stones are a curiosity alright, some might even be found - in time - on mantel pieces in the town, as servants/tradesmen/boys up to no good occasionally take one away. $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2018 at 8:50
  • $\begingroup$ @EveryBitHelps: One of the few cases where aliens are the more plausible explanation. $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 16:07
  • Isotope ratios in the building materials. The clay in the tiles is not from here, possibly not from this Earth. Unless it has been mixed by people who could not possibly have known what they're disguising.
  • Cesspits with stuff at the bottom which does not belong -- pollen from other areas, the wrong style of pottery shards, etc.
  • Ancient relics in the ground (Roman foundations or pipes) which are sliced in half with awesome accuracy. Part is here, part is missing.

The rocks beneath your house could be different to the surrounding local rocks if your house has moved location as well as time. If the HouseRocks are actually similar to the LocalRocks this would help hinder your scientist's claims. If the HouseRocks are different but reasonably logical, it could still be argued that it was a local inclusion or some such.

Occam's Razor insists we take the fewest assumptions. Ie a natural but rare/unheard of geological feature/s is more likely than the obsurd spacetime theory (disclaimer, I love spacetime theories).

I think the best bet is local subsidence. Houses, especially older houses, subside over time. The ground around the heavy house sinks causing the house to crack and lean to the side etc. Both the land itself as well as the house have tell-tale discernable signs that there is subsidence (as much as homeowners looking to sell would like to hide it, experienced homebuyers and home surveyors can always tell, as evidenced by many different Subsidence Insurance websites, where I got the image from).

enter image description here

When your House arrives, it could have signs of pre-existing subsidence damage and repair on it. The previously unoccupied land around it will have no evidence of subsidence. No deformation, no sinking etc. So how did the old house get damaged?

Some could argue that the garden-land has been covered in a new layer of flat earth in a gardening revamp. However, if you would do a geological survey of the earth directly undeneath the house, and even on the sides, you would see no deformation in the stratigraphy. Using either ground cores or possibly some fancy satellite geological survey.

It will certainly be an oddity, and yet no-one 'sane' will want to the state unequivocally that "this subsidence oddity"=spacetime anomoly. Not if they want to keep their jobs and reputation.

Good luck to your protagonist :)

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    $\begingroup$ HouseRocks != LocalRocks, been in a programming headspace recently? $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 20:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Samuel, yeah I got tired of having to say "the rocks that travelled with your house". Simpler just to name them :) $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2018 at 6:46

Here are some suggestions.

All the land in a tiny Yorkshire village would be owned by someone in 1850. The manor house would have appeared on a plot of land owned by someone. Or maybe on the border of two or more plots of land.

Maybe the landowner(s) were hypnotized by space aliens or whatever to believe the house had been there for decades or centuries. But the plot of land would have been described from time to time in various legal documents. And if those documents didn't describe any manor house there until 1850, that would indicate the building wasn't there when those earlier documents were written.

If the tiny Yorkshire village was inhabited in the middle ages, it was probably part of a manor, and very probably only one manor, since it is specified as tiny. Thus there was probably one and only one medieval manor house in or near the tiny village. The medieval manor house or its ruins might still be visible, on a plot of land. And the history of that plot of land could be traced back to the times of the medieval manor.

It is very probable that the location of the original medieval manor house, and any replacements that might have been built by later lords of the manor, would be known. Thus people would know that the 1850 house was an extra manor house, even if they had been hypnotized or something to believe that it had been there for a long time.

The owner of the land where the manor house appeared would have believed it was his property, and might have moved into it. And if he and his family weren't rich enough to build such a manor house, they might not have been rich enough to maintain it, thus explaining its dilapidated condition in 2018.

If the manor house had the style of a historic English manor house, it would be easy to guess the approximate era when it appeared to have been built. Since the owners of that property in that era didn't build a mansion on the property, they probably couldn't afford to build a mansion. Thus people who think that the manor house was built long before 1850 would have a mystery on their hands, and there might be many local theories about ill gotten wealth financing the supposed building of the manor house.

Some answers speculated the manor house came from outer space. If so, it shouldn't look like any known style of English manor house. If not, there would be no extraterrestrial evidence connected with it.

If some land for a distance around the manor house was transported with it, there could be evidence in that land. But maybe only the actual building was transported to the village and every thing outside the foundations was already there.

I can imagine the building materializing with its foundations above the ground and falling a few feet to the ground, thus establishing its dilapidated condition post 1850. Thus the foundations are likely to have crushed some plants of various types beneath them. Possibly excavation of the foundations will indicate that there are dead bushes, etc. beneath them. A dead and dried up bush may have its roots outside or inside the foundation and branches crushed under foundation stones, and may be radiocarbon dated to c. 1850.

There could be remnants of wooden fences, for example, under foundation stones, and dated by dendrochronology or radiocarbon dating to, say, 1845, while wooden rafters in the manor house are dated to, say, 1645.

Low-background steel is steel made before the atomic age beginning in 1945, and thus is useful for many purposes. Making steel uses a lot of air, and since 1945 the air has been contaminated with radioactive fallout. Checking the radioactivity of steel objects is a good way to determine when they were made. Of course steel made 1850 and earlier wouldn't have any radioactivity to test, unless it was made in the future or some other planet, etc. But a manor house made in 1850 or earlier wouldn't have any steel parts except for knives in the kitchen or swords and armor. But that is an example of the kind of tests that could be made.

Possibly the rocks in the foundation might be more radioactive than they should be, and contain higher proportions of a radioactive isotopes than similar rocks on Earth do, because they possibly were quarried in a younger solar system where there has been much less decay of radio isotopes.

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    $\begingroup$ I kind of love the idea that it's lacking legal documentation. "Quite a pain the last time this property was sold, couldn't find a deed for it anywhere" that kind of thing. $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2018 at 5:59
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    $\begingroup$ There are of cases where a land owing family have decided to build a new house in a modern (for them at the time) style and have subsequently abandoned their older dwelling. Ruins of one Manor House does not prove that another Manor House was not built later, particularly at at time when records of such things were not kept by all but the most important families. $\endgroup$
    – Sarriesfan
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 10:48
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    $\begingroup$ Given the size and expense of manor houses, it was generally cheaper and more convenient to build additions onto existing structures, or if the house had been destroyed or damaged by a fire, reuse existing foundations. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 22:53

You, as the author, need to know three things before that question can be answered:

  1. What is the nature of the appearance;
  2. What type of ground is the manor on; and
  3. Where did the manor really come from.

The reason you need to know those three things is because then it can be determined what clues there would be to find. Think of it like writing a murder mystery; you, as the author, have to know who did it and how they did it so you know what clues there would be for the detective to find. Same principle.

1. Nature of the Appearance

How did the building appear: is it the building itself, or did a volume of ground get displaced along with the structure, replacing what was there previously? How big was it? If the building appeared atop existing ground, then there will be minimal disturbance below that would wave an obvious warning flag and the clues would be correspondingly small. If the disturbed ground is limited to the building's foundations and slightly around it, then the clues are going to be slightly more significant, but easily overlooked. If the the manor appeared because, as in the Ring of Fire example, a larger volume of material around and underneath was swapped out, clues will much larger and easier to find.

2. Type of Ground

The second factor is type of ground the existed there previously. A manor that is purely on top of a rock outcropping isn't going to leave a lot of clues indicating it doesn't belong there. If the local ground was glacial till and the ground that came with the manor also came from glacial till, then again a geologist could notice clues but they'd have to have a reason to look more carefully than normal. On the other hand, a manor built on solid rock (that arrived with the manor) that looks different from the solid rock around it would be very noticeable.

3. Where did it really come from

This links to both above; you have to know where the manor came from and what came with it, if anything, in order to know what it interacts with the ground where it appeared, and thus what clues it generates.

If you can provide the answer to those three questions than a geologist, such as myself, could tell you what clues there would be, and how obvious they were, for a geologist to figure out something was odd. Without that information, the question can't be answered. All the existing answers here as I type this have been based on assumptions the poster have made and are dependent on the scenario they've postulated individually, not what you've provided. They aren't universal answers applicable in all circumstances because they can't be.

  • $\begingroup$ Very good points all. $\endgroup$
    – LSerni
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 6:50

This scenario arises almost exactly in Eric Flint's Ring of Fire series. The American city of Grantville is hit by a n-dimensional construct called an Assiti shard, and swapped with an identical sphere four hundred years in Earth's past in the German region of Thuringia.

All sorts of geological formations are cut in two (this is actually, I think, a blooper in the book - Grantville has mirror-finish rock formations on two "sides" of the circle, but in modern America there are no corresponding signs and almost nobody suspects a thing) - rocks, seams of coal, underground water tables, everything.

So first question: to which depth does the anomaly go? Deeper anomalies leave more significant traces (in their geometry if nothing else).

Then, what is the geologist looking for? (And what was he looking for when he stumbled upon the house?)

He might be e.g. investigating something like the Devil's Arrows - maybe he has a semi-crackpot theory on the Arrows having been erected along ley lines or something, and is checking the geomagnetic field in search of some buried Arrows which he just knows must be there. If he succeeds, this will support his theory (and, depending on what this will in turn reveal about early inhabitants and their culture, it might be even be a large splash than just finding evidence of prehistoric dwellings).

It turns out that his theory is partly correct - ley lines do exist, and they were used by someone in the past to travel between the worlds. The locals happened to notice the characteristic shimmering of the air above the lines, called them "paths of the Gods", and placed menhirs at the crossings.

And just where such a menhir did exist in the past, recently a manor house has been planted.

But of course there is no trace of the manor house actually ever having been built, or of the land deeds, or of anything else. So the geologist's plan to excavate in the house's grounds and look for traces of Paleolithic inhabitation is thwarted.

Yet during this research, he's discovered a more modern mystery -the House that Should Not Exist. Soil composition is wrong, and attempts to carbon date the trees all fail. More expensive isotope tests yield even stranger results - not only is the 14C ratio off, several other isotopes are present in ratios that make no sense for Earth. Even stable isotopes: where the Earth has been born of a class-IIa supernova remnant, the nuclear ratios in the samples are more consistent with a much rarer, helium-depleted class-Ic stellar residue. This could be believable of a few pebbles with the right chemical composition to possibly be what remained of an interstellar meteorite - a tiny, remote cousin of 'Oumuamua; not of a whole field with house included.

By carefully measuring the weathering of surface stones, the geologist is able to pinpoint the likely beginning of Earth exposure to about 1850.

But this is one interpretation. Another possibility is that the area has been contaminated with the appropriate mix of neutron-activated substances - which could be conceivable if one were to assume that some waste material from the early days of the Dungeness B nuclear reactor had somehow found its way to this remote spot. The skeptics can easily point out that while several isotopes corroborate the geologist's thesis of different stellar origin, other isotopes do not (the error margin is quite great anyway), and some ratios are much closer to those expected of specific nuclear wastes. Also, chemical analyses strongly imply that the soil might at least partly come from elsewhere - it has been mixed with contaminated soil. The readings from the house come from a half century exposure to contamination. Available data support both theories.

So, the Government and possible obscure industrial interests also enter into the already significant mess; while the geologist's instincts tell him that the soil was never disturbed - how could it have come "in part" from elsewhere?


As far as I can see, the best way to have a subtle anomaly in spacetime itself is to have space have a non-zero curvature.

An easy way to detect non-zero curvature is that triangles drawn with straight lines have angles that don't add up to 180 degrees.

Your characters could find triangles consistently adding up to 179 degrees, for instance.

Edit: Interestingly, you mentioned a 1850's setting. Riemannian geometry was invented in 1853.

To make this scenario more geological, you could have the discrepancy noted when a group of mapmakers are surveying local hills, mountains, and other geometrical figures and keep making 'mistakes' in their calculations that they cannot rectify.

As per the comments, I've just now posted a related question on Physics.SE.

Edit 2: They answered! Apparently the acceleration would be fairly small, but building materials could be deformed as they move around.

  • $\begingroup$ The question asks about geology, not geometry. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 0:37
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, @RonJohn, I've edited my answer accordingly. $\endgroup$
    – Odysseus
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 2:47
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think you can bend spacetime that much without causing massive, blatantly obvious gravitational side-effects on the order of "anywhere near this house, objects fall toward the house, not toward the center of the earth"! $\endgroup$
    – zwol
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 15:39
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe I'll post that question on Physics stackexchange: what acceleration would you experience in a location where a triangle with side length 100 m had angles adding up to 179 degrees? $\endgroup$
    – Odysseus
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 22:29
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    $\begingroup$ @EveryBitHelps I posted the answer from physics! $\endgroup$
    – Odysseus
    Commented May 6, 2018 at 16:17

A simple addition -- a line of ornamental trees that almost line up with the property. Three trees near the property are from the original manor location, and have an age of about 400 years. The other trees, slightly out of line with the old trees but nicely lined up with the landscape and roads, date to 1851.

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    $\begingroup$ Trees can be planted at any time. And trees, strictly speaking, are not geological, but botanical evidences $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Jun 19, 2019 at 13:16
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding! We're glad you could join us! When you have a moment, please click here to learn more about our culture and take our tour. This is a clever idea (especially if science could prove when the trees were planted, not difficult), but I agree with @L.Dutch, the OP asked for a geological solution. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jun 19, 2019 at 16:14

Soil type, some soils evolve very different characteristics over time, in particular certain silt loams podsolise in wet climates creating distinctive structural elements ultimately including a deep iron pan and perched water table. These soils often start out as reasonably well draining but as the silt breaks down, due to repeated wetting and drying cycles, clays form which impede drainage consequential changes in plant cover raise soil water acidity, the acid breaks down the clays and mobilises Iron that migrates deeper into the soil column and precipitates to block drainage altogether. This process takes a long time in human terms but can be relatively rapid geologically speaking. The soil around the house may exhibit a small but crucial difference in how far along this evolution it is. This certainly wouldn't be conclusive, natural variations in the process rate could explain it away, except for the sharp border zone showing a clear delineation between the two zones; that would be harder to explain.


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