Imagine someone claimed she was from Mesopotamia, one of the earliest civilization and had time travelled 5000 years into the future which is now our current modern day, she was completely naked so how can we scrutinize her using existing science and technology to find out if she is a fraud? Can we compare DNA or urine/stool sample? Language? Probably not she could be the only one who can speak it. Religious habit? maybe not also since she can pretend well.

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    $\begingroup$ Actually, depending on how strict you are on those 5000 years, chances are there are quite a few people who can understand her. (If she speaks some sort of Sumerian or Akkadian; if she speaks Hurrian or such then all bets are off.) She could even help us finally understand what on Earth was the Emesal dialect of Sumerian and why (some) female characters speak it in Sumerian literature... $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 5:25
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    $\begingroup$ Nearly a duplicate of How to prove you're a time traveller from the (far) past $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 5:36
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    $\begingroup$ Exactly HOW could she claim to be from Mesopotamia? She would have absolutely no concept of what it was. It would have to be current day scientists and advocates that would claim she was from Mesopotamia. In fact, she would have no concept of what 'time travel' was, $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 15:05

5 Answers 5


First of all, I doubt she would plainly say "I am from Mesopotamia and I have traveled in time", simply because those are concepts we have formalized. She will probably be scared by all these weird looking creatures popping out of horseless and smelly chariots, with funny body odors and body decorations.

That aside, there are several indicators which can corroborate the suspect: language is probably the best one. We don't speak those old and extinct languages, but thanks to the work of many philologists have a decent hunch at how they might have sounded. If this person was able to fluently speak it, and maybe even read the inscriptions, the possibility would be either that she is an academic of the field or something else. And the more academic institutions would fail to recognize her, the more that something else would become plausible.

Then probably a stool sample taken immediately after her arrival would tell that her most recent meal was not from our times, and also a chemical analysis of her hair would probably reveal level of pollutants different from the one we generally experience today: for one, copper extraction gave out a lot of arsenic in the surrounding.

DNA might show some old traits, but it's hard to assess their statistic relevance from a single sample.

Anon in the comment poses also a legitimate question, about her radiocarbon apparent age: I see two possibilities for this.

  1. time travel doesn't affect nuclear decay: this means her $C_{14}/C_{12}$ ratio is unaffected, maybe a bit lower than what we have today. Maybe that could be also explained as effect of her diet, not sure about the numbers, but her radiocarbon age would not appear "old"
  2. time travel does affect nuclear decay, forcing all of the atoms which would have decayed to do it after the jump: she would show a lower $C_{14}/C_{12}$ ratio before she starts eating current food, and she might probably show also some sign or radiation poisoning, due to the burst of radiation caused by the travel.
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    $\begingroup$ One major risk but possible bonus would be that she would almost instantly get very sick from diseases circulating in our time that her body has no resistance to. On the flipside, she may become patient zero to spread diseases that she is carrying that modern people have no resistance to (hopefully not smallpox). If she is patient zero then as soon as she is identified as such there will be some serious sequencing done of the disease/s she is carrying which may offer some clues. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 4:59
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    $\begingroup$ Would en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… also be useful, for someone who appeared to be of the right age? $\endgroup$
    – Anon
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 5:22
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    $\begingroup$ @JustinThymetheSecond: Innate means "from birth". And life is obviously part of nature; physics is the study of nature (from the Greek word, surprise, physis, meaning origin or nature). If there are laws of physics then they must apply to living things, or else they are not laws of physics. (The basic meaning of the Latin word natura is birth, from nascor, past participle natus, to be born. The meaning of the word was expanded to match the Greek physis when the Romans started translating Greek phylosophy.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 16:14
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    $\begingroup$ @JustinThymetheSecond I'm not sure what you mean by this. I have seen people assume that they operate as simplistically in a complex organism with many different chemicals and parts moving in a very complex way, as they do with just a few chemicals in a controlled environment, which is naive; but the materials in living things do nonetheless still follow the same laws of physics. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 19:43
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    $\begingroup$ @ AlexP Should have read 'inanimate' instead of 'innate', Spell check substituted the wrong word. "Cheating the Second Law of Thermodynamics is a necessity for living cells, living beings and even our planet to maintain local order. Schrödinger then concludes that living beings must be ‘negative entropy machines’, converting energy to local order – a perspective only a physicist could have come up with." siliconrepublic.com/innovation/what-is-life-physics-biology $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 18, 2021 at 15:07

In most of the industrialized world, she would almost certainly be diagnosed as a mental health/brain injury patient who lost the ability to speak coherently. At least at first. A Jane Doe in the health system would get initial treatment alongside with an attempt to identify her and to refine the diagnosis. As there is no match with missing persons records, they might bring in linguists to make sense of her 'babble,' but the assumption would be a (brain-injured) undocumented immigrant.

The odds that somebody brings in a classical philologist early on are slim.

The 'therapy' would continue over months and years, effectively teaching the time traveler the local modern language. It is possible that at some point she can explain her past experiences with such clarity that a modern person (who watched Back to the Future or Star Trek IV as a kid) makes the connection, but it won't be the time traveler. The tests mentioned by L.Dutch might come in order to determine her regional origin, with an eye towards deportation after the treatment, and would be filed away as inconclusive or contaminated ...


At first glance, I think o.m. has a point.. I can add: she has a fair chance of getting raped and traumatized on arrival. It will be very difficult for her to adjust on her own, be acknowledged as a "normal person". Not being able to speak any language, not understanding current day technologies, or any modern frame of reference.. BUT..

It will depend on the person welcoming her

Suppose she would meet a member of WB, soon after arrival. Open minded, intrigued by her language and Catweazle-like behaviour, and not inclined to label such a person as "crazy" or "retarded". Welcoming her to stay for a few weeks or months. She could get some proper clothing, and one day the host will hear her Mesopotamia time machine story. Of course, he would open a topic on WB immediately, asking what to do now. A language expert hops in.. and proposes some tests to verify her claim: some words, short sentences. It turned out she responds with joy, hearing familiar words.

In the followup, interested scientists may be invited (in a discrete fashion) and after a while, she'll be in the news, some day. Remarkable women.. many people would be interested to meet her and talk with her. She'll take up a study and could become a professor, or she could become a cult hero.

Being a deviation, it would depend on the arrival place

The above is a best case scenario. She is a deviation, she will behave weird. Police, or municipal services could step in, try to get her institutionalized. These institutions are present in certain countries. Once a patient, it is often difficult to get out. On the other hand, many countries that have such institutions also have certain ethics: they regard psychiatric help as help, in case of a problem. It will depend on her own abilities and strength.. e.g. the ability to act, or be polite..

A general, hostile approach as a result of culture could happen in many places. It would also depend on looks, skin color.. not all Mesopotamians were white. In some belief systems, a woman who presents herselves naked in public is by definition a prostitute, which could get her arrested.

.. a matter of luck

Bottom line, for me: she's human.. just a stranger without clothes.. capable of emotional expression and fear. And looking you in the eye. My guess is, she'll at least survive.. the followup is a matter of luck for her !

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    $\begingroup$ The threat of violence depends very much on the arrival location. I'd like to think that in most parts of the world, the daily likelihood is rather low, and after a few hours she would be institutionalized. Where things like that also happen, but not on a daily basis. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @o.m. for your input about these risks.. I've added a few comments $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 17:09
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    $\begingroup$ These scenarios may also depend on whether or not the visitor was a) aware of, b) a willing participant in, and/or c) the director of the intent to travel in time. If she just shows up, SURPRISE, she will be far less prepared than if whoever is making the time travel happen to her informs her that she'll be making a journey into a strange land. Or if they ask for volunteers to do it. Or if she approaches them to make it happen. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 19:49
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    $\begingroup$ @coppereyecat indeed the person itself plays an important role.. in some earlier answer on a similar question (can't find the link) I also proposed that the status, personality and habits of the person being transferred in time would count. In this case, suppose she would be a Mesopotamian princess, maybe the adjustment would be far more difficult, because no one would recognize/acknowledge her privileges and power. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 20:00

A woman turns up naked, terrified, unable to speak any comprehensible language?

No-one in any part of the industrialised world is going to assume she's brain damage or mentally handicapped. (Sorry @o.m. but you're seriously wrong here.) They're going to assume she's a traumatized survivor of rape, torture or something like that. Since she doesn't speak English, the immediate assumption would be that she's an immigrant (legal or illegal, they wouldn't know). And people forgetting recently-learnt languages and reverting to their original language in the face of trauma is a well-recognised phenomenon. So all the normal processes for handling a vulnerable, traumatized, victim of crime kick in.

As with anyone severely distressed, the first step is to bring them down from the point of panic so that they're able to be rational. Warm clothes, and food and drink, are the immediate requirements. And then she'd be brought to somewhere safe for her. In the short/medium term this could be a secure unit whilst they work out how to help her, and make sure she's not going to harm herself.

Then there's communication. Anyone who's ever travelled abroad knows how it feels to be in a place where you don't speak the language. You can still tell when people are trying to help you though, and informal sign language ("eat", "drink", "sleep", and pointing at things) is more effective than you'd think. And even just on holiday for a week or two, you pick up a few words. They'd almost certainly bring in some language specialists to try to figure out her language too, but there are enough languages in the world that everyone would know this isn't a sure thing. The only reliable way to communicate is to get her to learn your language.

Within a month or two, she might be able to communicate a bit. She wouldn't be able to say she came from Mesopotamia though. She'd be able to say she lived on a farm, and find a picture of a mud-brick house. At that point she might describe a bright flash (or whatever time travel process) and then appearing naked here. This would probably be written off as lost memory though. Even her being a subsistence farmer with manual tools wouldn't make her unusual in much of the world. And for her, she'd know nothing of a wider world so she wouldn't know she'd traveled in time.

It would likely take significant time after she'd acclimatized to life here before she realised that she had been moved in time. Maybe going to a museum and seeing things she remembered as exhibits, or on TV. It's nothing that's going to come to anyone's mind any time soon though.

  • $\begingroup$ And the most successful integration would probably have her integrated back to a very rural setting more reminiscent of where she came from, instead of a modern institution replete with modern technology. A primitive hut in some remote area without power or modern conveniences. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 18, 2021 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ @JustinThymetheSecond Subsistence farming is generally out of necessity just so you don't die, not because you really want to. Whilst everything would certainly be amazing and initially frightening to her, getting three meals a day is really hard to beat, and the level of comfort surpasses even the royalty of her time. And more incredibly, she's apparently been adopted by a court of benevolent magicians, and they've already shown her how to use the magic runes on the walls to create light from nowhere. Would you want to go back to subsistence farming? For me that'd be a hard "hell no". :) $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Commented Dec 18, 2021 at 19:50
  • $\begingroup$ I made no mention of 'subsistence farming'. Where the food came from is irrelevant. It is the lifestyle. You might want to read 'Future Shock'. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 0:51
  • $\begingroup$ @JustinThymetheSecond "Future Shock" is basically one long unsubstantiated moan about how things aren't what they used to be, drawing false conclusions from bad reasoning on anecdotal non-evidence, so count me out of that. :) Re the lifestyle, your primitive mud hut with no facilities comes with subsistence farming, which is what virtually everyone was until the 1800s. The lifestyle is what you do, not just the place you live in. $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 1:51


Aka polychorinated biphenyls.


PCBs were super useful synthetic chemicals and lots of PCB was made between the 1920s and 1970s. They do not readily break down and persist in the environment. They are bioaccumulated according to trophic level and so humans accumulate a lot. Even though PCBs stopped being made in the 70s they can still be found worldwide and today every modern human has detectable PCB in tissues. If there is a concern about PCB toxicity it is not complicated to test for them.



If you ancient is truly an ancient, her body would have no PCBs (which did not exist 5000 years ago) or very low levels compared to other persons her age as her accumulation would have only begun when she arrived in our time.


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