The world is filled with ancient unexplained mysteries that capture the imagination and challenge scientists and scholars. Archeologists attempt to identify and explain the purpose of these ancient mysteries of the world, but some continue to mystify and confound them.
Dubbed by the Smithsonian as possibly the world's first temple, Gobekli Tepe ("belly hill") in Turkey has been carbon-dated around 9,000 BCE. That's 6,000 years before Stonehenge was built.
Though it was discovered in the 1960s, it wasn't until 1994 that the site was excavated and a megalithic ring of stone pillars uncovered. Archeologists believe that the high T-shaped pillars once supported a roof. With less than five percent of the 22-acre complex unearthed so far, scientists are astounded by indications of 16 more buried circles, each ranging from 32' to 98' in diameter.
The stones feature elaborate relief carvings of humanoid figures and animals. Scientists can't explain who built the rings, what purpose they served, or why the rings were deliberately buried 1,000 years after being built.
Stonehenge is a ring of standing stones located in Wiltshire, England. The inner circle of stones is over 24 feet high. Archeologists date the structure between 3,000 BCE and 2,000 BCE.
There is much speculation over the original purpose of the stones and how they were transported to the site. Some believe the henge was used for rituals, ceremonies, and burials. Researchers note that the stones were intentionally aligned with the summer and winter solstices.
This World Heritage Site is owned by the Crown of England and managed by the English Heritage with the surrounding land owned by the National Trust. The English Heritage website offers visitors an interactive virtual tour inside the circle.
A discovery of "17 other ritual monuments" in the area surrounding Stonehenge was reported on September 10, 2014. Researchers from Birmingham University participating in the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project used ground penetrating radar to find outlying fields, a pond, a large pit, and several enclosures. Scientists will have to study the findings to interpret exactly what the discovery means.
The Hellinikon Pyramid
When people think of pyramids, they generally think of Ancient Egypt, but Greece has a few as well. There are ancient structures located at Argolid Greece known as the Pyraids of Argolis.
The best-known of these (and most intriguing!) is the Pyramid of Hellinikon. It was originally assumed to be a tomb, but to date, no human remains have been found within, and archaeologists haven't been able to agree on a date as to when it was constructed, with certain parts of it being dated to one period, and other parts to another.
It's further complicated by the fact that ancient sources don't mention the Hellinikon Pyramid at all, leaving this mystery still very much unsolved.
The Great Sphinx
The Sphinx, located in Egypt below the Giza pyramids and slightly east, is said to be one of the world's oldest and largest monolithic statues. It stands 66 feet tall and is 240 feet in length. The renowned sleeping prophet Edgar Cayce predicted that the lost records of Atlantis would be discovered in a chamber underneath the paw of the Sphinx. This prediction added to the unique mystery of this enormous artifact.
Experts conclude that the Sphinx was carved from a massive slab of limestone and that the face was once painted red and other areas painted blue and yellow. Yet no one knows why it was built, who built it, or what it represents.
Since there is no mention of the Sphinx statue in Egyptian stories, the researchers have little to go on.
Standing Stones (Menhir)
Standing Stones (Menhir) are individual tall, upright stones found throughout the world, with high concentrations in Ireland, Great Britain, Brittany, and France. These mysterious remnants are representative of yet another culture lost to the modern world.
The giant stones haunt pastures and hillsides around the world. A vast number of standing stones remain in their original positions of circle, henge, horseshoe, or oval configurations. In his book Before Atlantis, Frank Joseph states there are 50,000 menhirs remaining in Ireland, Great Britain, and Brittany, and that France boasts 1,200. The massive stones range from 10 feet to 30 feet in height and are typically squared and uneven. The tops are generally tapered.
Recent research estimates that many of the stones were set 6,000 to 7,000 years ago. The Scottish Archaeological Research Framework website depicts many of the Celtic stones with various iconic carvings of animals, objects and Celtic knots. Some researchers speculate that the stones were sacred Druid ceremonial structures. Others believe the stones were territorial markers or calendars.
Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni
Believed to be the world's first underground tomb, the Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni was in use from 4000 to 2500 BCE and is the final resting place of over 7,000 people. The elaborate underground structure consists of chambers, halls, and passageways carefully hewn from the surrounding limestone with Neolithic-era flint tools.
The structure is massive, comprising three levels: the upper level (which dates from 3600 to 3300 BCE), the middle level (which dates from 3300 to 3000 BCE), and the lower level (which dates from 3000 to 2400 BCE).
There are a couple of mysteries about the Hypogeum, the first being the discovery of skulls with strangely elongated features. The second has to do with what's called the Oracle Chamber, which is intricately-painted and has unique acoustic qualities. Archaeologists still aren't sure what the purpose of this chamber was, or what it was so carefully designed with acoustics in mind.
Part of the Tiwanaku complex located in Bolivia on the Altiplano, the age of the ancient site of Puma Punku is still being debated. Some experts believe it was created around 500 BCE while others place it 12,000 to 17,000 years ago. The Incas inhabited the region in 1470, and it was considered the place where all life was created.
The construction and masonry of the walls are considered an engineering mystery since there are no known tools or techniques that existed during any of these time periods.
Much of the Puma Punku wall structures appear to have been destroyed during some type of cataclysm. The stone retaining walls were precision cut in H-shapes that mystify archeologists. If the stones were quarried from a nearby dormant volcano, the tools and means to transport to the site remain a mystery. The stones fit together so precisely there isn't enough space for a razor blade to fit between them.
To add more intrigue to the mystery, it was recently discovered the stones are highly magnetized.
Located in southern Peru's Nazca Desert, the purpose of the desert drawings knows as the Nazca Lines is debated by scientists, scholars, and theorists. When first noticed in 1553, the lines were misidentified as trail markers. It wasn't until 1940 that researchers took notice.
National Geographic reports that several hundred lines create geometric shapes, trees, flowers and over 70 animal shapes, such as birds, monkeys, llamas, fish, jaguars, whales, and lizards. The largest figures are 660 feet wide and best viewed by plane.
Scientists have determined that the lines were created sometime between 400 CE and 650 CE. Their creators and purpose remain mysteries. Some scientists theorize that the lines were an elaborate irrigation system. Others speculate that the Nazca people created the figures in tribute to their sky gods.
Stone Spheres of Costa Rica
The Diquis culture once lived on the small island of Isla del Cano in Costa Rica. Based on what's known about their society, they developed complex economic, political, and social systems. Between 300 BCE and 800 CE, they started sculpting large structures from stone, including over 300 stone spheres.
The spheres range in size from a few centimeters all the way up to over two meters in diameter. They were made by hammering boulders of gabbro (a native stone) into crude spheres, then polished smooth using sand.
By 1570, the Diquis people seemed to have disappeared without a trace, and the spheres were re-discovered in the 1930s when the United Fruit Company was surveying the land for its operations. There is still no hint as to what the spheres were used for or what they may have symbolized.
Easter Island is located in the South Pacific Ocean, some 2,500 miles east of Tahiti and over 2,300 miles west of Chile. It's well-known as the remote Pacific island of over 1,000 unusual statues (moai). No one knows how or why the statues were created and, up until 2012, it was believed that the statues were simply heads. This belief came crashing down when the Easter Island Statue Project excavated two statues and discovered complete bodies buried underneath the stone heads.
A little-known fact about this location is the discovery of Rongorongo, a system of glyphs that was discovered during the 19th century. No one has been able to decipher the glyphs. Around 24 wood objects, mostly tablets, are inscribed with the glyphs. Researches also discovered ornaments, a Chief's staff and a bird-man statue bearing the same glyphs and several petroglyphs (carved stones).
The Plain of Jars
The strangely haunting 2,000-year-old megalithic cylinder-shaped objects cover a large area known as the Plain of Jars. It is speculated these jars were used in some form of ancient funeral service.
Located in the northern Xieng Khuang province of Laos, the jars are made of sandstone. Some of the jars weigh approximately one ton and are around 10 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Due to the dumping of over 270 million cluster bombs, visitors are allowed to visit only certain sites. Site one is open and contains around 300 jars. Burial sites are being exhumed that contain human remains and some are in smaller jars.
Archeologists believe the larger jars were used to remove the flesh from the bones so the bones could then be buried in smaller jars. However, some locals discount this theory, believing the jars were used to brew rice wine for a band of giants, while others attribute the massive jar size as a way to store a local giant's whiskey.
The Voynich Manuscript, a centuries-old book, is owned by Yale University and available online to the general public. It's called the "most mysterious manuscript in the world." The 240-page book is written in a language that no cryptographer has been able to decipher.
To further compound the mystery, the pages are filled with drawings of mostly unknown plants and flowers. Carbon testing placed the age of the book to sometime during the second part of the 15th century.
Due to its content, the Voynich Manuscript was declared a hoax, created to fool the German emperor Rudolph II who paid 600 gold ducats for it. Recently, a few linguists have stated they've made breakthroughs in identifying structure similarities in the writings, proving the book is not a hoax. Until someone is able to decipher the book, its author and contents remain a mystery.
If you play (or know someone who plays) D&D, then you already know what a dodecahedron is. It's a polyhedron with 12 sides. And it's not just D&D fans who love them; apparently ancient Romans were enthusiastic as well.
The only thing is, archaeologists have no idea why ancient Romans had them. Why were they made? What were they used for? Looking at the dodecahedrons themselves offers no clues. They consist of a copper alloy and range in size from four centimeters up to eleven centimeters. Each of the 12 faces has a circular hole. However, the holes are different sizes, and they don't match from die to die, so they don't seem to have been standardized.
Another issue that makes it hard to nail down what they were used for is that they were found in so many varied locations. Military camps, temples, theaters, public baths, wells... the dodecahedron has been found in all of these places and more, which gives no context to what they were used for. They could have been for games, or for more mystical purposes, or as decorations or good luck charms... or something else entirely.
This voluminous book also called Codex Gigas was made from 160 animal hides and is said to contain all the world knowledge at the time it was written during the 12th century.
The story behind its creation is dark, and tells how a monk broke his vows and was about to be walled up alive when he cut a deal with the monastery: if they allowed him to write a book filled with all worldly knowledge in one day's time, and he succeeded, then he would be allowed to live. In order to meet this impossible task, it's said the Monk traded his soul to the devil.
Although the book itself is strange, being too large for one person to lift, it also contains a drawing of the devil and 12 pages of unknown content are missing from the book.
Judaculla Rock is a petroglyph located outside Cullowhee, North Carolina. It's the largest of its kind in the state and one of the largest petroglyphs in Southeastern US. The stone has yet to be deciphered with its various markings, spidery lines, and unusual symbols. The stone markings are dated at 10,000 years and have a special connection and meaning to the Cherokee Nation.
Parts of the stone depict animals and their tracks, geometric shapes, suns, and people. The rock is named for the giant spirit Judaculla.
The story of this spirit is told in Cherokee oral history and how he created the rock. In fact, his seven-fingered handprint is pressed into the rock when he caught himself from a fall. The Cherokee people held this site as sacred. The complete story told by the rock has yet been deciphered, but the Cherokee believe along with the handprint, Judaculla also drew a long line through the rock with his finger to demonstrate the separation between the earthly world and his spirit world.
Unexplained Mysteries Abound
History is full of mysteries like these that make archeologists and laypeople alike wonder about those who lived so long ago. As scientific tools become more advanced, archaeologists may get closer to solving these mysteries, and get another step closer to understanding ancient cultures.