The world we live in is full of mysteries. While many of those mysteries are invisible to the human eye, just as many stand right before us in the form of statues, buildings and other objects. Many of these buildings and objects date back thousands of years before technology was even invented. Because of this, people–scientists especially–wonder, how did these objects get here? From Stonehenge to the Pyramids of Giza, and from the ruins in Baalbek, Lebenon to the Mayan settlement in Tikal, there are architectural feats dotting the world that have no physical explanation whatsoever.
Join us now on our trip around the world as we visit 15 of the most mysterious historical monuments and explore the mysteries that shroud them.
1. Newgrange, Ireland
Older than the Egyptian Pyramids, this structure was discovered in XVII but wasn’t researched until three centuries later! On the outside, the building seems to be a simple burrow, albeit a perfectly round one with an impressive diameter. However, take a tour inside and you’ll discover a tomb. If you happen to visit during the solstice, you’ll witness what truly makes this monument remarkable: a ray of light gradually fills the entire room, which leads the Irish to believe that the place is the entrance to the world of elves and fairies.
2. Tikal, Guatemala
The Mayan settlements draw attention as is, but as one of the largest hidden in the jungle, Tikal is extra noteworthy. The man-made ponds, ballparks and palaces are unique in that you won’t find those anywhere else in the Guatemalan wilderness, but it’s the town’s square–formed of pyramids–that have scientists talking. For their time, the pyramids are contemporary, and no one is quite sure what they were used for–religion, research, burying the dead or maybe all of the above?
3. Baalbek, Lebanon
We’ve all heard of the Athenian Parthenon and many people often wonder why it was not dubbed one of the 7 Wonders of the World. We may have the answer; while the Parthenon is cool, there is a building in Lebanon of similar structure and style that is twice its size. The blocks at the bottom of the structure weight up to 1000 tons each, compared to the largest block on the Parthenon, which weighs in “only” at 90 tons. *Psh* The crazy thing about this structure and its Athenian counterpart is that the Romans (nor the Athenians) had the technology at the time to move or install such large stones.
4. Dolmens of North Caucasus, Russia
In the mountains of Russia, there are small stone houses hidden in the slopes. These houses are made of large flat stones that weight tons. There are holes in the sides that are so precise that they can be closed with a stopper. Where the stones meet, the fit is so precise that even a knife blade can’t get through. These buildings are thought to be around 5,000 years old.
5. Bolshoi Zayatsky Island’s stone labyrinths, Russia
The Bolshoi Zayatsky Island’s stone labyrinths draw about as much attention as crop circles and just as much speculation. Known as the “Babylons” by the locals, these stone labyrinths dot the island and draw a crowd. The entrance is also the exit, so if you decide to follow the stones, know that they’ll lead you right back to where you started. No one knows for sure what the stones were put there for. Some believe they were fish traps, while others think they were simply made for entertainment. The locals and other more spiritual beings believe they were ritual structures on the border of the spirit world.
6. The Stone Spheres of Costa Rica
When these giant stones were discovered, it was believed that there was gold hidden inside of them, which is why they nearly became the victims of vandalism. Unfortunately, though they were saved from being cracked wide open, the stones were moved to city squares throughout the country, making an exact dating impossible. There are theories that they came from the water, are symbols of the planets and are signs of borders, but because they were moved, we’ll never know for sure what their original purpose was.
7. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Discovered by the Europeans in the XIX century, the masonry featured in this complex is so dense that at times you can’t even find the seams between one stone and the next. The stonework is completely smooth, and the entire complex is held together by its own weight. Despite the fact that the entire complex is made up of 200 temples, it is designed so that you can only see three from any given angle. The complex is surrounded by a mote so wide it looks as if the community is an island floating in the middle of the ocean.
8. Easter Island Statues of Chile
Off the coast of Chile, on a small plot of land where the country meets the Pacific, are giant moai such as those that dot Easter Island. Though there is evidence that they were moved from place to place, along with ritual stands that are heavier than the idols themselves, there is no evidence that points to how the statues were moved. Experiments have confirmed that manipulation of the statues is possible, but because all people whose descendants could shed light on the process died a long time ago, we remain stumped.
9. Terracotta Army, China
In the mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang sleeps more than 8,000 life-size statues of Chinese warriors and horses, each of which was hand-carved in 200 BC. Each statue’s face is unique, replete with the most intricate of details. When excavating the site in the early 1970s, archeologists had to move with extreme care, as legend has it that rivers of mercury had to accompany the emperor into the afterlife.
10. Petra, Jordan
900 meters above sea level, hidden in the rocks, is a monumental masterpiece that has architects and scientists alike scratching their heads. Ancient carvers must have demonstrated extreme patience when turning the rocks of the Siq canyon into columns and porticos with exquisite detail worthy of a museum. However, while such patience is an anomaly these days, that is not what has people stumped. What does is the fact that the entire monument could not have been constructed without the assistance of scaffolds, but it was despite the fact that scaffolds wouldn’t have been invented until thousands of years later.
11. Stonehenge, England
Everything about Stonehenge is a mystery, starting with its date and ending with its purpose. Many people believe that Stonehenge was put there by the magician Merlin when evidence proves that Stonehenge appeared long before the hypothetical time of King Arthur’s wizard friend. Even if magic wasn’t involved, scientists wonder how people could have transported the heavy boulders from the quarry that lies hundreds of kilometers away to where they rest now. It would require modern day heavy equipment to master such a feat. Then there’s the complex’s purpose: why was it put there? For an observatory, a sanctuary or something a little more…out of this world?
12. Moai, Easter Island
On one of the most remote inhabited islands on Earth, Easter Island, stands one of the world’s most famous mysteries–the statues of Moai. Each year, these giant statues draw thousands of tourists, yet little is known about them. What were originally thought to be just heads, these statues actually boast entire torsos which closely resemble those of the Rapa Nui tribespeople who carved them.
What many people also don’t know is that the statues standing today represent just a fraction of the statues carved. Scientists have discovered unerected statues abandoned in quarries or along paths of transport.
No one knows why the statues were carved, why some were erected and others just abandoned or what the hieroglyphics on the sides of a few statues mean. Though there are many theories, one of the wildest (yet most sane?) is that Easter Island is the peak of an underwater mountain and all that remains of the lost civilization of Mu.
Apparently, the people of Easter Island were also completely ripped:
Just kidding! While it is true that these ‘heads’ are attached to bodies, this illustration showing the statues with ‘gym’ bodies is completely made up and has been circling around the Internet.
13. Yonaguni Monument, Japan
In 1987, a group of scuba divers discovered strange formations underwater off the coast of Yonaguni Island. The flat parallel edges, right angles, sharp edges, pillars and columns of these formations lead many to believe that the site is actually man-made. While that itself is not so remarkable, what is remarkable is the fact that the last time the area was dry land was approximately 8 to 10 thousand years ago, during the most recent ice age. If the formations are man-made, that would make them some of the oldest structures on Earth.
14. Gulf of Cambay, India
In 2001, sonar detected evidence of a sunken city off the coast of India, in the Gulf of Cambay. Upon closer inspection, it was revealed that there were, in fact, several man-made structures sunken in the water, including large buildings and canals. When the area was excavated, artifacts such as pottery and hearth materials were dredged up.
The scale of the city is quite large, a fact that is more extraordinary considering the fact that one piece of wood attached to the structures has been dated from as early as 9500 BC. This would mean that the city existed thousands of years before what is currently thought to be the oldest city in India, and thousands of years before humans were thought to be building cities of that size.
15. The Great Sphinx of Giza, Egypt
Perhaps the greatest mystery of all time, the Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt provides more questions than it does answers. While many believe the Pharaohs build this masterpiece, evidence suggests that they simply restored it. Not only did the Pharaohs not have the means to build such a giant, but also, the pyramid dates back to way before the Pharaohs even existed. Then there are the striations in the side, which scientists believe were left there by water…the Great Flood, perhaps? Finally, it turns out that there are rooms inside and underneath the Sphinx, but any attempt to study them has been met with resistance by the local authorities. What are they trying to hide? Secret knowledge of ancient civilizations, perhaps, such as the sunken Atlantis?
Bonus: Gobekli Tepe, Turkey
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Gobekli Tepe is considered the oldest religious structure ever found–well, it is considered one of the oldest structures ever found, period, religious or not. The site dates back to 10,000 and 9000 BC, which means that more time passed between the building of this site and the building of Stonehenge than the building of Stonehenge and present day.
When (and if) scientists are able to learn more about this site, it may change our conception of prehistory forever. For one, the stone pillars weigh approximately 20 tons each. They were quarried, moved to their present location and carved without the use of anything other than simple stone tools. All other evidence from that time period suggests that humans were simple hunter-gatherers who knew nothing of agriculture, written language, the wheel, the domestication of animals, pottery or religion. Which begs the question: what were the stones for?
Featuring carvings of various predatory animals and arranged in a way that brings to mind spirituality, this structure suggests that our early ancestors may not have been so primitive after all…
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