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Ten archaeological mysteries, from Super-Henge to the 2,000-year-old computer

You don’t have to be Indiana Jones to appreciate a good archaeological enigma.

While some of the events of world history have established themselves in the global consciousness, such as the Nazca Plains of Peru, or the enduring myth that is Stonehenge, there are many lesser-known discoveries that continue to confusion among experts.

From the “world’s first analog computer” built more than 2,000 years ago and found in a shipwreck in Rome, to a settlement in Turkey that put every theory of civilization at its head , here are 10 unique archaeological finds that continue to raise more questions than answers.

1. Tomb of Qin Shi Huang, China

While China’s terracotta army has been excavated since its discovery in 1974, the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, which they built to protect the afterlife, has yet to be opened.  EPA

While the 1974 discovery of the terracotta army by farmers in Shaanxi province in China became one of the most interesting archaeological finds of the 20th century, the tomb protected by the 8,000-plus strong army remains. which had not been excavated nearly 50 years after its discovery.

Emperor Qin Shi Huang (259BC-210BC) is believed to have been buried in a pyramid-shaped mausoleum to the northeast of his terracotta army.

But concerns about traps, high mercury levels and preservation mean the tomb has yet to be opened.

Ancient writings appear to indicate that the tomb had an underground palace and an extensive network of caves, all of which were built by more than 700,000 workers over three decades.

2. The Khat Shebib, Jordan

The origin, construction and purpose of a 150-kilometer stone wall that runs across the southern Jordan remains a mystery to archaeologists and scientists.

Starting north near Wadi Al Hasa and running south-east to Ras An Naqab, the wall usually runs through the southern Jordan desert, with several side walls branching out.

It is believed to have been built by the Bedouins.

The ruins were first brought to world attention in 1948 by British diplomat Sir Alec Kirkbride.

That prompted visits by archaeologists and scientists around the world who remained divided when the wall was built.

Estimates range from the Iron Age (c. 1200BC) to the Nabataean period in the fourth to the first centuries BC.

The purpose of the wall, which is about 1.5 meters long, remains a mystery, with some believing it was used for agriculture and others as a boundary.

3. Antikythera Mechanism, Greece

Displayed at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, the Antikythera Mechanism has been called “the world’s first analog computer”, but experts remain unsure what it is used for.

Discovered in 1901 in the wreckage of a 2,000-year-old Roman cargo ship off the coast of the Greek island of Antikythera, the bronze artifact is made of interlocking gear with undetectable characters carved on the faces.

Experts disagree on when it was built, with estimates dating from 87 and 204BC, and machines as complex as the mechanism were never seen again until more than 1,000 years later in the th. 14th century.

Why the more sophisticated device was created is still a mystery. Theories include that it was a navigational astrolabe, tracked stars and planets, predicted eclipses, and was used to track the four -year cycle of the first Olympiad.

4. The Cochno Stone, Scotland

The Neolithic Cochno Stone in Glasgow, Scotland is believed to date from between 4000 and 2000 BC.  The hand -carved circles and swirls remain a mystery.  Photo: University of Glasgow

The Cochno Stone – also known as the “Whitehill Stone” and the “Druid Stone” – was found in Glasgow in the mid -1800s.

Measuring 13 meters by 8 meters, it is covered in circling patterns called “cup and ring marks”, the likes of which are found in other prehistoric sites throughout northern England and Europe.

Archaeologists and anthropologists have debated the marks for years, with some believing they are astronomical while others think they are ancient artwork.

Stone art of this nature is believed to belong to the Neolithic period (4000 to 2000BC), but no one knows who drew them on the Cochno Stone or why.

Due to concerns about erosion and graffiti, the British government covered the rock in 1965, and it was recently discovered for further excavation within three weeks of 2016.

5. Roman Dodecahedrons, worldwide

Made of bronze or stone and hollow in the middle, Roman Dodecahedrons are found throughout Europe in Spain, France, Germany, Hungary, Wales and Italy.

The first record was discovered in 1739, but since then no one has known what it was or what it was used for.

From four to 11 centimeters in size, it is dated between 100 and 300 AD, but scholars have found no mention of it in Roman texts or painted pictures.

Theories about its use include grain calendars, religious items, toys, divination tools or items connected with money, as many have been discovered along with coins.

6. The Copper Scroll, Jordan

One of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, the Copper Scroll was discovered by archaeologists on March 14, 1952, near Khirbet Qumran. It was the last of 15 scrolls discovered in the cave.

While the text of the other scrolls, written on papyrus, is concerned with hymns, prayers and formulas, the Copper Scroll, which is estimated to date between 25 and 100 AD, lists 64 places. where gold and silver are buried or hidden.

The writing style of the Copper Scroll is different from others, and it is believed that the treasure listed from the temple inventory was hidden from Roman troops.

The scroll is on display at the Jordan Museum in Amman.

7. Gobekli Tepe, Turkey

Gobekli Tepe in Sanliurfa, Turkey, was built before the invention of the wheel and changed how anthropologists believe civilization developed.  EPA-EFE / Erdem Sahin

Gobekli Tepe is believed to have been built and occupied at the end of the last Ice Age, between 9600 and 7000BC, at a time marked by the “beginning of village life”.

The settlement, which preceded pottery and the invention of the wheel, has sparked heated debate since it was discovered in 1963, sparking a re-evaluation about the evolution of civilization, especially about hunter-gatherers.

The planning and construction of the site would have required an organization and resources that anthropologists believed were unknown to their communities.

The Neolithic archaeological site of the Anatolia Region is home to the oldest known megaliths in the world – large stone pillars decorated with animal carvings.

However, the lack of shelter, cooking ashes and utensils in the area, points to evidence that it was not a residence but perhaps a temple or place of worship.

8. Super-Henge, UK

Just over three kilometers down the road from perhaps the world’s most famous henge, Stonehenge, is another stone monument, built about 400 years after its neighbor.

Acquired in 2015, Super-Henge consists of a collection of monolithic rocks found beneath the slope of a grass-covered, circular embankment called the Durrington Walls.

Researchers believe the site, built about 4,600 years ago, is home to up to 1,000 homes, home to about 4,000 people. Some believe that the people who built Stonehenge lived there.

Archaeologists remain unsure about the purpose of the original 90 stones, even if they may have been part of a Neolithic monument. Nor do they know why the stones were later intended to be buried.

9. Thonis-Heraclion, Egypt

HERACG_115-Large statue of the god Hapy, Thonis-Heracleion, Aboukir Bay, Egypt (SCA 281) A large statue of red granite (5.4 m) representing the god Hapy, adorning the temple of Thonis-Heracleion .  The flood god of the Nile, symbol of abundance and fertility, has never before been discovered on such a large scale, highlighting his importance for the Canopic region.  Height 5.4 meters, depth 90 centimeters, weight 6 tons.  Early Ptolemaic period, 4th century BC.  Christoph Gerigk © Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation *** Local Caption *** rv21ma-exhibition7-p8.jpg

The Egyptian port city of Thonis-Heracleion served as a gateway to the Mediterranean, with origins dating back to the 12th century BC.

Prior to the discovery of the ruins many archaeologists thought that Thonis and Heracleion were two separate cities on Egyptian soil, long lost in the mists of time because they were hardly mentioned in ancient texts.

In 1933, an RAF commander flying over Abu Qir Bay near Alexandria reported that he had seen underwater ruins from the perspective of his bird.

It wasn’t until 1999 that French underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio began a five -year excavation of the site, producing coins, pottery and a statue of queen Arsinoe II.

Later excavations found an ancient ship on the Nile river, temples, bridges, statues and sarcophagi.

It is believed that earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and land liquefication caused the city to sink under the sea.

It is estimated that only 5 percent of the city has been excavated so far.

10. Sacred Heart, Peru

Like Britain’s Stonehenge, Sacsayhuaman goes on to present a headscratcher to archaeologists trying to figure out how ancient civilization worked and placed 100-tons of rocks on the site.

Even if it was built in the 15th century, the site is believed to have been inhabited since 900 AD.

The stones used are cut and put together without mortar, which is similar to a jigsaw puzzle that suggests it was designed while it was being built.

The Incan stone structure of Cusco was originally believed to be a fort or a place for ceremonies. But its true function remains unknown.

Updated: July 18, 2022, 5:21 AM

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