History has and always will be shrouded in mystery. Despite documentation, we will never truly know everything that has happened in the past. This is what makes history so incredibly interesting — and obscure.
While some of our biggest questions about the past may remain unknown, we have managed to answer some. From discovering what really happened to the lost colony of Roanoke to debunking the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle, these are the biggest questions from the past that have been answered.
For hundreds of years, we never had a way of deciphering hieroglyphs. That is, until Jean-François Champollion came along.
The Roman “Gate to Hell”
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Over 2,000 years ago, people from around the region would come to a Greco-Roman temple in Hierapolis to a cave that was believed to be an entrance into the underworld. Priests would bring sacrificial animals into a cave known as “Plutonium” where the animals would die upon entering. From bulls to birds, the Greek geographer Strabo wrote that “any animal that passes inside meets instant death.”
However, in 2013, it was discovered that the entrance to the cave emits deadly amounts of carbon dioxide — more than enough to kill a large animal. They also believe because the animals were lower to the ground they died quickly.
The Iron Pillar of Delhi
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Located in the Qutb complex at Mehrauli in Delhi, India, the Iron Pillar of Delhi was dedicated to the Hindu deity Vishnu between the 3rd and 4th century. Yet, what stumped scientists and archeologists for centuries was the resistance that the pillar had to corrosion. It has been described as “testimony to the high level of skill achieved by the ancient Indian iron smiths in the extraction and processing of iron.”
Yet, it was recently understood that the pillar’s resilience to the elements and time is because it is coated with a thin layer of hydrogen phosphate hydrate which serves a shield around the pole and has protected it from the brutal Delhi climate.
The Disappearance of the Mayan Civilization
It’s no secret that the Maya civilization was one of the most advanced ancient civilizations ever established. They had a writing system, a calendar, used mathematics, and built empires. Their civilization was so large that it stretched from southeastern Mexico through all of Guatemala and Belize to Honduras and El Salvador. However, sometime during the eighth and ninth centuries, the entire civilization of 19 million people seemed to collapse on itself.
Although there have been theories for hundreds of years ranging from overhunting to alien invasion, a more plausible theory has come to light. In 2005, it was proposed by Jared Diamond that the Mayans left due to a man-made drought that they caused with all of the deforestations they were causing. The drought was so severe that they had to abandon their empire within.
Deciphering hieroglyphs changed the way we viewed the history of the world.
Raining Frogs and Fish
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Throughout history, there have been accounts of strange rains and even frogs, worms, and fish falling from the sky. Since as far back as the first century, people had no answer for this phenomenon, until now.
This occurrence of frogs and fish falling from the sky been happening since ancient times and has continued up until today, with the most recent occurring in January 2016 in Ethiopia. Now, such a phenomenon is believed to occur when a waterspout or tornado travels over a body of water and picks up whatever may be in it and dropping it off elsewhere. Although this isn’t a common occurrence it’s the clearest explanation as of yet.
Thor’s Hammer Pendant
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With some dating back as far as the first millennium A.D., there have been thousands of T-shaped pendants discovered across Northern Europe. They have been named the Mjollnir amulets and were originally thought to represent Thor’s hammer, but were then believed to be otherwise.
However, in 2014, another amulet was found with the inscription “Hmar x is,” which translates to “this is a Hammer,” proving that the amulets were in fact pendants representing Thor’s hammer. Archeologists believe that these were worn by many living at the time as a sign of belief and for protection — similar to how Christians wear crucifixes. This was most likely because Thor was believed to be the defender and protector of mankind.
Egyptian Hieroglyphics Were Deciphered Centuries Later
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Egyptian hieroglyphs were the formal writing system of Ancient Egypt. It was composed of around 1,000 characters and combined logographic, syllabic, and alphabetic elements. However, by the fourth century, few Egyptians were able to even read hieroglyphs, and by the medieval period, the knowledge of hieroglyphics was lost entirely.
Although for hundreds of years many attempted to decipher them, it wasn’t until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1977 that real progress was made. In the 1820s, a man named Jean-François Champollion completed the decipherment and wrote that “It is a complex system, writing figurative, symbolic, and phonetic all at once, in the same text, the same phrase, I would almost say in the same word.”
The Namib Desert is covered with peculiar uniform circles where nothing grows.
Cahokia’s Downfall Was Caused By Flooding
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Over 1,000 years ago, there was a great pre-Columbian Native American city in North America known as Cahokia. It was made up of 120 mounds that were spread out over six square miles throughout the Mississippi floodplain. At its peak, it had an estimated population of over 40,00 inhabitants. However, the city began to experience a decline in the thirteenth century and was totally abandoned by 1300.
Although for a long time the cities demise went unanswered, a discovery was made by accident. Researchers found evidence of major flooding that had happened before Cahokia was even founded. Unfortunately, the area was prone to flooding, and when it happened again it essentially destroyed the entire city.
Cracking The Jotunvillar Code Revealed Vikings Had A Playful Sense Of Humor
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An ancient Norse code which stumped researchers and experts for years was deciphered by a Norwegian runologist named K. Jonas Nordby in 2014. The Jotunvillar code dates back to the twelfth century in Scandinavia and is the code used to decipher rune sticks, which were a form of text messaging for the Vikings. Using one stick which two men carved their names in both code and standard runes, he used what he called his “Rosetta Stone” in order to crack the entire code.
Once Norby deciphered the code, he realized that some of the runes were challenging the reader and said things like “Kiss me” or “These runes were written by the most skilled rune writer west of the sea.” Although they may not have revealed anything too exciting, the code was still cracked.
Finding The Source Of The Nile River
The Nile River is a major north-flowing river in northeastern Africa and is often regarded as the longest river in the world (alongside the Amazon River). In addition to its impressive length, the Nile is also the primary water source of Egypt and Sudan and was the lifeblood of the ancient Egyptian civilization. Believe it or not, as far back as the second century B.C., the source of the Nile River remained unknown.
And it remained unknown until the middle of the nineteenth century when it was solved by a group of British explorers. Between 1856 and 1857 the group traveled along the river and faced endless dangers and torment yet eventually succeeded. They discovered that the Nile has multiple sources but the Nile Proper begins at Lake Victoria in Jinja, Uganda.
See why the Fairy Circles are in the desert.
The Discovery Of Ancient Troy
For thousands of years, it was assumed that the great city of Troy and the story of the Trojan War in Homer’s Iliad were nothing more than a legend. Most people believed that the places described were fiction and were simply used as a setting for Homer’s story to take place.
However, as it turns out, a German businessman and archeological pioneer, Heinrich Schliemann, believed that the places in the story were based on some historical authenticity. He went on to excavate Hissarlik in 1870 which is now agreed to have been the site of ancient Troy, therefore proving that there was some truth behind the Iliad.
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The Namib Desert is covered with patterns of bare circles among the brush that has been debated over for years. One group of researchers believes that the patches, known as fairy circles, are created by termites underneath the soil. The termites then clear the vegetation in the sand for their nests and to establish reservoirs of rainwater.
The other group thinks that the circles are the result of plants competing for water. The plants help other plants near it by creating shade by growing long roots to extract the water from the soil. As it turns out, both theories are leading to the creation of fairy circles which have baffled those who have ever seen them.
The crystal skulls believed to come from pre-Columbian times amazed the public for years.
The Tomb of Tutankhamun
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Tutankhamun was an Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty during the period known as the New Kingdom. Also known as “King Tut,” he ascended the throne when he was just nine or 10 years old. However, although his existence and reign were well-known, there was no sign of his tomb until the 20th century.
In 1922, Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb almost completely intact. To this day, it is still the most complete ancient Egyptian tomb ever discovered. There were 5,398 items discovered in the tomb with a solid gold coffin, face mask, archery bows, food, wine, and even a dagger blade made from a meteorite. Hid tomb helped provide valuable information about the time period as well as the reign of Tutankhamun.
The Irish Potato Famine
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The Irish Potato Famine or “Great Hunger” was a period of famine and starvation in Ireland between 1845 and 1849. It occurred when the potato crops in Ireland became diseased which completely devastated the food availability since potatoes were their staple food. During those years, around one million people died and another one million emigrated out of Ireland in order to survive.
For over 165 years, scientists were unable to pinpoint what the exact cause of the famine was. However, a research team led by The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, England discovered that it was the HERB-1 strain of Phytophthora infestans. They concluded that the disease came to Ireland from Mexico in 1845 but has since become extinct.
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Since the dawn of man, sickness and disease have been something that has perplexed us. Before the invention of the microscope and the development of modern science, diagnosing an illness wasn’t always so obvious. As a result, many diseases were believed to be caused by supernatural or religious forces.
Then, in the 19th century, there began to be a transition with the work of Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch which proved that many diseases are caused by specific microorganisms. They were then able to identify some of the organisms that were the cause of some diseases and viruses were later discovered in 1890, all which revolutionized the way we view health.
See why the crystal skulls have been taken off the shelves.
The Mystery Of The Roanoke Colony
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The Roanoke Colony or “Lost Colony” was established in 1585 on Roanoke Island in what today is North Carolina. It was founded by Sir Walter Raleigh and was an effort by Queen Elizabeth I to try and establish an English colony in North America. However, the colony disappeared three years after the last shipment of supplies from England leaving nothing but “CROATOAN” carved into a gate post.
In the hundreds of years that have passed, there have been countless theories surrounding the colonies disappearance. While some believe that they were attacked and killed by Indians, others turn to more supernatural explanations. However, the most likely and agreed upon theory is that the colony abandoned their location and assimilated into the various local Indian tribes.
The Slithering Stones
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In Death Valley National Park, there is a phenomenon that has puzzled many for over a century. Scattered across the desert, there are rocks and boulders some weighing 600 pounds that seem to move on their own, leaving trails behind them. Dust storms, flooding, and even aliens have been previous explanations with no real weight behind them.
But scientist Richard Norris and his cousin James solved the mystery. They attached GPS trackers and cameras to the stones and learned that the movement was caused by ice. At times, the conditions are just right in order to create enough ice and wind to move the rocks forward.
The Crystal Skulls
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The crystal skulls that have been discovered are claimed to be pre-Columbian Mesoamerican artifacts. Some believe that they were made by the Mesoamericans using tools given to them by aliens or that they were gifted to them. The film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull helped draw even more attention to the skulls.
As it turns out, a detailed analysis of the skulls shows that they were made using a wheeled instrument, something that the Mesoamericans didn’t have at their disposal. Researchers have also found that the crystals were cut from Brazilian rock crystal in Europe and were most likely made to sell to collectors when there was a large interest in ancient culture. Most have since have been taken off museum shelves for this reason.
The Extinction of the Gigantopithecus
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Although the few fossils we have discovered of the Gigantopithecus have left its exact size unknown, it’s clear that the Gigantopithecus was the largest primate to ever walk the Earth. The Gigantopithecus is believed to have been between six and 10 feet tall, 440 to 1,100 pounds, and lived somewhere between 100,000 and 9 million years ago. However, the biggest mystery about this primate is how it went extinct.
Researchers at the Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment in Germany believe that the answer is that it had an inability to adapt. By studying the fossils, they concluded that the Gigantopithecus was vegetarian, and its diet restricted its habitat to the forest. So when a majority of those forests were eventually turned into savannas, the species became extinct.
The Secret Of The Bermuda Triangle
The Bermuda Triangle or “Devil’s Triangle” is a region in the North Atlantic Ocean where ships and airplanes are said to have disappeared mysteriously and are sometimes even connected with paranormal activity. There have been numerous books, television shows, and conspiracies based on its existence and the stories behind it are well known.
However, it is has been proven time and time again that there is absolutely nothing mysterious about the location. The Bermuda Triangle is in the middle of one of the most heavily traveled shipping routes in the world with cruise ships and commercial and private aircraft also frequently flying over it with no problems. There have never been any unexplainable accidents that have occurred in the Bermuda Triangle and its mystery has been entirely fueled by the media.
What Happened to King Richard III?
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King Richard III of England was the last king of the House of York. He met his end at the Battle of Bosworth Field, the last battle of the War of the Roses, in 1845. Although it was known that he died, it was a mystery as to exactly how he died or where his corpse was located.
His body was lost for over 500 years until 2012, when a grave was found underneath a parking lot in Leicester, England. Five months later, DNA tests confirmed that the bones belonged to Richard III. Research showed that he had received 11 wounds during the battle — nine being to his head — and it was assumed that he had taken off his helmet during the fight.