Top 10 Mysterious Places on Earth
Our world is home to a wealth of ancient monuments. Although all these (literal and figurative) ‘milestones’ have been carefully studied and become, some of them are simply so old, incomplete or obscure that we still know nothing or little about it: neither how they were built nor their function . Below you will discover ten of those well-known milestones, which to us today with dumbfounding succeed.
10. Cahokia Mounds
Cahokia is the name of an Indian settlement just outside Collinsville, Illinois (USA). Archaeologists estimate that this ‘city’ was founded around the year 650. Its complex network of cemeteries and sophisticated landscapes prove that Cahokia accommodated a prosperous community that, at the height of its abilities, knew as many as 40,000 residents. That would mean that Cahokia was the most populous American settlement for the arrival of Europeans.
The most striking aspect of Cahokia are the eighty ‘mounds’ (‘accumulations’ or ‘hills’) of earth. They are spread over the territory as dots. Some of these mounds are as high as thirty meters. They presumably created a network of market places in the city. It is also assumed that important buildings (such as the house of the chief) were built on their tops. The site also contains a series of wooden monoliths, which are assumed to indicate solstices and equinoxes. In this way they played an important role in the mythology of the Cahokia.
Although scientists are still discovering new information about the Cahokia, it is not yet clear which contemporary Indian tribe is their rightful heir. It also remains a mystery why these Indians left their settlement at the time.
Newgrange is considered the oldest and most famous prehistoric site in Ireland. It is a tomb that was built around 3,100 years before our count. It was built from earth, wood, clay and stone. The Newgrange tomb consists of a long passage leading to an internal cruciform chamber. This room contains a kind of stone tub with cremated remains. It is therefore probable that she served as a grave.
However, the most unique feature of Newgrange is its precise and at the same time robust design. As a result, the construction remains totally waterproof until today. The door of the tomb proved to be positioned in such a way that, on the day of the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year), the rays of the sun shine through the door. Along the eighteen meter long passage they illuminate the floor of the burial chamber.
Archaeologists know that Newgrange was used as a tomb, but why or by whom remains a mystery. The sophisticated design does suggest that the site was highly regarded by its visitors; but not beyond the hypothesis that the sun played an important role in the mythology of the builders.
Of all the famous monuments in Japan, there is no one as unlikely as the Yonaguni monument. Yonaguni is a rock formation under water near the coast of the Ryuku Islands. The location was discovered in 1987 by a group of divers who observed the hammerhead shark there.
The monument consists of a series of striking rock formations, including massive platforms, carved stairs and stone giant pillars. The construction is between five and forty meters deep under water. One of the elements is a triangular structure that, because of its shape, became known as ‘the turtle’.
The central question in the Yonaguni debate is the following: is this nature or culture? For example, scientists have long argued that millennia of strong current and erosion have carved the rock formation out of the ocean floor. They refer to the fact that the monument is essentially a solid block of stone that can not possibly be assembled by builders.
Opponents of this thesis then refer to the many straight sides and corners, and to the squares of intersections in the formation. According to them, this is proof of artificiality, along with the human face carved into one of the walls. Open questions in this hypothesis: by whom and why was Yonaguni built?
7. The Nazca lines
The lines of Nazca are a series of icons that were carved into the ground of the Nazca desert, a drying plateau in Peru. The lines cover an area of eighty kilometers and were created by the Nazca Indians. That happened between 200 years before our time bill and the year 700.
The Nazca lines were created by scraping the copper-colored rock soil. Thus, a pale yellow earth layer was exposed. Due to the stiff climate in the region – which has little wind or rain – the lines – which are sometimes up to 183 meters long – have remained intact for hundreds of years. They describe simple patterns and shapes, but also plants, insects and animals.
Scientists know who has drawn the Nazca lines and how, but the why remains a mystery. The most popular hypothesis is that the lines have a religious meaning. They serve as a sacrifice to the gods, who, from heaven, can fully enjoy the drawing. Other scientists, however, claim that the lines are a proof of massive looms that the Nazca used to manufacture textiles.
6. The circle of Goseck
photo: Ralf Boutragel
One of the biggest mysteries in Germany is Goseck’s circle. That is a monument made from earth, gravel and wooden palisades. It is considered the earliest example of a primitive, solar observatory and consists of a series of circular canals surrounded by palisades. In the center of this construction there is a pile of earth, to which the palisades offer three entrances (gates): south-east, south-west and north. It is assumed that the circle of Goseck was built around 4,900 for our annual accounts by a Neolithic people. The three gates would correspond to the directions from which the sun rises during the winter solstice.
The precise construction of the Goseck circle has prompted many scientists to accept the hypothesis that the monument served as a primitive solar or lunar calendar. However, the precise purpose of the monument still gives rise to discussion. The fact that the solar cult was widespread in ancient Europe even led to the speculation that the circle was central to some religious ritual that also involved human sacrifices. This hypothesis remains unconfirmed for the time being, but archaeologists did find several human bones on the site, including a headless skeleton just outside the palisade walls.
Just outside of Cuzco, not far from the famous Inca city of Manchu Picchu, lies Sacsayhuaman, a strange wall of stone walls. The series of three walls was built from limestone and massive rocks of two hundred tons each. The walls are arranged in a bizarre, zigzag pattern at the foot of a slope. The longest wall is almost 305 meters long and all walls are about 4.5 meters high.
For his age Sacsayhuaman has been exceptionally well preserved, especially considering the fact that the region in question is subject to earthquakes. Only the highest points of the walls were destroyed, but this was mainly done by Spanish plunderers, who wanted to provide Cuzco with churches. The area around Sacsayhuaman turned out to be littered with underground catacombs (‘chincanas’). Presumably they were part of a connection network that also contained other Inca structures.
Most scientists agree that Sacsayhuaman served as a kind of fortress, a defensive wall. Yet this thesis is also contradicted. The strange shapes and angles of the construction inspired the speculation that Sacsayhuaman fulfilled a more symbolic function. The wall – viewed from above – would look like the head of a puma, with the city of Cuzko as its body.
More mysterious than the use of the monument is its construction method. Like most stone structures of the Incas, Sacsayhuaman is built up of gigantic stones that fit together perfectly so that even no sheet of paper fits into their joints. How the Incas could handle such advanced installations or how they succeeded in lifting and transporting the heavy stones, is still not fully understood.
4. The Moai of Rapa Nui
One of the most iconic series monuments of the Pacific is the Moai. That is a group of giant sculptures that represent exaggerated, human figures. They are only found on the small, isolated island Rapa Nui, better known as the Easter Island. The Moai were made somewhere between 1250 and 1500 by the first inhabitants of the island. It is believed that they represent the ancestors of these earliest islanders. In the culture of the early Easter Islanders they were seen as gods.
The Moai were chiseled and carved out of tufa, a volcanic rock that is common on the island. All images have similar characteristics: a great-sized (front) head, a broad nose and an undecipherable facial expression. Scientists have determined that originally as many as 887 images were carved. The years of feuds between the different island clusters, however, caused many copies to be lost. Today there are 394 Moai. The largest of these is a good nine meters high and weighs more than seventy tons.
Although there is a reasonable consensus about why the Moai, the method of construction continues to debate. The average Moai weighs several tons. That is why scientists spent years asking how the images were transported between Rano Raraku – where they were made – and their different locations on the island. In recent years, it has increasingly been assumed that the images were transported on wooden sleds, moved by rolling tree trunks. This would also explain why the once green island is now completely withered by excessive deforestation.
3. The Georgia Guidestones
While most mysteries develop primarily through the passage of time, the Guidestones (the literal translation is ‘guide stones’) of Georgia are a conceived enigma. The monument – which is also known as the American Stonehenge – consists of four monolithic granite slabs, which support a headstone. Its construction was ordered in 1979 by a man who took the pseudonym RC Christian. A local meter constructed the construction so that one slot in the plates is aligned with the sun during solstices and equinoxes. In addition, a small hole in one of the plates is always directed at the North Star.
Most striking, however, are the inscriptions on the plates. Through an accompanying placard they are described as ‘guide stones for an age of reason’. In eight different languages the plates then offer a bizarre ten-point plan to guarantee peace on earth. This plan includes both vague statements about the infinite and very specific commandments. For example, mankind must respect a population of less than five billion people in order to be able to (continue to) live in eternal balance with nature. These kinds of statements made Georgia Guidestones one of the most controversial monuments in the USA. They provoked many protest and were repeatedly the targets of vandalism by groups who would rather lose the monument than rich.
Despite all controversies, little is known about who built the Guidestones or what the usefulness of the construction is. Christian himself claimed that he was the representative of an independent organization when he ordered the construction of the monument. Neither this mysterious organization nor he himself have confirmed this since. Because the monument was built during the Cold War is a popular hypothesis that the Guidestones had to serve as a blueprint for the reconstruction of the world after a nuclear holocaust. Earlier we wrote about this in our top 10 of unsolved mysteries
2. The great sphinx of Giza
Great Sphinx or Giza
Sphinxes are massive, stone sculptures that combine the body of a resting lion with a human head and face. These mythical figures are found in different forms all over the world, but in the first place naturally linked to Egypt. Here is also the most famous sphinx in the world: the great sphinx of Giza.
Unlikely to this construction is that the image was carved out of one massive monolith. With a length of 73 meters, a width of six meters and a height of twenty meters, it is therefore considered the largest monument of its kind. Historians often agree that the Sphinx served as a symbolic guard. After all, the images were placed strategically in the vicinity of important structures such as temples, tombs and pyramids. The great sphinx of Giza is no exception. He is standing right next to the pyramid of the Pharaoh Khafra. Most archaeologists assume that the Sphinx portrays his face.
Despite its reputation as the world’s most famous antique monument, little is known about this sphinx. Egyptologists do have a certain understanding of why, but the how and who remains secret for the time being. Khafra himself is the most obvious choice as the principal. That would mean that the sphinx would have been built around 2,500 before our era. Other scientists have argued that the water erosion of the image suggests that it is much older, perhaps even older than the dynastic era of Egyptian civilization itself.
In our integral world heritage, not one monument has a widespread haze of mystery about Stonehenge. Stonehenge has been feeding the debate among researchers, scientists and historians since the Middle Ages. Localized in the English countryside, it is assumed that the construction of this milestone dates from 2,500 years before our era.
Stonehenge consists of several huge rock pieces, which in a seemingly random constellation are related to each other or even stacked on top of each other. This construction was then circled by a kind of canal and flanked on all sides by burial mounds. Although Stonehenge is still very impressive today, it is assumed that only a limited part of the original building has been preserved. The building process is supposed to have been so intensive that it has lasted, between 1,500 and 7,000 years, on and off.
Stonehenge is world-famous for the high degree of bewilderment it evokes even among the most renowned scientists. Construction, builders and utility remain until today ‘the mystery of Stonehenge’. The neolithic people who built Stonehenge did not leave any written source. Scientists can therefore only base their theories on the rather meager evidence that can still be found on the site itself.
Of course this gives rise to the wildest speculations. For example, Stonehenge would have been left behind by space creatures or it would be built by an ancient civilization of technologically advanced supermen. The most accepted explanation, however, is that Stonehenge served as a tomb. It would have a function in the belief of its builders with regard to life after death. This claim is supported by the presence of the burial mounds around Stonehenge. Similarly, another theory suggests that Stonehenge was a place for spiritual healing and the worship of dead ancestors.