For all of the time we spend researching and documenting our past, there are still many questions left unanswered. Our ancestors left a lot of traces in this world, and not all of them were ever meant to be understood by other cultures. Despite our best efforts, they remain mysteries to this day.
10. The Staircase To The Moon
Geoglyphs are giant images drawn on the surface of the ground. The Nazca Lines are probably the most famous geoglyph, but just 200 kilometers (130 mi) from the Nazca Plain is an even more mysterious example.
The Paracas Candelabra measures about 180 meters (600 ft) across. Despite the close proximity to the Nazca Lines, this geoglyph was likely not built by the Nazca people. Ancient pottery found at the site dates to 200 B.C., which means that the Paracas culture is most likely responsible. But while we have some idea who built the candelabra and when, the question of why leaves archaeologists baffled.
Some attribute a religious value to the geoglyph, as locals consider it to be the staff of Viracocha, an ancient creator god. Others, however, suggest a more practical purpose. The Candelabra is carved into a hill. The angle and huge size means that it can be seen from a great distance, as far as 20 kilometers (12 mi) out to sea. This has led some to believe that it was used as a landmark for sailors.
9. The Uffington White Horse
Ancient and mysterious landmarks are not an uncommon sight in England. Although Stonehenge comes to mind first, many more are to be found.
The White Horse in Uffington, a 115-meter (374 ft) hill figure, was created by digging deep trenches filled with crushed chalk. This animal appears to be a horse, and similar depictions appear on ancient coins dated to the Bronze Age. Near the figure are burial mounds from the Neolithic period. These graves were reused up until the Saxon period, leading some to claim that the White Horse is not as old as previously thought.
Two factors separate the Uffington White Horse from similar landmarks. For starters, the White Horse is much, much older. Many other horse figures date to as late as the 18th century, so they were most likely done in honor of the original White Horse. The other factor is the condition of the figure. Considering how old it is, the White Horse is in remarkable shape, most likely thanks to the locals who kept it in good repair.
8. The Liber Linteus Zagrabiensis
The Linen Book of Zagreb is the longest text written in the Etruscan language. The language had a huge impact on the world since it heavily influenced Latin, but nowadays, it is mostly lost. Only a few ancient documents feature it, so large chunks of the Liber Linteus are still untranslated to this day. From what can be gathered from the book, it appears to be a ritual calendar, although it was initially thought to detail funeral rituals.
It’s astonishing that the Liber Linteus survived all this time despite being from the third century B.C. It is extremely uncommon for linen books to last that long—but the Liber Linteus was no ordinary book. It survived because it was repurposed. The book was cut into pieces and used by ancient Egyptians to wrap a mummy.
This meant that the Liber Linteus was preserved in good condition, but it went unstudied for a long period of time. Even when it was found, most people who saw it simply assumed that the text was Egyptian.
7. White Shaman Rock
The ancient cultures of the Americas still hold many secrets, and one way to decode them is by studying rock paintings. Near the Pecos River in Texas’s Lower Pecos Canyon is one of the oldest and most significant of these paintings—the White Shaman. A 7-meter (24 ft) artwork dated to over 4,000 years ago, the White Shaman is thought to offer information regarding anancient lost religion.
Controversy surrounds the rock painting’s meaning. Up until recently, most archaeologists agreed that the artwork depicted five human figures in battle or during a pre-battle ritual. However, one archaeologist now claims it shows people communicating with the spirit world, specifically through the use of peyote.
6. The Sajama Lines
Anyone impressed with the Nazca Lines or the Paracas Candelabra should learn about the Sajama Lines in Bolivia. They, too, are a collection of lines etched into the ground, but they dwarf other geoglyphs in sheer scope.
Sajama has thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of different lines that range from 1–3 meters (3–10 ft) in width and can be up to 18 kilometers (11 mi) in length. The lines cover an area of almost 7,500 square meters (70,000 sq ft)—roughly 15 times larger than the famous Nazca Lines. Despite their giant scale, very little research has been done regarding the Sajama Lines. The true size of the network had been very difficult to gauge until recently, when satellite imagery became available.
The lines are astonishingly straight despite their length, natural obstacles, and the area’s rugged topography. No records detail the lines’ construction, but they are most likely prehistoric, built over countless generations.
Their purpose remains a mystery. They may have guided pilgrims, they may have marked burial towers, or they may have had some sort of astronomical significance.
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