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.
5. The Tartaria Tablets
These three small stone tablets, found in a Romanian village, might feature the earliest form of writing ever discovered.
Most archaeologists used to agree that several regions developed writing independently between 3500 and 3100 B.C. The earliest examples we could find showed photo-writing from cultures such as the Sumerians in Mesopotamia. However, if the Tartaria tablets are genuine, then they predate the other discoveries by 2,000 years.
In that case, the earliest writing belongs to the Vinca civilization, a Neolithic culture present throughout southeastern Europe between 5500 and 4500 B.C. Various other artifacts from that era belonging to the Vinca culture have been found, also with symbols on them.
The mystery regarding the tablets comes from their age. Initially, museum employees baked the clay tablets to better preserve them. The process rendered accurate carbon dating impossible. So at first, they appeared to be from around 2700 B.C. Only recently have newer tests suggested that they are much older.
4. The Blythe Geoglyphs
The Blythe Intaglios are a collection of dozens of geoglyphs found in the Colorado Desert near Blythe, California. They show various representations of animals, geometric shapes, and giant humans, the largest depicting a 50-meter (170 ft) man. The true scope of the geoglyphs was unknown until 1932, when it was viewed from the air.
Based on their location, they were likely constructed by the Quechan or Mojave Indians. The etchings are supposed to represent important figures from these respective cultures. Two, for instance, are thought to represent Mastamho and Kataar, two creator deities found in Mojave culture.
But we still know remarkably little about the carvings for certain. They could have been made as long as 10,000 years ago or as recently as 450 years ago.
3. The Death Of Alexander The Great
Even though Alexander the Great is one of the most famous and most well-documented figures of the ancient world, a lot of mystery surrounds his death. Most experts agree on the time and place—June 10, 323 B.C. at the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II in Babylon. The cause of death, however, remains far from certain.
For a long time, we thought Alexander was poisoned. Viable suspects abounded—his generals, his wife, his half-brother, and more. All we know for certain is that Alexander fell ill suddenly and spent two weeks in bed with ahigh fever and abdominal pains before dying.
Yet his death may have been the result of an illness instead of foul play. This still leaves many potential candidates to explain the symptoms: viral hepatitis, pancreatitis, endocarditis, or maybe something else altogether. Recent theories also suggest that he could have been the victim of an infectious disease like typhoid or malaria.
Even more mysterious is how his death was foretold by the Chaldeans, who warned him he would die if he entered Babylon. Not only that, but Calanus, an Indian philosopher who accompanied Alexander’s army, told the young conqueror on his own deathbed that the two would meet again in Babylon (this at a time when the army was headed nowhere near the city).
2. The Minaret Of Jam
The Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan is admired by many for its beauty and complex design. The 64-meter (210 ft) tower is still in good condition today, even though it was built sometime in the 12th or 13th century using baked bricks. The intricate decorations and inscriptions are still clearly visible. This alone was enough to get it declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The unknown date of the minaret’s construction makes its purpose a unclear. An inscription notes when it was built, but it cannot be read with certainty. We just know the tower was built by the Ghorid Dynasty at the height of its glory, when it ruled over parts of modern Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.
The most intriguing theory regarding the Minaret of Jam is that it might have belonged to the lost city of Firozkoh. Also known as the Turquoise Mountain, the city was the capital of the Ghorid Dynasty and one of the greatest cities in the world. But it was completely destroyed by Ogedei Khan, son of Genghis, and its location was forever lost.
1. The Emerald Tablet
The Emerald Tablet remains the most mysterious item on this list because, unlike the others, it does not exist anymore. We do not know its author, origin, or location. We do not even know exactly what it looked like.
All we know is that the first documented mention of the Emerald Tablet dates to an old Arabic book sometime between the sixth and eighth centuries. The earliest Arabic translations claim that the original text was inancient Syriac. The first Latin translation of the text appeared in the 12th century, and multiple other translations have been made since then (including one by Sir Isaac Newton).
The text is considered the most important document in the field of alchemy. It is prized by alchemists because it supposedly presents information regarding the philosopher’s stone, a substance able to turn base metals into gold. But despite allegedly holding such valuable information, nobody has ever successfully used the Emerald Tablet to achieve that alchemical feat.
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