The Top 14 Strangest Discoveries in Archaeology

Archaeological findings have provided further insight into our world and civilization or posed new questions. Some of these strange discoveries, like Stonehenge and the location of Atlantis, are still mysterious.

We’ve decided to venture further into the stranger discoveries in archaeology that leave us with more questions than answers.

1. Sandby Borg Massacre

Sandby borg ringfort
Image Credit: Sebastian Jakobsson – CC BY 3.0/Wiki Commons.

When archaeologists uncovered 26 skeletal remains in a 5th-century Swedish house, they were surprised to find the remains just lying in the home with no sign of burial.

After more digging, it became clear these people were massacred. One was even murdered while eating. The puzzling part is that no one knows why these people were attacked, and it remains unsolved to this day.

2. The Sunken Skulls of Kanaljordan

Image Credit: Fredrik Hallgren – Antiquity.

Also known as the Tomb of Skulls, the Sunken Skulls of Kanaljordan were discovered by archaeologists near Sweden’s Motala Strom River.

These skulls, believed to be those of Mesolithic Hunter-Gatherers from 5,000 years ago, were lodged with wooden stakes, and no skeletal bodies were found. Nine were adult skulls, and one was an infant’s skull. It seems they were mounted on display for an unknown reason after being scavenged from their original burial place.

3. Voynich Manuscript

Image Credit: Wiki Commons.

The Voynich Manuscript is an ancient codex that no one can read. It’s filled with illustrations and an unknown alphabet and is one of the most interesting artifacts of the 20th century.

The manuscript displays Zodiac signs and medicinal herbs, among other things. Carbon dating has suggested that this manuscript is from the 15th century. Its contents have yet to be deciphered.

4. The Khatt Shebib

Image Credit: David L. Kennedy, APAAME.

The Khatt Shebib is a stone wall that spans 93 miles across Jordan. Archaeologists continue to confound it. They’re unsure why or when it was built, but it is the country’s longest archaeological site.

Most archaeologists speculate it was built by the nomadic Bedouins to keep out hungry animals for agricultural purposes or as a border to stop the threat of invading armies, but these are just theories.

5. Las Bolas, Costa Rica

Las Bolas, Costa Rica exhibited at Museo Nacional de Costa Rica
Image Credit: Mariordo, Own Work – CC By-Sa 4.0/Wiki Commons.

These giant stone spheres, known as Las Bolas in Costa Rica, are monuments of the pre-Colombian civilization. They are made from molten magma rocks known as gabbro.

Archaeologists have not worked out what they were used for, but there is speculation that they could be astronomical markers or maps leading somewhere. The Chibchan people who populated the area vanished during the Spanish conquest, along with any clues to the stones’ purpose.

6. Nazca Lines

The Spider, Nazca Lines, Peru
Image Credit: Diego Delso – CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

The Nazca Lines are only visible from the air. They form enormous shapes resembling animals, geometry, plants, and imaginary figures.

The lines were created about 2,000 years ago by pre-Inca Nazca people. Their purpose remains a mystery but the theory is they were a ritualistic way of communication between the people and their deities.

7. The Stone Labyrinths of Bolshoi Zayatsky Island

Stone labyrinth, Bolshoi Zayatsky Island
Image Credit: Andrew Shiva – CC By-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

Stone labyrinths covered by overgrown moss lie on an isolated Russian island. The scene looks like something out of a faerie fantasy novel, and the island is covered in these mazes.

These stone labyrinths date back to 30,000 B.C., and archaeologists have yet to figure out their purpose. They speculate that the mazes could have been for mystical purposes or rituals or may have served as altars.

8. Gobekli Tepe

Enclosure B Göbekli Tepe Turkey
Image Credit: Dosseman, Own Work – CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

The Gobekli Tepe in Turkey is an archaeological site that has caused a stir in the archaeological community. It is the world’s oldest known possible human settlement.

The controversial question is how these tribes of hunter-gatherers managed to erect massive structures before agriculture and permanent settlements existed. The Gobekli Tepe has massive megaliths with carvings, and it’s still not certain what the site was actually for.

9. The Sanxingdui Civilization Disappearance

Sanxingdui bronze heads with gold foil masks
Image Credit: Momo – CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

You don’t have to be an archaeologist to stumble upon artifacts and treasures of a lost civilization. Case in point — a man repairing a sewage drain uncovered a trove of jade and stone artifacts from what archaeologists believe to be the Sanxingdui Civilization.

The reason for their treasure burial and disappearance from China’s Sichuan Valley remains unanswered. Theories suggest an earthquake rerouted a nearby river, forcing them to move.

10. Jordan’s Big Circles

Image Credit: David L. Kennedy, APAAME.

Another one of Jordan’s strange archaeological mysteries is the Big Circles. Eleven giant stone circles are placed together to form one big circle without openings for people or animals to pass through. It’s basically a giant circular wall.

Archaeologists are currently comparing it with other stone circles and walls worldwide to see if there are any correlations.

11. Antikythera Mechanism

Antikythera Mechanism
Image Credit: Marsyas – CC BY 2.5/Wiki Commons.

Off the coast of the Greek Island of Antikythera is the wreckage of a 2,000-year-old Greek ship, from which an interesting mechanism was retrieved in 1901.

At the time, no one could figure out what the layers of brass gears built into the wooden box meant. Fast-forward 50 years, and a historian figured out that it could predict astronomical patterns, like an intricate calendar.

12. The Cochno Stone

Image Credit: University of Glasgow.

The Cochno Stone is a 5,000-year-old stone slab in Auchnacraig, Scotland. It’s inscribed with strange swirling patterns around it dubbed “cup and ring marks.”

Since its documentation in 1887, it has been an object of curiosity. Some archaeologists believe the inscriptions and marks are linked to astronomical phenomena, but that’s not proven.

13. Frankenstein Bog Mummies

Frankenstein Bog Mummies
Image Credit: Mike Parker Pearson – University of Sheffield/National Geographic.

There’s no way Frankenstein’s story could be reflected in real life, right? Well, think again. These 3,000-year-old bodies, buried in remnants of an 11th-century house in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, were actually made from the remains of six different people.

It’s believed that their bodies were preserved in a peat bog for a while, then taken out to be displayed and subsequently reburied. Another oddity is that some body parts were hundreds of years older than others.

14. The Longyou Caves

The Longyou Grottoes
Image Credit: Zhangzhugang, Own Work – CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

These 24 artificial caves resurfaced after local farmers in China decided to drain several ponds in the area. The caves measure about 18 to 34 metres. Glazed clay pots have been found on the cavern floor, which suggests that the caves were made about 2,000 years ago.

The reason for their construction remains unknown, but theories speculate that they could have been ancient quarries, mausoleums, Taoist dwellings, or even ceremonial sites for offerings.

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