The world is full of strange things. Science has really had its work cut out to explain them. In most cases, the wonder of such mysterious ancient artifacts can be credited to the human race’s brilliance and innovation throughout our 150,000-year existence. However, in some cases, the origins and purpose of artifacts are still disputed.
10) Weird Antenna on the Seafloor
In the height of Cold War paranoia, an oceanographic research ship named USNS Eltanin made a rather weird discovery whilst scanning the Antarctic seafloor. This mysterious ancient artifact looked like an antenna. It was tall, straight, and had arms evenly spaced at ninety-degree angles from its shaft.
Many theories developed quickly in response to the image – some pointed to man-made origins, perhaps Soviet. Others suggested a wild one, could it be an alien relic? 13,500ft beneath the waves in Antarctica is a pretty inhospitable location for any construction. The chance that this antenna was of human origin seemed small. This alien form was looked at until it was eventually identified as Cladorhiza concrescence.
It is a type of sea sponge that resides in deep waters. Modern-day images of this sponge really do look like the Eltanin Antenna. But they are few and far between. Many people have called for a revisit to this strange deep-sea object to find out how it’s changed since its discovery.
9) Wolfsegg Iron
The first impression you may have of this cube is that it looks unimpressive. And it is hardly a cube at all. It’s loosely cuboid. Given its metallic composition and theorized age of 20 million years or more it suddenly becomes a very strange artifact worthy of serious respect. It was found after a miner broke open a piece of coal at an iron foundry. At first, scientists believed the chunk of metal to be of meteoric origin.
But that was ruled out through analysis – it was more likely a chunk of cast iron. That then begged the question: how has cast iron found itself encased in 20 million-year-old coal when humans have only existed for roughly 200 thousand years!? This was puzzling for a time before researchers generally began to accept that the miner couldn’t have freed this from very old untouched coal after all. They thought that it was probably a piece of machinery that had fallen into the coal pit more recently. Still, many remain skeptical as this mysterious ancient artifact hasn’t been subjected to modern research techniques.
8) The Nazca Lines and Atacama Skeleton
The Nazca lines, found in the Nazca desert in Southern Peru really are some of the most stunning geoglyphs on Earth.
Geoglyphs are icons carved into the face of the Earth. The Nazca lines are an amazing marker of an ancient civilization. They date back around 2000 years. They’re very complex and there are over 30 of them spread through the desert environment. That makes them the most interesting collection of ancient geoglyphs on Earth. It is thought that these geoglyphs were created as a means of communicating with the gods above Earth to pray for rain. That has naturally inspired all manner of theories revolving around alien contact. Although it’s plausible they were created with simple tools by the Nazca culture, what’s raised the most eyebrows is the array of strange figures that were created – from orcas to astronauts.
Adding to this mystery is the Atacama skeleton. It’s another south American oddity which was also found in southern peru. It’s a humanoid skeleton that really is tiny at no longer than 15cm in length, which is the size of a pen.
Despite its size, it clearly isn’t a fetus as it has developed anatomy including developed hands and hard teeth. The most striking thing is its oddly shaped head; it looks very much like traditional visions of aliens.
The strange skeleton was tested using modern DNA methods by professors at Stanford University. It was indeed found to be human and of local descent. It was also aged at between 6 – 8 years old upon death. That is remarkable for a human of that tiny size. The genetic mutations which led to its strange forms aren’t clear. So far nobody has been able to explain exactly what it is.
7) The London Hammer
This hammer was a chance find in London, Texas, in 1936.
A family stumbled upon a rock with a strange wooden protrusion embedded in it. Their son broke it open to reveal a hammer clearly molded into the rock. The interesting point for archaeologists in the 30s here was how the hammer found itself encased in rock which was itself thought to be over 30 million years old. For many, this indicated that the so-called London Hammer was some mysterious ancient artifact that was still built with modern techniques. Stylistically, though, the hammer looked similar to old American tools in many ways. And then, geologists began to explain how the stone encasing, despite its age, could have molded its way around the tool relatively recently. Limestone and other types of rock can be easily decomposed.
During heavy rain or other adverse weather events, the hammer could have become encased in a muddy solution before that mud eventually hardened and turned to rock.
6) The Maine Penny
Some of us may be familiar with the rhyme ‘in 1492, Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue’. For many, many years, this was the accepted historical view on cross-Atlantic travel.
Traveling from Europe to the Americas was a mean feat in 1492. However, evidence now suggests that the Vikings did this first, likely as much as 500 years before Columbus. One piece of evidence to back this up is the Maine penny that was discovered in 1957 in Maine.
This coin was first mistaken for an English penny. But it was then confirmed to be a Norse coin originating from the reign of Olaf Kyrre, who was King of Norway between 1067 and 1093 AD. How it got to Maine is still a contested issue. Some claim it was just planted there while others believe locals got it somewhere else. Either way, it poses more questions than answers.
5) The Baghdad Battery
This artifact is made of three components and was found in Iraq. It’s composed of a ceramic pot with a rolled copper tube and an iron rod which were once placed inside the pot. Its origins have been dated to between 150 BC and 650 AD. Though its purpose is not understood, many theories surround its use as an archaic battery. The battery would function if an acidic solution – most likely lemon or grape juice – was poured inside to generate a current between the differing copper and iron electrodes.
It’s thought-provoking for a few reasons: firstly, electricity was not understood until the late 1700s after Benjamin Franklin famously flew his kite in a thunderstorm. Furthermore, even if this was an ancient battery, what uses could people possibly find for such a thing back then? Ideas suggest it may have been used in electrotherapy or electroplating statues. Alternative theories suggest that the Baghdad battery was more likely a special storage container. Still, many scientists do indeed support the battery theory – the use of this battery, though? No one knows for sure.
4) The Lycurgus Cup
This cup, named the Lycurgus cup, has been named as the most spectacular piece of glassware ever found from the late Roman era of 400 AD.
Even by today’s standards, it’s a beautifully complex piece. Most impressively, it features a dichroic effect where the glass is coloured red when lit from the back and green when lit from the front. This wonderful effect is not easy to create. Researchers discovered that the cup used gold and silver nanoparticles dispersed throughout the glass to achieve it. These particles are 70 nanometres across which makes them hard to view even with powerful microscope optics. They can only be viewed efficiently with a transmission electron microscope. The particles reflect different wavelengths of light, red or blue, depending on how light is shone through the cup.
Quite how this effect would have been achieved deliberately is bewildering. Instead, researchers have indicated that it’s more likely this effect was achieved accidentally from contamination of the glass from the workshop in which it was crafted.
3) The Voynich Manuscript
Here we have a genuine mystery that has racked the brains of countless academics and researchers throughout several decades. Still, there is no singular explanation for it which seems likely. The Voynich manuscript is named after the Polish book dealer who purchased it from a book store in 1912.
But it’s been carbon-dated to the 14th century, possibly originating from Renaissance Italy. It’s a fairly long book at 240 pages. Many are packed with densely written paragraphs, strange diagrams, pictographs, artwork, and symbols.
The baffling thing is, no one has yet been able to decode the writing system despite the best efforts of many prolific scientists, codebreakers, and cryptologists from all over the world. They have all lined up to have a go and have all failed! Many have assumed it to be a hoax. However, the evidence strongly suggests its historical authenticity. Whilst some progress has been made to understand its meaning, it’s still very much an unknown.
2) Piri Reis Map
This map has been theorized to contain information on the discovery of the Antarctic coast some 200 years before previously thought. This map is composed of stunning detail and was compiled by Piri Reis. He was a Turkish admiral and cartographer who made this compilation from many maps created by the Egyptians, the Portuguese, and the Arabs amongst others.
Though many discrepancies have been brought about as to whether the Antarctic coast is really depicted on the map (right side), the landmass has yet to be effectively labeled. This led some scholars to conclude that the map must have been based on other lost maps that originated from unknown travelers of the oceans. Some claims suggest that unknown high-tech ancient civilizations are responsible. However, none of these claims have been verified. It’s likelier that the landmass thought to be the antarctic is simply an error.
1. The Antikythera Mechanism
The tremendous intelligence of the ancient Greeks has continued to wow science. There is perhaps no less famous artifact to prove this than the Antikythera mechanism.
This mysterious ancient artifact really is a phenomenon as its mechanical complexity approaches that of European clocks produced in the 14th century. This artifact has a confirmed origin of circa 100 BC, though, making it the oldest analog computer ever found on Earth. Imaging studies of the device have shown it to have 37 gears which enable it to follow the movements of our solar system via 3 separate dials, each with their own sets of hands. The main dial showed the movements of the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn which were the 5 planets known to the Greeks.
It could have followed the moon through the zodiac, shown when eclipses were likely to occur and were even designed to show the irregularities in the moon’s orbit. Another dial showed the date through its 19 year Greek Metonic cycle and 76-year Callippic cycle and the third dial showed the cycle of eclipses. The tremendous complexity of this device speaks for itself, yet its maker remains unknown.
Though the complex function of the device once seemed far fetched given its awesome age, the design and iconography are still plausible given Greek workmanship. Moreover, the information it contains was well documented by many astronomers and other academics.
Which was the most mysterious ancient artifact for you? Or do you think you know the purpose or answers behind any of them? If so then let me know in the comments down below! Thanks for reading.