If we’ve learned anything from Indiana Jones, it’s that archaeology can be really scary! However, it’s true that modern archaeology is somewhat less thrill-seeking than Indy’s adventures. But, look at some of their scarier archaeological finds. We are sure you’ll have a new-found respect for archaeologists and their nerves of steel! Keep reading as I count down the top 10 scariest archaeological finds.
10. Mummified Moa Remains
In 1986, within a dark cave on Mount Owen in New Zealand, an archaeological team found a well-preserved and huge claw that looked like it belonged to a dinosaur!
Although scaly, evidence of Godzilla it was not. You see, this is actually a piece of a 3300-year-old prehistoric bird called the Upland Moa. Actually, there were once 10 species of the Moa that roamed the Earth before mega fauna died out. In fact, it was the largest bird on Earth with some Moa species reaching a whopping 10 feet tall.
Moreover, the Upland Moa was generally 4.2 feet tall. But this still makes for a pretty large bird! Thanks to this claw and other well-preserved remains, it’s possible that DNA cloning could revive the moa with the help of some chicken embryos. Mad science at its best!
9. Cannibal Attack on an Entire Family
It’s terrible enough when a family is murdered. However, there just aren’t words to describe how scary it is when a family group is murdered AND eaten. In 1994, a group of Neanderthal skeletons consisting of three children, three teenagers and six adults were found by researchers in a cave system called El Sidron in Northwest Spain.
They are thought to have died around 49,000 years ago. The highly fragmented bones showed they had all been swiftly killed and their bones and skulls were split open to extract brains, tongues and even bone marrow!
Furthermore, no evidence of fire was found so it seems a raw meal was the order of the day. This gross activity wasn’t totally out of character for Neanderthals. For example, archaeologists have found more instances of Neanderthal cannibalism, although this is by far the largest. In short, it seems they didn’t hesitate to use each other as a food source if they needed to.
8. Mass Grave of Shackled Young Men
The disturbing sight of 80 skeletons, many of them shackled and with their jaws agape, was unearthed by archaeologists in an ancient Greek cemetery.
A lot of doubt and speculation surrounds their death. But one plausible explanation for their execution is that the skeletons were once followers of Athenian noble Cylon. Cylon attempted a coup in 632BC but failed miserably. Although he escaped, historical record tells us that all Cylon’s followers were indeed executed.
The skeletons have been dated to between 650 and 625 BC and they appeared to be young people in good health. They weren’t just thrown into the ground like common criminals either, they seem to have been buried with respect. To sum up, these factors make it pretty likely that this theory could be true.
7. Vampire Burials in Bulgaria
Archaeological excavations have discovered that Bulgaria is home to many vampire burials. In the Balkans during the Middle Ages, vampire superstition was widespread. Because of these beliefs, people sometimes took preventative measures to stop the dead from rising as vampires and disturbing the living. Indeed, this was the case for people who suffered unusual deaths, particularly when it was death by suicide. In Perperikon, one man in his 40s was found to have an iron rod hammered into his chest to pin him in place. Moreover, his leg had been removed to immobilize him.
Moreover, other skeletons have been found with metal objects staked in their ribcages near where their hearts should be or even through the solar plexus.
One such vampire was Krivich, the cruel ruler of the Sozopol Fortress. He was found with an iron bar piercing his chest to prevent him from terrorizing the town after his death.
6. 100 Dead Babies
The only thing that could be scarier than dead prehistoric creatures or dead humans is finding dead babies. About 100 baby skeletons were discovered by archaeologists in a sewer in 1988.
The sewer was under a Roman bathhouse in Ashkelon, an ancient seaport on Israel’s Mediterranean coast. A mass baby grave is something you should never have to hear about. Sadly, this scary archaeological find was the largest discovery of deceased infants in the one place. The infant bones were forensically tested and it was found that these babies all died when they were less than 1-week old, yet had been healthy while alive.
There is a theory that these were unwanted children born to either laborers or prostitutes who worked at the bathhouse. Shockingly, newborns were not viewed as entirely human in Roman times.
This explains why they were discarded in such a careless manner, although it’s still difficult for us to imagine today.
5. Alien Skulls in Mexico
Finally, proof of alien life has been discovered! Well, not really. Residents of a small Mexican village, called Onavas, were building an irrigation canal in 1999 when they found an ancient pre-Hispanic cemetery. Within, they found skeletons with strange elongated skulls.
It would be easy to get hysterical and say these skulls belonged to aliens. The truth is, it’s evidence of the practice of cranial deformation which was done to some children while they grew up in Central America. The elongated, pointed skulls were achieved by binding wooden boards to children’s heads. That exerted enough pressure to impact how the skull grew.
Sometimes, the teeth were also filed into unusual shapes. Treating children in this way somehow seems way scarier than seeing aliens, right? So, why was it done? Well, it’s not known why this group in particular did it. But other societies have used it for rituals or to form distinctions within or between social groups.
4. Frozen Sacrificed Children – Llullaillaco Volcano, Argentina
Imagine searching a shrine and discovering children who had been sacrificed and frozen to death, forever preserving their tale! This is exactly what happened in 1999 in a shrine near the summit of Llullaillaco volcano in Argentina.
It seems around 500 years ago these three unlucky children were chosen for the Incan sacrifice ritual called Capacocha. Archaeologists have named the younger children LlullaillacoBoy and Lightning Girl. 13-year-old, Llullaillaco Maiden, is believed to be the most important of the three, for she was adorned with elaborate braids and a feathered headdress.
For a year before their death, the children were part of elaborate ceremonies and fed the food of the elite. Sadly, they also consumed much maize beer and coco leaves, leaving them drunk and drugged for much of the time. It seems likely this was to keep them compliant for their impending deaths which were meant to appease the gods.
3. Genocide Pit at Sacred Ridge
At a Native American settlement called Sacred Ridge in Colorado, archaeologists were going about their merry business of cataloging artifacts when they realized that the group of 22 pit homes were covered in pieces of spattered, mutilated human bodies.
And the weapon of choice? Well, this was easily deduced because they also found many bloodied double-headed axes. It turns out, around 1200 years ago,35 of the villagers had been hobbled, beaten about the ankles, had their faces crushed, were chopped up into pieces and burned. Oh, and they were scalped at some point in the horrifying process! This surprise massacre was carried out by the village neighbors. Why? It seems they were killed for their elite position.
This was an ethnically-distinct clan which had once exerted control over a couple of other groups at the Ridge’s Basin. And it seems those neighbours decided to overthrow them in axe-murderer fashion. Scientists are arguing over whether to call it genocide, ethnocide or just a run of the mill massacre. Whatever it’s called, a pit of slaughter is certainly up there for scary archaeological finds.
2. Modern Human Petrification
Warning. You may feel an intense urge to scream when you look at the modern humans petrified by the innovative yet scary, Doctor Segato.
Italian Girolamo Segato studied mummification practices in Egypt around 1820. He was obsessed with methods for preserving the human body. Moreover, he even came up his own method which was never documented. His method was so successful that the faces and bodies he worked on, appear to have turned to stone.
Unfortunately, he combined his scientific method with the art of grave-robbing. To carry out his obsessive petrification process, he covertly obtained newly-dead bodies from grave diggers and hospitals without the grieving family’s permission. His own tomb in Florence is inscribed: “Here lies decayed Girolamo Segato from Belluno, who could have been totally petrified if his art had not died with him”. Isn’t that a fitting end for a messed-up mind!
1. Screaming Mummies
As if we haven’t given you enough material for nightmares yet, here’s the scariest archaeological find by our book. And that is the unwrapping of Egyptian mummies who appear to have died screaming their lungs out. However, the reason for them appearing in this terrifying way is much less disturbing than first thought. You see, mummy-wrapping methods often lacked a secure tie around the jaw. As the body decomposed, the jaw would actually just fall open. One of the screaming mummies is referred to as Unknown Man E.
He was found in an un-marked sarcophagus in 1881. With no name on his sarcophagus, he was cursed to eternity, never to reach the afterlife. There is a theory about who this unlucky man was. It’s quite possible he was Prince Pentaware. He was disgraced for he was accused of plotting his father, the Pharaoh’s, murder. A CT scan of his remains shows he had some of the typical features of an Egyptian royal bloodline. Despite the respect paid to dead Egyptian nobles, their gaping jaws and contorted faces are forever preserved to scare generations to come.
Do you know of any other scary archaeological finds? Let me know in the comments. Also, if you enjoyed this article, please sign up to BeAmazed – we’ll be making more articles like this in the future! Thanks for reading!