I do enjoy a good mystery, and history is full of them. I think what fascinates me most about the following mysterious things/places is the unanswered questions and controversies that surround them:
One of the most famous prehistoric sites in the world, Stonehenge is located in Amesbury, Wiltshire, in southern England. It is believed to have been built in several phases over a period of about 3000 years, with the circle of stones being completed in the final phase. Some sources estimate that it took more than 30 million hours of labor to construct it. Of the more than 900 stone rings dotting England, Stonehenge is the most famous.
But who built Stonehenge? And why?
The White Horses of England
This picture is the White Horse of Uffington, Oxfordshire, England. It is 360 feet long, and was carved from chalk bedrock about 3000 years ago. Best seen from the air, the White Horse of Uffington is one of seven such horses cut into the chalk downlands of Wiltshire, and is said to be one of the oldest.
OK, this one admittedly is a stretch, but it tickles my fancy nonetheless. Atlantis was first referred to by Plato in two of his dialogues: Timaeus and Critias - the only know written record referring specifically to a lost civilization called Atlantis. Legend describes it to be an island in the middle of the Atlantic, which sank "in a single day and night of misfortune" after its people launched a failed attempt to invade Athens. This leads, of course, to the 2000 year old debate:
Was Atlantis real? Or, is it merely fiction?
One of the most famous, yet least-visited, archaeological sites in the world, the ancient name of this island is Te Pito o TeHenua: "The Navel of the World." It is the world's most remote inhabited island, sitting in the South Pacific Ocean. The over 800 moai on the island are enormous stone monolithic statues, each in various stages of completion. They are an average 14 feet tall, and weigh an average of 14 tons apiece! Only 7 moai face the sea - the rest face inland - and most were carved between AD 1000 and AD 1650.
But, why were they made? Who carved them? Why do they face the way they do?
"The Lost City of the Incas," Machu Picchu was created at the height of the Incan Empire. Situated on a mountain ridge above Urubama Valley in Peru, it was built around 1450, then abandoned about 100 years later and forgotten for centuries. It wasn't until 1911 that it was brought to worldwide attention, by an American historian named Hiram Bingham. Machu Picchu is invisible from below, and completely self-contained. The city is listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
Located outside Cairo, Egypt, the Great Pyramid was completed in approximately 2580 BC, and is the largest of the three pyramids in the Giza Necropolis. Its base is a nearly perfect square. It is the largest pyramid in Egypt, and was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3800 years! The Great Pyramid is made of over 2.4 million stone blocks, and is the only remaining member of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
How was the pyramid built with such precision?
The Great Sphinx
Near the Great Pyramid, the Great Sphinx reposes. Measuring 241 feet in length, 20 feet in width, and 65 feet high, it is the largest monolithic statue in the world, and the earliest known monumental sculpture. The Sphinx is believed to have been built in the third millenium BC, but recent studies suggest it may have actually been built thousands of years earlier. After the Giza Necropolis was abandoned, the Great Sphinx became buried up to its neck in sand. Excavation efforts were begun in around 1400 BC, but it wasn't completely released from it's sandy tomb until the period from 1925-1936.
Is the Sphinx really thousands of years older than we thought? Who was the real-life model for its face? And what really happened to the nose?
- - -
Well, all this talk of ancient mysteries has got me thinking of a few modern ones. I won't need to Google these - they're all sprung straight from my (sometimes) crooked brain! Check back tomorrow for a post all about some Modern Mysteries That Fascinate Me...