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15 Ancient Mysteries That Aren’t So Mysterious

I blame the History Channel. It used to be just the kooks who believed that extraterrestrials were responsible for anything in humanity’s past, or that amazing advanced ancient societies on islands disappeared leaving only a handful of artifacts in their wake. Now, with a supposedly fact-based network backing them up, a whole new generation of people are falling for the same old BS. Here are 15 mysteries that just aren’t so mysterious.

15. Nazca Lines

Just because you can see a shape from the sky doesn’t mean that aliens were involved. The Nazca Lines are honestly one of the most amazing pieces of land art that still survive, but no one thinks that Cerne Abbas giant in England has anything to do with extra-terrestrials. Maybe that’s because of its immense cock. Why is it so hard to imagine that the Nazca people made these sigils because they had religious significance to them, not because they were trying to signal passing UFOs? Yes, it’s a mystery exactly what they were used for, but so is a surprising amount of archaeology, especially regarding extinct religions. It’s an incredibly arid region, so there’s a pretty good chance that they were used for some sort of rain ritual. And all the cry about how you couldn’t have planned them without aerial help? BS. There’s evidence that stakes were placed at the ends of lines, and its been shown that these immense shapes could be made by just small teams using basic tools and knowledge.

14. Colonisation of the Pacific

For a long time, people were utterly bewildered by the colonisation of the Pacific, and how the whole area could have been inhabited in such a relatively short time period. I’ve seen some snake-fucking crazy explanations for how the islands were settled — from the lost tribes of Israel to the Egyptians. Here’s a much better and simpler explanation: the native Pacific Islanders were amazing fucking sailors. It’s what all the evidence points to. They started as the aboriginal inhabitants of Taiwan, and from there spread over the entire goddamn Pacific, until they eventually stopped when they ran out of Islands: Hawaii, New Zealand, and Rapa Nui. I’m sorry Thor Heyerdahl, it was not the South Americans which colonised the Pacific. All the evidence shows a migration from the west.

13. Building of the Pyramids

Once again, another classic “primitive man could never have done this!” spiel, which demands outside resources or alien help. Look, ancient people weren’t stupid, they just had different knowledge and tools. Yes, the Pyramids are incredible feats of engineering, and no, we don’t agree on the specifics of how they were built. However, there is ample evidence — historical and archaeological — to show that the Egyptians didn’t need no stinking ETs to do their work. They had tens of thousands of skilled workers — not slaves — either hired specially or else doing labor as a way of paying tax. They had mathematicians and architects. They had levers and machinery to help move the blocks. And most of all, they had decades in which to build them. There are few problems that can’t be solved just by chucking more man-hours at them — just ask China.

12. Mu/Lemuria/Atlantis

There are no sunken continents. You know why? Continents don’t fucking sink! That’s now how they work. Small volcanic islands? Yeah, they can sink — but not entire bloody continents. Not only that but this whole Atlantis thing is a pile of crock. It pops up in Plato’s Timaeus and Critias. They’re both filled with parables, stories, and outdated views on the world. The whole Atlantis thing is a story of a story of a story, and is anachronistic with much of the rest of the work. Nobody goes around saying Plato was right with his four elements views of the world, so why do we still cling to Atlantis?

11. Dropa Stones

Sungods in Exile was a book published in 1978 under the name David Agamon, alleging that the Dopa people of Tibet had extraterrestrial origin, and that the Dopa Stones had coded messages from the aliens. All the usual whackadoodles jumped on board, saying that these people must be aliens. Except the whole thing was a hoax, published under a psuedonym. None of the researchers exist, and the whole trick was just to pull the wool over people’s eyes. Anyone with even a lick of sense would notice the immense plotholes in the stories, such as completely fictitious Chinese names of researchers, photographs of artifacts that don’t match what’s being described, and the general scent of bullshit.

10. Lost Tribes of Israel

Around the 700BCE mark, the Kingdom of Israel got its ass royally handed to it by a number of invading kingdoms, who proceeded to take over the land and kick out most of the people. Because of this, 10 of the 12 acknowledged tribes of Israel kind of fell off the map, dissolved by slavery, death, and deportation. Now, there are plenty of far flung Jewish groups in Asia, Africa and around the world who believe they are descended from the lost tribes, and that’s all well and dandy and the validity of those claims is not mine to raise. Rather, it’s the fact that all through the 19th and early 20th Century, whenever some explorer found out about a new group of people or a monumental archaeological site, they automatically said “oh, it’s the lost tribes of Israel!” The lost tribes did not colonise the Pacific. They were not the Native Americans (sorry Mormons). They were not the Scythian, Kurds, Japanese or Irish. They probably moved and were absorbed into local populations, preserving their traditions wherever possible.

9. Starchild Skull

This 900 year old skull from Mexico is said to be a human/alien hybrid. Let me reiterate Occam’s Razor, “when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not unicorns.” See, there are a bunch of medical conditions which can cause severe malformations in skulls of children: hydrocephaly, brachycephaly and Crouzan syndrome all spring to mind, and all of which can make the head of a child look distinctly abnormal. Not only that, but DNA analysis shows that the skull was completely human. Hmmm...let’s see, which is more likely, a well known birth defect, or a secret ancient human alien breeding program?

8. Eltanin Antenna

What is this odd thing spotted on the sea floor of Cape Horn in 1964? Why that upright shape, those protruding arms, it must be some sort of antenna! Are the reds spying on us? Is it alien technology? The remains of an ancient technologically advanced race? Time travel? Or, it’s something strange that lives on the bottom of the sea. Face it, the ocean is filled with weird and wonderful creatures, all of which are perfectly natural, which are happy to blow our minds without requiring paranormal explanations. This is a Cladorhiza concrescens, a carnivorous sea sponge, which admittedly looks pretty odd, but so do many deep sea critters.

7. Klerksdorp Spheres

I will happily admit that the Klerksdorp Spheres are some of the coolest things imaginable. Found in a 3 billion year old rock deposit, they’re often claimed as the perfect example of an out-of-place artifact, and that anything that smooth or regular must have been made by human hands! Unfortunately, no cigar. They’re actually extremely old concretions, weird build-ups of sediment and ash that expand radially, sometimes growing in to one another. Similar things are found in ancient deposits in New York, Australia and Utah. Much of the descriptions of these are blatantly false, which lead many to believe that they must be crafted: claims that they’re made out of a non-natural alloy, or that they’re perfectly spherical. They’re natural, incredibly cool, and I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on one. But they’re not that mysterious.

6. Coso Artifact

Another typical “out-of-place artifact” example, easily explainable by science, but completely misrepresented by the wingnuts. Spotted in 1961 by a man hunting for geodes in California, he cut into it looking for crystals, and found a man-made object! Given that geodes are near half-a-million years old, how could something like this have existed 500,000 years ago? Except for the fact that it’s just a 1920s Champion spark plug, commonly found in the Model T and Model A Fords, with 40 years of concretion and crap built up around it. As the plug rusted, the iron bonded with materials in the soil around it, forming a hard shell. Oooh...mysterious!

5. Heavener Runestone/Kensington Runestone/American Runestones

Anytime you hear about a big runestone found somewhere in North America, chronicling the arrival of viking explorers, they’re almost always fakes. Anyone with a linguistic background in runes always manages to dissect them and show that they’re complete BS, filled with anachronistic language and improper construction — but that doesn’t stop people from clinging to them. I don’t understand why people are so taken by them. It’s not like we don’t have solid evidence for pre-Columbian contact in North America, especially in parts of Canada, they just didn’t stick around long enough to have a proper settlement. The Kensington, Heavener, AVM, and Elbow Lake runestones are all fake, sorry. You know what is cool, though? There’s some pretty good evidence of pre-Columbian contact in the form of Basque fisherman, who came to America to harvest the incredibly cod schools. They just didn’t tell anyone about their trade secrets.

4. Ica Stones

The Ica Stones popped up in the 60s from Peruvian physician Javier Cabrera, who claimed that these archaeological stones showed ancient peoples riding dinosaurs and using advanced machines. They caused quite a stir, and were used frequently by creationists to say “look, see, dinosaurs and humans living together! Flintstones...I mean The Bible...was right!” Except it turns out it was all a heaping pile of triceratops shit. The stones were all being provided by a farmer looking to turn a quick buck, who made the engravings on river stones then baked them in dung to make them look old, before selling them on for a huge profit. Every piece of analysis performed on the hundreds of stones he crafted shows that they’re all modern, and show none of the wear something thousands of years old would have.

3. The 1421 Chinese Expedition

Fucking Gavin Menzies. His stupid book 1421: The Year China Discovered the World is nothing but an expansive pack of lies, built on the back of supposition, a complete lack of understanding of archaeological evidence, and just bold outright bullshit. The ancient map? It’s from the 1700s, and not a copy of an older one, it’s filled with too many anachronisms that couldn’t have been used in the 1400s. Pretty much every piece of evidence Menzies tries to use is bullshit, and only supported by crackpots, and a complete missing of the point of what actually happened in any of the locations that he cited. He also fails to account for the fact that in the 1400s, China was the largest and most efficient bureaucracy on the planet which obsessively recorded EVERYTHING. Yet they only recorded this so called voyage as far as Africa — coincidentally as far as the evidence actually shows the fleet went.

2. Crystal Skulls

Sorry Lucas, sorry Speilberg, sorry Akroyd — the South American crystal skulls are not pre-Columbian. They were not made by some lost ancient art, nor are they alien. They do not demonstrate heretofore unknown ancient carving traditions, nor are they an unknown crystal type otherwise never seen. Crystal skulls do not feature in Mesoamerican mythology. What they are, is incredibly interesting pieces of crystal, carved in 19th century Europe, and sold to gullible antique collectors for a huge sum. You know how we know? The teeth were all carved using a modern rotary drill, which we can tell from the grooves it left. The crystal has also been sourced to a type that is only found in Madagascar and Brazil, of which none has been found in Mesoamerica. Where it is found commonly is the jewelry workshops of the German town town of Idar-Oberstein, renowned in the late 19th century for their work with this stone.

1. Antikythera Mechanism

Finally, lets finish up with something that isn’t mystical, isn’t alien, isn’t magical. Something that turned out to be exactly what we thought it was — namely one of the most badass pieces of ancient engineering ever discovered. The Antikythera mechanism. Dated somewhere between 150 and 100 BC, this ancient calculator was an astronomical clock, used to calculate solar, lunar and astronomical cycles, as well as when the next Olympics were due. It’s a piece of unparalleled work, with stunning miniaturisation, exactingly made cogs with perfect teeth, and an accuracy that blows my mind. The ancient Greeks didn’t need time travellers or aliens to make this. They needed incredibly dedicated intellectuals and engineers who created a machine of incomparable beauty and design. And that is exactly what they had.

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