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Five Unsolved Mysteries of the Ancient World

3 years, 3 months ago
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by Taylor Leonard

For every known and understood event or circumstance of the past there are thousands obscured and likely lost forever. It may seem as though every passing century diminishes hope of finding answers to history’s strangest puzzles, but you never know what will be unearthed, decoded, or discovered in the years to come. As far as the ancient world is concerned here are the top five unsolved mysteries currently confounding the experts:

Culture of the Spirit Cave Mummy


In 1940 a married pair of archeologists exploring Spirit Cave located 75 miles east of Reno, Nevada discovered mummified remains originally dated at approximately 1500 to 200 years old. In the mid-­1990s, however, advanced techniques concluded the remains were in fact almost 9500 years old making it the oldest mummy ever discovered in North America.

Genome testing revealed the individual was of a different ilk than the area’s historical inhabitants and further investigation of the site revealed evidence of a​dvanced textile​technology thought unknown to humans at that time and place. These discoveries have led to speculation regarding an advanced civilization of the Americas lost to history three­ times older than ancient Egypt.

Purpose of the Great Pyramid of Giza


The oldest icon of human civilization to still exist, the Great Pyramid of Giza located within the greater Giza pyramid complex outside of Cairo in Egypt has been the source of seemingly unanswerable speculation and wonder for thousands of years. Efforts to properly study and preserve ancient Egyptian artifacts at the site have led to many of these mysteries being put to bed. However several remain which seem suspiciously too obvious to be left unexplained.

While it’s known that Egyptian pyramids in general were used for the tombs of pharaohs, temples devoted to them, or both, typical telltale signs of these uses are pockmarked with peculiarity when it comes to the Great Pyramid of Giza. The stone vault seemingly meant to hold the elaborate sarcophagus of the pharaoh is far too small for the job, meanwhile a nearby chamber of similar size holds no evidence of being used for much of anything at all. It’s also believed several chambers throughout the Great Pyramid r​emain unexplored,​ultimately leaving the true purpose of the structure still unexplained.

Origin of the Tarim Mummies


The Tarim Mummies discovered in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang have generated enormous archeological and anthropological interest since first starting to be discovered in the early­20th century. Anywhere from two to four thousand years old, preliminary physical examination of the specimens point to the mummies being of Caucasian descent.


Rumors persist regarding the origin of these individuals, with e​fforts by Chinese authorities​to downplay the discovery to help quell regional rebellion fueling several conspiracy theories. One suggests that the region was once a melting pot of ancient cultures, which suggests the Chinese have more in common with the wicked capitalist West than official Communist Party doctrine likes to suggest. Another is that the Tarim mummies represent an entirely unknown civilization consisting of migrants from Europe thriving in Asia during the late Bronze Age.

Death of Alexander the Great


To this day Alexander the Great​r​anks among the g​reatest conquerors​to have ever walked the earth, yet the Macedonian leader’s untimely death at age 32 remains shrouded in rumor and mystery.

History dictates the young general died of fever resulting from some unidentified disease ­ possibly the plague. However assassination has never been ruled out entirely, as such was not uncommon among the Macedonian elite during this time. If homicide were to blame for the death of Alexander the Great it would rank the most significant murder in human history in terms of its impact on civilizations far and wide for centuries to come.

Fate of the Lost Roman Legion


We know a lot about the ancient Romans compared to most other civilizations of antiquity. The reason is very simple: Romans were impeccable record keepers and loved to write about themselves the most and their enemies second. Therefore the mystery surrounding a Roman legion which completely and suddenly disappears from records in 120 AD is one which drives an intense amount of interest and speculation to this day.

Legio IX Hispana ­ “Spanish Ninth Legion” was a well­established and documented Roman fighting force starting in the first century BC. Assigned to battle rebellious locals in what is modern­day Scotland, 5​,000 legionnaires​marched north in the year 120 AD, away from Roman­controlled Britannia, and out of history forever. Annihilation by the enemy is likely, but Roman authorities and historians were not typically known to blacklist their losses from the record books; defeats were documented and analyzed to recalculate tactics and strategy. Therefore the true fate of the lost Roman legion remains a complete mystery.

Considering how hard it is to keep track of the truth across time it’s a miracle we know what we do about the past. However this begs the question: how much do we really know? Perceived realities about history could very well be figments of some anonymous imagination. While modern archaeology and anthropology do outstanding work in accounting for the bias of our ancestors and ourselves it may never be enough to learn it all. For no matter how far along we come in better understanding the ancient world, these far removed eras will remain mostly mysterious and unexplained.

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