13 Of The Most Mysterious Places In The World: Part II
13 Of The Most Mysterious Places In The World: Part II
The ancient world is fascinating. With newer technologies and better investigative methods, archaeologists discover more about ancient civilizations than ever before. But what we know, is nothing compared to the mysteries that are left unsolved. Years, and in some cases, centuries after their discovery, these 13 historic sites still remain enigmas. By Rashmi Deshpande
#7 Teotihuacan, Mexico
Teotihuacan, “the place where god were created,” was a pre-Columbian city thought to have been established around 100 BC and may have lasted until the 7th or 8th century AD. The population of Teotihuacan is thought to have been around 1,25,000 or more–making it one of the largest cities of the world at the start of the 1st millennium. Home to multi-floor apartment compounds, it could have been the center of an empire and its influence is evident throughout Mesoamerica, especially at sites around Veracruz and the Maya region. Who were the inhabitants of Teotihuacan? Was it really as big and influential as experts believe? Was it really the greatest city in the Western Hemisphere before the Mayans and the Aztecs? We may never know! (pronounced ‘Teotiwakaan’)
#8 The Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
The pyramids of Giza are so familiar you’d be forgiven if you didn’t realise how unusual they are. At 481 feet (146 meters), The Great Pyramid of Khufu was the tallest construction in the world, till England’s Lincoln Cathedral came up in the 14th century. The Pyramids of Giza consist of the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of Khafre, the Pyramid of Menkaure and The Great Sphinx, which Egyptologists think is the head of Khafre. Smaller satellite edifices, known as “queens” pyramids, causeways and valley pyramids. Plenty of mystery remains about how ancient builders constructed the huge pyramids out of 2.5-ton stones.
#9 Cahokia, USA
At the confluence of the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers, between 1050 and 1200 AD, flourished a city that was over 16 square kms wide and home to about 20,000 people. Larger than London is today, archaeologists have discovered the remains of Cahokia, whose inhabitants drank caffeinated beverages and played a game called ‘Chunkey’. A wooden temple, Stonehenge-like structures in wood, burial mounds, a copper workshop and pottery have been discovered.
#10 Roopkund, Uttarakhand, India
Deep in the uninhabited Himalayas, at an altitude of about 5,029 metres (16,499 feet), is Roopkund, also known as Mystery Lake or Skeleton Lake. Surrounded by glaciers and snow-clad mountains, the shallow lake has a depth of about 2 metres, and is surrounded by the skeletal remains of hundreds of humans. Carbon dating and DNA testing has revealed that the skulls date back to 850 AD and closely match the DNA of Konknastha Brahmins from Maharashtra as well as locals, who were probably porters. The cold, dry and rarefied atmosphere has preserved the skeletons, some with skin and flesh still intact. Wooden artifacts, iron spearheads, leather slippers, and jewelery has also been found. A local legend tells of the king of Kanauj, Raja Jasdhaval, who went on a pilgrimage to Nanda Devi with his pregnant wife Rani Balampa, and their servants. They were all killed by a hail storm. Who were these people? Were there more than 300 people–the number of skeletons found there? Where did they come from and where were they going? Will this gruesome and tragic tale ever be resolved?
#11 Indus Valley Civilization, India & Pakistan
The Indus Valley Civilization, was, along with ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, one of the three great civilizations of the ancient world. Experts estimate the age of the civilization as more than 3000 years ago (some put it at 7000 BCE) and a population upwards of 5 million people, spread over what is today India, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. The civilization boasted of baked brick homes, with grand sidewalks, sophisticated roadside drainage, public baths, sanitation and water supply for each home (more advanced than in some homes in India and Pakistan); granaries, dockyards which supported an advanced maritime trade network, warehouses, metal workshops, which created bronze, tin, lead and copper tools; beautiful seals and jewelery. Despite its apparent sophistication, why did the Indus Valley Civilization fall? How did its people live? Who were they? Will we ever find out more? With more than 400 characters in their still-un-deciphered script, the mystery of this highly advanced civilization, still remains unsolved.
#12 The Turquoise Mountain, Afghanistan
One of the most tragic tales of the remains of a civilization lost due to looting, could possibly come from the valley of Jam in Shahrak district, Afghanistan. The Minaret of Jam, a beautiful tower with intricate carvings, built in the 1100s is all that remains of what might have been one of Afghanistan’s most mighty, and rich civilizations–the Turquoise Mountain, a lost medieval capital of Afghanistan. Preserved by the Taliban as a religious site, the area was looted by locals when the Taliban lost power. Legends of gold statues, gorgeous china, exquisite jewellery, beautiful artifacts, terracotta and porcelain pottery, may be true if what Rory Stewart, an Irishman who walked through Afghanistan during the American invasion, is to be believed. Destroyed by Genghis Khan a century after it was built, the civilization may have stretched all along the Silk Road to India. A Jewish cemetery was unearthed there, along with evidence of Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and other religious and cultural symbols. Will any of the treasure that have been looted and sold to private collectors in the West, ever be recovered? Will the mystery of the lost civilization ever be unearthed? Or has it all been lost to greed and time?
#13 Petra, Jordan
Built between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, between Hellenistic and Roman times, Petra was a major caravan centre for the incense of Arabia, the silks of China and the spices of India. Built by the Nabateans, an ingenious and enterprising civilization that pioneered a successful way to live in the desert, it is famous for its rock-cut architecture carved from pink stone, which has given it the name of Rose city. Established around 312 BCE as the capital city of the Nabataeans, it was introduced to the Western world in 1812 by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. Petra’s most elaborate ruin, is Al Khazneh, also known as ‘the Treasury’, which was rumored to have great riches inside. A massive amphitheatre is placed so skilfully that it brings the greatest number of tombs within view. Temples, tombs, multi-storeyed homes, an ingenious water management system and much more, makes it one of the world’s richest and largest archaeological sites set in a red sandstone landscape.