Unsolved Mysteries From History

Unsolved Mysteries From History

Mar 26, 2020Peter File

Civilizations were born all over the world - from Egypt to China, from Africa to South America, different ancient civilizations emerged. At first, all of them are shrouded in mystery - and with the advance of modern technology, we are able to decrypt the messages left behind by our ancestors and understand what their life was like. However, there are mysteries that baffled scientists and archaeologists alike to this day - here are some of them.

The Tomb of Qin Shi Huang

According to Chinese history, Qin Shi Huang is the first emperor in China, who also united all the nations within the area, which then later became modern-day China. And like many powerful figures in history, he too seeks immortality, and thus, a gigantic mausoleum was built, with thousands and thousands of terracotta warriors standing guard, along with numerous deadly traps in place. While the tomb itself was unearthed in 1974, huge areas were undiscovered, due to the traps in place, and the vast size of the tomb. Who knows, maybe one day we can pinpoint Qin Huang’s exact burial location? 

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Nazca Lines

I guess many of you are familiar with this - the Nazca lines are geoglyphs that are drawn on the dry desert plains of Peru. Due to the enormous size of the symbols, they can only be seen above, in the sky. They are allegedly made by the Nazca culture between 500 BCE and 500 CE. While we are able to have an estimation of the period it belongs, scientists and archaeologists are still baffled as to how exactly it was done - after all, some of the lines are measured to be 1,200 feet long, and air travel is only made possible relatively recently. Perhaps they discovered aviation before us?

Jordan Stone Circles

Similar to the Nazca Lines, this is something that can only be seen from up above. The Jordan Stone Circles are a series of formations made out of stones that resemble various symbols. And they are scattered across the Middle East, from Jordan to Syria. Like the Nazca lines, they are of large sizes, about 1,312 feet in diameter. The motives behind these symbols remain unknown, as with the creation of it - how did people back then create such things without aviation assistance?


Clay figures are often found in archaeological expeditions, as clay has been widely used in different ancient civilizations. In Japan, there’s Dogu - clay figures of humanoid figures from Japan’s Jomon Period, a Neolithic era before the advent of rice cultivation. 18,000 of them have been unearthed approximately. However, what they actually represent remains a mystery - what are they exactly? Are they supposed to be clay figures of people? Of idols? Or perhaps species that we do not know?

Egyptian Pyramids

Ah yes - one of the Seven Wonders of the World - specifically The Great Pyramid of Giza. Known to the tombs of the Egyptian Pharaohs, Egyptian pyramids are estimated to be built between 3000-2000 B.C., and the Great Pyramid of Giza was believed to have been built between 2589 and 2504 BC. And given that it was built more than 5000 years ago, it still baffles scientists to this day as to how it was built - without machinery that we have today, it seems to be impossible to construct a structure of such immense size and complexity.

Baghdad Batteries

Electricity is a rather recent concept - it was only until the 19th century that electricity was discovered and widely put to use. However, in ancient times, specifically the Parthian period, between 250 BCE and CE 250, Baghdad batteries were created. It resembles a jar, with a metal core - and if it is filled with an electrolytic solution, approximately 1.1 volts can be generated. While electricity exists in nature, no one is quite sure how it was put to use in such times - for sure there’re no light bulbs to power?

Easter Island Statues

Now, something a bit more uplifting - you must have heard of the Easter Island statues. They are gigantic faces carved on rocks that stood on Easter Island. It has baffled researchers for years regarding the meaning behind the statues - also whether the placement of said statues has any specific meanings. Perhaps giants once lived there on the island?

Saksaywaman Fortress Walls

Back to Peru, apart from the Nazca lines, there are also notable mysteries that the ancient civilization left behind. One of them is the Saksaywaman Fortress Walls - they are constructed by large dry stone walls with boulders carefully cut to fit together tightly. Today it might be easy to simply lay bricks one on top of another, the boulders were natural rock formations unlike bricks, which are man-made to specifications. It still baffles researchers as to how they were able to carve stones so precisely so they fit together seamlessly.

Pyramids Around the World

Do you know that apart from Egyptian Pyramids, there are also other pyramids around the world? The majority of them are in Central/ South America, home of the Mayans. For example, there is the Pyramid of the Sun, in Teotihuacan, Mexico; or Mayan Pyramids of Tikal, in Peten, Guatemala. Though they might differ in appearance, and sometimes constructions, they are all products of ancient civilizations, long before the machinery we know of today was invented. It truly is a mystery as to how they were able to construct such monuments so many centuries ago.

Dashka Stone

The Dashka stone is, well, a piece of stone - but it isn’t an ordinary stone, as it contains a map of the Ural Mountains in Russia. It also depicts 7457 miles (12,000 km) of channels, several dams, among other things. Certain hieroglyphs were also found on it, believed to be related to an ancient form of Chinese. It was also composed of a few layers, thus indicating that it was man-made. It’s also a very accurate map, at a scale of approximately 1:1.1km. While it is possible to make a map back at the time, this level of accuracy is unbelievable.

Phaistos Disc 

The Phaistos Disk was discovered in Greece, on the island of Crete in 1908. It was made out of fired clay, with 241 tokens, and comprise of 45 distinct signs. After more than one century, scientists and archaeologists have yet to decipher the meaning and purpose behind the symbols - as it appears to be some sort of code. Dr. Gareth Owens, who attempted at deciphering the symbols - believed that the disk may contain a prayer to a Minoan goddess. But other researchers say otherwise.

Alexander The Great’s Burial Location

Unlike the other entries from this list, this one is very different - instead of physical objects/ buildings/ formations that were found, this is not found at all, which is the mystery itself. Alexander The Great was known as one of the best conquerors in history, whose empire stretched from Asia to Europe. However, despite his achievements, his burial location remained a mystery. Sources suggested that he was buried in Macedonia, his home country; while others claim that he was buried in Egypt. Guess we will never know.

Antikythera Mechanism

Hailed as the ‘Ancient computer’, Antikythera Mechanism is an analog device that contained gears and rings, as you would find in modern machinery. It was discovered during the spring of 1900, from a shipwreck close to the Greek island of Antikythera. While it’s exact usage remains inconclusive, researchers believed that it was used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses.

Amelia Earhart

Amelia was a great figure in modern history - not only that she was a great pilot, but she was also the first woman to fly across the Atlantic in history, breaking the stigma society has towards females. However, in 1937, Amelia, along with her plane and navigator, disappeared in thin air, on her flight around the world. No one knows where she went - being a skilled pilot who broke world records, again and again, her disappearance grabbed worldwide attention. However, to date, she remains missing, not even her plane was found.

D.B. Cooper

Dan Cooper, the man behind one of the biggest unsolved mysteries for the F.B.I. On 24th November 1971, a man purchased a ticket to Seattle, Washington. He then handed a note to the flight attendant that he was carrying a bomb in his suitcase, and demanded that she follow his directions. A note was then passed on to the captain, demanding a ransom of four parachutes and $200,000 in twenty-dollar bills. After the plane landed, he exchanged the hostages for the ransom he demanded - the plane then took off again, with a few crew members on board, to Mexico City this time. However, he jumped out of the plane mid-air, and was never heard from again.

The Dyatlov Pass

Hiking in the winter sounds like a daring task - more so if you do it in Russia. Such is the backdrop of the Dyatlov Pass mystery, a mystery that endured some 60 years, and remains unsolved. In 1959, a group of students from the Ural Polytechnical Institute embarked on a trekking trip in the North Ural mountains: Otorten and Kholat Syakhl. However, after a few days, they disappeared. Their bodies were recovered eventually - but all of them suffered from inexplicable injuries. On top of that, the tent seems to be cut from the inside, and they fled without shoes in the snow. All of these remain unexplained to this date.

USS Cyclops

The Bermuda Triangle has been the source of mystery for the last century - from lost planes to lost ships, it was known to be a place where things disappear. One of which is the USS Cyclops, the biggest US Navy vessel at the time. In 1918, during WWI, it was carrying around 11,000 tons of manganese, used in steelmaking. However, communication was lost shortly after, and no one would hear from this vessel again. To date, no wreckage nor any belongings from the ship was found. Imagine a gigantic ship as such vanishing in the sea, without a single trace, the mystery baffles us till this date.

Mary Celeste

Similar to the entry above - but this time from half a century ago, and though the ship was there, the entire crew was gone. In 1872, the 282-ton brigantine Mary Celeste set sail from New York Harbor to Genoa, Italy. Yet, less than a month later, it was discovered adrift about 400 miles east of the Azores, with absolutely no signs of the crew. However, the ship was well stocked with food and supplies, and the only thing that was missing was a lifeboat. What could have happened? A pirate attack? Or they spotted sea monsters on the way? Guess we will never know.

Romans Arrival In Brazil?

According to history that we know of today, Europeans first arrived in Brazil in the 16th century, led by Pedro Álvares Cabral. However, this discovery might change the way we perceive history. In 1982, Robert Marx, an archaeologist, discovered sunken artifacts off the bay near Rio de Janeiro - the jars resemble those used by the Romans in the second century B.C., thus a possible indicator that the Romans arrived way earlier than we thought, 17 centuries ago. It is also possible that the ship was drifting off course amidst the heavy storm, and somehow ended up off the coast of Brazil - perhaps one day we will find out.

Voynich Manuscript

One of the most mysterious books in history, the Voynich Manuscript was written in 15th century Central Europe, with beautiful yet illegible alphabets that were never seen in any other languages that we know of. Inside the book were texts of unknown meaning, and illustrations of plants and animals that are equally strange - something that does not exist in our world, basically. Since its discovery in the early 20th century, it baffled scientists and archaeologists all over the world - and to date, no one is able to decipher it. Since there had been attempts to do so - the result remains inconclusive. Interested in what it looks like? Here you go.

Flannan Isle Lighthouse

Nowadays, it is not that simple for someone to just disappear in thin air - thank god for modern technologies. However, before the arrival of the digital age, disappearances are somehow a common occurrence, and oftentimes, they are never to be found again. At the turn of the 20th century, three men were stationed at the Flannan Isle Lighthouse in Scotland - James Ducat, Donald MacArthur, and Thomas Marshall. Yet one day, when a ship was passing by, there was no light from the lighthouse, and the occupants vanished. There had been speculations as to what happened - from heavy storms to aliens...perhaps, one day we will know the truth.

Lost Colony of Roanoke Island

One of the oldest mysteries in America - the disappearance of the entire colony. In August 1587, 115 English settlers arrived on Roanoke Island, off the coast of what is now North Carolina. Later that year John White, the governor of the colony at the time, would sail back to England to stock up some much-needed supplies. Things took an unexpected turn, as a naval war broke out between England and Spain, and it was not until 3 years later that John White managed to get back to the colony. Things took an even stranger turn when he got back finally - there was no sign of the colony anymore, his family was gone, and the only thing that was left was the word “Croatoan”, carved on a wooden post. There had been multiple investigations, even in modern times, as to what happened - but results remain inconclusive.

The Tunguska Impact

Armageddon due to an asteroid collision might not be unheard of - it actually happened before, not that long ago. In 1908, seven o’clock in an ordinary morning, in the remote area of Siberia, a bright light pierced through the sky - then along came the wave that threw everything into the air, then there’s the heat… this is what happened in Tunguska at the time. After the blast, eighty million trees were on their sides, lying in a radial pattern, pointing away from Ground Zero… locals believed that to be the wrath of god Ogdy, though science points towards the possibility of an asteroid exploding mid-air. It was only years later than expeditions were able to reach ground zero of the impact, yet the force behind the blast remains inconclusive.

The Shugborough Inscription

The Shugborough inscription, another code waiting to be deciphered - this time in England, and luckily, it’s technically in Latin. At least some language that we know of. The Shepherd’s Monument is part of Shugborough Hall, in Staffordshire, England. At the monument, there is a relief, a three-dimensional version of The Shepherds of Arcadia, and the mystery lies below the relief - a series of letters - OUOSVAVV. There had been multiple theories as to the meaning behind the inscription - such as this. Some even believe that it might lead to the Holy Grail itself. Who knows, maybe it’s just instructing you to get another shrubbery, and cut down a tree with a herring.

Escape From Alcatraz

Alcatraz was once the most secure prison in the country, holding the most dangerous criminals, including the infamous Al Capone. There had been multiple escape attempts, but only one that actually made it out, as far as we know. On June 12, 1962, the routine early morning bed check started - but three inmates went missing: John Anglin, Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris were not in their room. All that was left in the room were dummy heads made of plaster, flesh-tone paint, and real human hair. To date, their whereabouts remain unknown - allegedly a letter was sent to the FBI by one of the Anglin brothers years later. This story also made it to the silver screen, starring Clint Eastwood - the name? Escape from Alcatraz (1979).

Rongorongo Writing of Easter Island

Rongorongo writing, found engraved on tablets on Easter Island, is yet another ancient language waiting to be deciphered. In the 19th century, ancient artifacts were retrieved from Easter Island - found engraved with some unidentifiable writing, or proto-writing, in the form of glyphs. Little is known about the content, and even the tablets themselves - the time period of the tablets is yet to be determined, Multiple attempts have been made to decipher the content, to no avail.

Dispilio Tablet

Linguistics is an interesting topic - different branches of languages intersect with each other throughout history, and at times created a new family of languages; though we have more or less established the structure of the linguistic families, there are still a lot of ancient languages we know very little about. The content found on the Dispilio tablet is one of them. In 1993, a wooden tablet bearing inscribed markings was retrieved in a Neolithic lakeshore settlement that occupied an artificial island near the modern village of Dispilio, on Lake Kastoria. It was carbon 14-dated to about 7300 BP (5260 BC). The origins of the markings are yet to be determined - speculations stated that it might be related to ancient languages in the middle east.

The Rohonc Codex

Another codex, waiting to be deciphered - similar to the Voynich Manuscript above, the alphabets/ writings used in the codex are unknown to us, and that’s what made it so difficult. The Rohonc Codex was discovered in Hungary in the 1800s, believed to be part of Count Gusztáv Batthyány’s personal library collection. Inside are some illegible texts, and picture illustrations of different events, supposedly depicting different religions - from Hinduism to Christianity. No one is entirely sure where the alphabets came from, some said it resembles old Hungarian script (known as székely rovásírás or székely-magyar rovás), while others say it resembles scripts from India.

Somerton Man

Though by the 20th century, science, especially in the field of forensics, has allowed us to accurately identify the cause of death, and establish different facts about the incident - however, there are cases that remain unsolved, despite the progress. The Somerton Man, also known as the Tamám Shud case, is an unsolved case of a diseased man, in Adelaide, South Australia. In 1948, a body was discovered - sharply dressed, on a beach, which is odd enough. However, there was no identification document, no dental records, no fingerprints match, and even the cause of death cannot be determined - a total stranger. The only evidence of interest, however, is a piece of paper found in the pocket - written on it “Tamam Shud”, which means “Finished” in Farsi. Everything is a mystery - there was even speculation that the man was a post-war spy.

Loch Ness Monster

Everyone must have heard of the Loch Ness monster - the monster of the lake. The Loch Ness monster is rumored to be a monster living in the famous lake in Scotland, and it has been the center of many tales and stories for decades. The first account of the sighting can be traced back to the 6th century, with the first written account in 565 A.D. The most iconic photo was taken in 1934, also known as the “Surgeon’s Photograph”. Much speculations existed throughout the last century, from an ancient dinosaur to a mere floating object - there had been heated debate as to the true identity of the Loch Ness Monster. Who knows? Maybe with new technology, we can find that out one day.

‘Wow!’ Signal From Outer space

1977 was a special year - Spain held its first democratic elections after the death of Franco; Saturday Night Fever came out; and of course, the premiere of Star Wars. But apart from that, something important also happened that year, something important to human civilization, potentially. On the 15th of August, Ohio State University's Big Ear radio telescope received a strange radio signal from outer space, a 72 seconds blast of radio waves. The discovery made quite a stir from the scientific world - some even believed that it could be the first contact from the extraterrestrials. Although the scientists claimed that it was likely caused by the comets at that time - guess we might never know.

Tomb of Antony and Cleopatra

Cleopatra, one of the mysterious figures in history - the Queen of Egypt, the romantic, the seductive mistress… an astonishing historical figure indeed. She has a very interesting life and made a mark on history as a peculiar character - which is too long to be included here, so you can refer to her life story here. While a lot of her life is known history, there is one mystery that remains unsolved - where was she buried? Or precisely - where was she and Anthony, her lover, buried? It was believed to be in Alexandria, in Egypt - but the exact location remains unknown.

MV Joyita

Sailing is a dangerous business - as the sea is normally a dangerous conquer, as illustrated in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Throughout the years, ships have met their untimely fate, swallowed by the sea. However, for MV Joyvita, it’s not the ship that vanished - but the crew and passengers on board. In 1955, the Joyita left Samoa’s Apia harbor - yet five weeks later, the ship was sighted, drifting off the coast of the north of Vanua Levu, with its crew and passengers missing, along with four tons of cargo. Despite certain mechanical failures with the ship, it was still operational - and the vanished crew and passenger remains a mystery. Why did they abandon the ship? And where did they go? Perhaps we will never find out. 

Here are the ancient mysteries that are unsolved to this day? What do you think? Do you think it was true that some of them are done with assistance from other civilizations? If you enjoyed reading this, why not share it with your friends?