Ten Unsolved Ancient Archaeological Mysteries
Over the years, Ancient Origins has reported on thousands of archaeological mysteries that have not yet been solved. Here we have chosen to highlight just ten of these ancient enigmas, from lost labyrinths to enormous geoglyphs, stone masonry with exceptional precision, mysterious figurines, and giant spheres. Perhaps one day we will find the answers to some of the questions posed by these intriguing sites.
“This I have actually seen, a work beyond words. For if anyone put together the buildings of the Greeks and display of their labours, they would seem lesser in both effort and expense to this labyrinth… Even the pyramids are beyond words, and each was equal to many and mighty works of the Greeks. Yet the labyrinth surpasses even the pyramids.”
These are the words of ancient Greek historian Herodotus written in the 5th century BC (‘Histories’, Book, II, 148), describing a colossal temple said to contain 3,000 rooms full of hieroglyphs and paintings. It was named ‘Labyrinth’ by the Greeks after the complex maze of corridors designed by Daedalus for King Minos of Crete, where the legendary Minotaur dwelt. Yet today, nothing remains of this supposedly grand temple complex – at least not on the surface.
Although the words of Herodotus have frequently been drawn into question, the detailed and consistent descriptions of the labyrinth from multiple sources indicate that it is a place that did indeed exist in the ancient past. In fact, in the last century, great gains have been made in identifying its location, culminating in the latest Mataha expedition , which has used the highest level of technology to finally unlock the secrets of the lost labyrinth. The researchers have faced numerous obstacles, but it is hoped that excavations can be launched in future in order to potentially shed light on one of the greatest mysteries of antiquity.
One of the great mysteries of antiquity, is the final burial place of Alexander the Great. Ancient historian Diodorus wrote that Alexander’s body was mummified and placed in a golden sarcophagus, which was then placed in another golden casket and transported on a wagon to his burial site, which was said to be the Temple of Amun at Siwa in Egypt. However, Ptolemy, a close friend of Alexander’s and a general in his army, is reported to have met the cortege on its route from Persia to Egypt and proposed to bury Alexander in Alexandria instead of Siwa. But is this really what happened all those years ago? To this day, the burial site of Alexander the Great has never been found. If and when it is, it is anticipated to be among the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time.
Located in the arid Peruvian coastal plain, some 400 km south of Lima, the geoglyphs of Nazca cover an incredible 450 km 2. They are among archaeology's greatest enigmas because of their quantity, nature, size and continuity. The geoglyphs depict living creatures, stylized plants and imaginary beings, as well as geometric figures several kilometres long. The startling feature of the Nazca geoglyphs is that they can only really be appreciated from the air, raising questions about how and why they were created.
Extensive underground networks and even entire cities have been found all over the world. Derinkuyu in Cappadocia in Turkey is probably the largest underground city that has been discovered to date. It spans more than 8 levels going as deep as 80 meters with more than 600 entrances to the surface. In Egypt, the Giza Plateau has an enormous underground system that is a combination of manmade caverns and tunnels as well as subterranean rivers and passages. In Guatemala, 800 kilometres worth of tunnels have been mapped underneath the Mayan pyramid complex at Tikal. In 1992, 24 man-made caves were discovered in China, displaying incredible craftsmanship that would have involved the excavation of 36,000 cubic meters of stone. Archaeologists have uncovered thousands of Stone Age underground tunnels, stretching across Europe, perplexing researchers as to their original purpose.
Legends of vast underground cities being built to be protected by events on the surface appear in the myths and legends of multiple different continents from Egypt to America to China. Could that be the explanation for the thousands of tunnels, caves and underground cities around the world? Further research and exploration is needed to uncover just what these underground networks for used for, why they were built and by whom. Until then, their existence remains a mystery.