Ancient Artifacts
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10 Ancient Artifacts that are Shrouded in Mystery

Since the time humans started walking on earth, many civilizations grew, flourished, and ended. Left alone for decades, the proof of their existence slowly got buried under layers of sand and earth. Every now and then, archaeologists stumble upon many such objects that are reminiscence of those lost civilizations. These artifacts reveal a lot about the way our ancestors lived. But there are some ancient objects that peak our curiosity by keeping its secret under wraps. Here are 10 such ancient artifacts that are shrouded in mystery.


1. Dashka Stone

The Dashka Stone, also known as the “Map of the Creator,” is a controversial artifact, which some believe to be the guidelines used by the architect of the world. Some experts believe the stone map to be 120 million years old. Made from an aerial perspective, this map raises the question of how such advance technology existed in those times.

Dashka Stone
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The Daksha Stone was discovered in the Ural mountains in Bashkortostan, Russia on July 21, 1999. After discovery, the 907 kg stone was brought to Bashkir University, Russia, where it was examined by Alexander Nikolayevich Chuvyrov, Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Science, and his team.

The results achieved by examining the patterns on the Dashka Stone left the researchers stunned. Patterns on the stone show a highly accurate topographical map of Bashkortostan, Russia. It also indicates the location of Ufa, the capital of Bashkortostan. According to Chuvyrov, the map marks various waterworks, dams, and water intakes. The accuracy with which the map is created and the perspective indicate that it was created from an aerial view. That’s why it is also known as the “Map of the Creator.” Also, there are numerous inscriptions on the map which have not been deciphered yet.

Another intriguing fact about the Daksha Stone is that it is not entirely made of a uniform material. Rather, there are three layers. The first layer is of cement or a ceramic compound based on dolomite, the second layer is diopside glass enriched with silicon, and the third layer is made of a calcium-porcelain mixture. The three-layered composition of the Dashka Stone indicates that it was artificially made by an ancient civilization with both highly technical and cultural levels.  Some researchers insist that the stone is not artificial as the layering of one mineral over another often occurs in nature. According to them, the patterns formed over the stone is nothing but a random,  crystallographic effect.(1,2)

2. Baghdad Battery

The Baghdad Battery is a clay pot believed to be used for electroplating metal objects around 220 CE, but it is sometimes considered as a myth since there was no electricity during that period. Others suggest that they were just containers used to hold papyrus scrolls.

Baghdad Battery
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In 1938, German archaeologist Wilhelm Konig unearthed a clay jar while working in Khujut Rabu, outside Baghdad, Iraq. The five-inch clay jar contained an iron rod encased in a copper cylinder kept inside the jar. The vessel showed signs of corrosion. Upon examination, it was found that the vessel once held some acidic agent such as wine or vinegar. Konig hypothesized that the vessel functioned as a battery and was used for electroplating.

To understand whether the vessel can conduct electricity or not, many researchers have made replicas, filling them with grape juice or vinegar. The replicas worked and produced voltages from 0.8 to nearly two volts. But since no known use of electricity has been found during the period when these vessels existed, it is believed that they may have been used as a storage vessel for sacred scrolls.(1,2)


3. London Hammer

Discovered in 1936, the London Hammer is embedded in a limy rock concretion that is believed to be 400 million years old, but surprisingly the head of the hammer is made of iron that could have only be built with modern-day technology.

London Hammer
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In 1936, Max Hahn and his wife were out walking near Red Creek in London, Texas. Suddenly, they spotted a piece of loose rock from which a bit of wood was poking out. The intrigued couple took it home. About a decade later, their son broke open the rock exposing the hammerhead concealed within the rock.

The six-inch-long hammerhead consists of 96.6% iron, 2.6% chlorine, and 0.74% sulfur. It is similar to the tools manufactured in the region during the late 1800s. But when the rock was examined, it was determined to be over 400 million years old. This revelation posed a question: how can a modern artifact be stuck in an Ordovician rock? Some believe that the ancient concretion may have formed around the hammer due to soluble minerals.(1,2)

4. Klerksdorp spheres

The Klerksdorp spheres are small, spherical to disc-shaped objects, collected by miners from 3-billion-year-old pyrophyllite deposits. They are usually believed to be manufactured by intelligent beings, but geologists studying them have said they may have been formed naturally.

Klerksdorp spheres
Image Source: 1,2

Klerksdorp spheres are metal spheres found in various shapes, from flattened spheres to well-defined discs. The diameter of these spheres ranges from 0.5 to 10 cm, and some have concentric grooves running around the circumference. Found in various colors ranging from dark blue to various hues of red, these spheres are quite smooth.

Controversy about Klerksdorp spheres began when it was reported to be of a perfectly spherical shape which is believed to be unattainable at the time of its creation. So, it was reported that these spheres may have been created by an ancient civilization who were highly advanced in technology. Or else they could have been created by some extraterrestrial organism. But scientists have rejected these claims.

According to various professional geologists, Klerksdorp spheres were formed in volcanic sediment or ash, or both, and accumulated about 3 billion years ago. But some of the spheres are extremely balanced in shape and proportion, and the grooves around them look straight and hand-carved. So, it seems unlikely that these perfect spheres were formed naturally. Klerksdorp spheres are now kept in the out-of-place-artifacts category.(1,2,3)

5. James ossuary

James ossuary, the stone burial box, bears an inscription that states that it belongs to James, the brother of Jesus. The authenticity of the ossuary itself was generally accepted, but many scholars questioned whether all or part of the inscription was a forgery.

James ossuary
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The existence of the James ossuary, a 1st-century chalk box used for burial, was first announced to the world on October 21, 2002. The owner of the box is an Israeli engineer, Oded Golan. The most interesting part of this box is its inscription. The Aramaic inscription reads “Ya’akov bar-Yosef akhui diYeshua.” It means “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.”

A year after the public announcement of the James ossuary, the Israeli Antiquities Authority determined that the inscription was forged. A trial was conducted that lasted seven years. In 2012, Golan was acquitted of the forgery charges. But the judge made it clear that his ruling “does not mean that the inscription on the ossuary is authentic or that it was written 2,000 years ago.” If in future the inscription is proved to be authentic, then it would provide archaeological evidence for Jesus of Nazareth.(1,2,3)


6. Antikythera mechanism

Found in the sunken wreckage of a 2,000-year-old Greek cargo ship, the circular bronze artifact, Antikythera mechanism, contains a maze of interlocking gears and mysterious characters etched all over its exposed faces. Archaeologists believe it to be a highly intricate astronomical calculator, used as a navigational astrolabe or to keep track of dates of the Olympic games.

Antikythera mechanism
Image Source: 1 fragment of Antikythera mechanism,2 modern depictions of Antikythera mechanism

In April 1900, a group of Greek sponge divers found the Antikythera shipwreck near the Greek island of Antikythera. The divers retrieved a number of artifacts such as statues, pottery, coins, jewelry, glassware, and the mechanism. These artifacts were transferred to the National Museum of Archaeology in Athens. Upon analysis, archaeologists discovered the complex clock-like assembly of gears and dials in the mechanism. It also showed that it is actually an astronomical calculator that can predict lunar eclipses, solar eclipses, and even solar, lunar and planetary positions.

The most puzzling thing about the Antikythera mechanism is that the technology used in creating it is believed to have only been available about 1,000 years after its creation. The technology involved is so advanced that the device works as an analog computer. For a long time, archaeologists and historians have debated about the creator of this device and where it was created. It has been suggested that the mechanism was being transported from Rhodes to Rome along with other looted treasures before the cargo ship sank.(1,2,3)

7. Shroud of Turin

The Shroud of Turin, the 14-foot-long linen cloth bearing the image of a man and his wounds similar to that of those suffered during a crucifixion, is believed to be the cloth wrapped on Jesus after his crucifixion. A number of tests, carbon-dating and analysis, have been done to test the authenticity of the shroud, but all of them have increased the confusion rather than solving the mystery.

Shroud of Turin
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The Shroud of Turin is a 53-square-foot rectangle of linen that bears the image of a man alleged to be Jesus of Nazareth. It is one of the most sacred, religious artifacts on earth as millions of Christians believe it to be the actual garment wrapped on Jesus Christ at the time of his burial. In 1898, the shroud revealed an unexpected secret after an amateur photographer photographed it. The photographic negative revealed the image of a tortured body with signs of numerous wounds. Many of the markings are similar to the wounds of crucifixion, providing evidence for the belief that this is indeed the burial cloth of Jesus.

The shroud was partly damaged in 1532 during a fire in the chapel in Chambery, France. It was repaired by the nuns by sewing some patches onto the cloth. Later, carbon-dating on a piece of the shroud revealed that the material dates about a millennium later than the life and death of the Jesus. Many people believe that the piece that had been carbon dated was from the repaired patch.

Many other tests have been done to determine whether the marks are made from an artificial pigment or blood. Chemical analysis of dirt particles from the shroud, analysis of the pressed image of flowers and pollen and several others have been done. Various tests have given different results. But the origin and authentication of the shroud still remains one of world’s greatest unsolved mysteries.(1,2,3,4)


8. Voynich manuscript

The Voynich manuscript is a handwritten book coded in an unknown writing system, written in early 15th-century vellum. No one has been able to decipher the text, and some scholars believe that the book is simply a Renaissance-era hoax full of unintelligible words, while there are some who think the book’s text is written in an unknown language.

Voynich manuscript
Image Source: 1,2

When unopened, the Voynich manuscript looks like a normal book from the early 15th century. But once opened, the book reveals its mystery. Pages after pages are filled with handwritten text on vellum along with drawings, charts, and colored illustrations. The 5-cm-thick book contains 240 pages. The whole book is written in an unknown script that no living person has ever understood. For many decades, the Voynich manuscript has captured the attention of cryptographers all over the world.

The first half of the book contains drawings of plants. Scholars have named it the “herbal section.” But none of the plants look like any living plant found on earth. The next section of the book is the astronomical section. It contains many circular diagrams suggesting sun, moon, stars, and planets. Then comes the biological section depicting mostly small nude women bathing in pool or tubs connected by pipelines. The next section contains diagrams of an obscure nature which probably indicate islands or volcanoes. The last two sections are believed to be a pharmaceutical section and a recipe section.

The exact purpose of the book is not known, but it is believed to address pharmaceutical topics. Some people believe that no one has been able to decipher the text because the document does not serve any purpose and is a hoax.(1,2)

9. The Piri Reis Map

Created in 1513, the Piri Reis Map is a very old Turkish map of the Americas and the Atlantic Ocean that contains details some believe no Europeans would have known at the time, including the possible discovery of Antarctica, indicating the existence of ancient technological civilizations, visits by extraterrestrials, or both.

Piri Reis Map
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In 1513, cartographer Piri Reis and a Turkish admiral created a map that shows, among other things, Europe, North Africa, and many other places with reasonable accuracy. It was discovered in 1929 in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. Since then, it is a matter of wonder for researchers as to how a cartographer from the 14th century could create a map with such detailed accuracy.

The map shows Antarctica, but it is well known that the continent was discovered in 1818. Not only does it pinpoint the location of Antartica, the map also shows it in great detail, probably the way it looked before it was covered with ice. Scholars believe that this indicates that advanced knowledge was passed down from sea-faring civilizations, and was used by Piri Reis to create the map.

On the map itself, cartographer Piri Reis has inscribed that he had used various sources to complete this map. He mentions 20 source materials, among them are 10 Arab sources and four Indian maps sourced from Portuguese sailors. Basically, this map from 1513 depicts an astonishing amount of detail drawn from second-hand sources, possibly indicating it is a product of first-class naval intelligence.(1,2,3)

10. Phaistos Disc

The Phaistos Disc is a disc made of fired clay that contains mysterious symbols that may represent an unknown form of hieroglyphics. The symbols appear to be stamped on, which some believe represents the earliest evidence of printing. Although archaeologists believe it to be authentic, some scholars consider it to be forgery or hoax.

Phaistos Disc
Image Source: 1,2

On 3 July 1908, an Italian archaeologist, Luigi Pernier, found an intact, clay disc while excavating a Minoan palace on the Greek island of Crete. The large, umber-colored disc is about 15 cm in diameter and 1 cm thick and is named the ‘Phaistos Disk.” Both sides of the disc are covered in a spiral, circling clockwise towards the center. Within the spiral are many strange and unique symbols that appear to be pressed.

The inscription was created by pressing hieroglyphic “seals” into soft clay. The symbols portray many images such as a tattooed head, a child, an arrow, a helmet, eagles, cats, and others. Many attempts have been made to decipher the code, but none have been successful. The disc may have been used as a game board, an astronomical document, a story, an ancient prayer, a solar calendar, or in some other way. Experts believe that deciphering the code might remain unsuccessful as there is not enough context available to make a valid analysis.(1,2,3)


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