The problem with a lot of these so called unexplained mysteries and objects is the only point of reference we have is the present day which can leads us to all sorts of false conclusions. Anyway as a variation on last May’s theme this time I’m looking at what’s alleged to be ‘6 Mysterious Historical Objects That Remain Unexplained!’ that have apparently baffled Archaeologists.
So here goes...
The Genetic Disc
It’s claimed this is made of an extremely strong material, that no one can fathom, and depicts the conception and development of an embryo in detail. There’s also suggestion the makers seem to have got the human head wrong, perhaps implying an alien origin. It would take an entire blog alone to unpack all the red flags around this ‘artefact’. So I’ll only give a brief summary of the most glaring holes in its story.
Firstly, there’s no account or record of the Genetic Disk ever being discovered. It’s claimed to have been found by Jaime Gutierrez-Lega in Columbia, but there’s no indication of who Jaime is, where in Columbia he found it or how? For all we know he could have bought in a gift shop at El Dorado Airport.
The disc is then said to have been taken to the Museum of Natural Sciences of Vienna, Austria, and studied by Dr. Vera M. F. Hammer, a Geologist who dated it to the Pre-Columbian Muisca-culture. The good doctor who does indeed exist, but is in fact a Mineralogist, who was asked to analyse some of the exhibits in the museums 2001 exhibition “Unsolved Mysteries” and concluded they, the disc included, were fakes, curiosities of nature or man-made artefacts that could be bought in any tourist shop. No statement of age or cultural period was given and the materials of which the disc is actually made suggest it is a man-made pressing. I’ll leave the final word on this on this one with Dr. Vera M. F. Hammer, “I don’t know who writes all that nonsense!”
The Tolima Artefacts
Golden Figurines found in South America, claimed to be one of the earliest models of airplanes. This one as is often the case is probably a form Pareidolia, wherein the mind perceives a familiar pattern of something where none actually exists.
Hundreds of these figurines have been found measuring between two to three inches in size, which are clearly highly stylised representations of fish, birds, insects, lizards and frogs, totally consistent with the artistic style of other Tolima artefacts. In fact you’d have to ignore the 90% that clearly represent animals and focus on the 10% that look vaguely like an aeroplane to begin to build a case.
Still not convinced? Then where are the remains of these planes? Where is all the stuff associated with flying planes? Where are the airports? Where are the production sites? What did these things run on? If Aliens flew them down, where did they come from, why did they visit Earth and why did they leave? Why is there no physical evidence left behind?
The Voynich Manuscript
The ‘weirdest manuscript ever unearthed’ full of undecipherable texts and symbols, bearing no similarity to the scripts of today, many cryptographers it's said have pondered over it.
One the more intriguing articles on this list, it first came to prominence in 1912 when eccentric book dealer, Wilfrid Michael Voynich, purchased the manuscript in 1912 and has resided at Yale’s library since 1969. The book is incomplete with some pages missing and others rearranged. Its age and history is uncertain, but it appears to date to around the late 15th Century. And while its code, assuming one exists, has never been cracked it’s also fair to say than many of those trying to crack it are people keen to prove their own particular theories about it rather than professional cryptographers.
One theory suggests a 16th Century hoaxer created the gibberish text using an encryption tool known as a cardan grille to con Emperor Rudolph II, another that it’s an "alchemical herbal" — a book of nonsense writing that quack doctors used to impress clients. A third that Voynich himself forged it.
Whatever the case it’s thought the horror writer H.P. Lovecraft used the manuscript as the model for the fictional work, The Necronomicon, something all Lovecraft fans should be grateful for.
The Giant Stones of Costa Rica
Perfectly rounded and polished, they have bewildered people all around the world. Discovered in the 1930's by plantation cleaners, no one knows where they came from, or when they were formed.
Far from being a mystery in June 2014, the Precolumbian Chiefdom Settlements with Stone Spheres of the Diquis was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Over 300 spheres have been found and are believed to have been placed in lines along the approach to the houses of chiefs, but their exact significance remains uncertain. The site also contains a settlement, a cemetery, and remains of monumental architecture and sculpture.
They appear to have been made by hammering natural boulders with other rocks, then polishing with sand. The degree of finishing and precision of working varies considerably. Many come from sites in the hills, several kilometres away from where the finished spheres are found, though some unfinished spheres also remain in the hills.
Not much of a mystery then, but sadly all that remains of the culture of a people wiped out by the Spanish conquest.
The Baghdad Battery
An Ancient Mesopotamian 13-centimeter jar, with a corroded iron rod protruding from the mouth, unearthed outside Baghdad. A copper cylinder found inside the vessel contained another iron rod, the friction of which it is claimed would have produced up to 1 volt of electricity.
Wilhelm König an assistant at the National Museum of Iraq authored a paper in 1938 offering the hypothesis that the ‘Baghdad battery’ may have formed part of a galvanic cell, perhaps used for electroplating gold. This interpretation is generally rejected today.
The design of ‘battery’ means the more it’s used the less well it works and several would need to be connected in series to produce a useful voltage, but iron/copper/electrolyte junctions are not particularly efficient. Additionally no similar ‘batteries’ have been found or the apparatus to connect them together. While all the evidence from the period the ‘battery’ is alleged to come from indicates gold plate was fire-gilded (with mercury).
The alternative explanation points to a storage vessels for sacred scrolls with the papyrus or parchment inside rotting away to leave traces of slightly acidic organic residue.
The Antikythera Mechanism
Speculated to be the world's most ancient computer will blow your mind with its complex working model. Historians believe that it was primarily used to deduce solar-lunar positions and was the foundation for computing technologies in the centuries to follow.
Unlike the Genetic Disk this is actually a real artefact whose use is known and understood. It’s also worth pointing out that the ancients were familiar with clockwork and steam mechanisms and used them for a variety of sophisticated purposes so this artefact is far from unique in that sense, although it’s one of the most sophisticated mechanisms of its time, the 1st century B.C.E.
It is indeed an ancient analogue computer and orrery used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses for calendrical and astrological purposes as well as the Olympiads, the cycles of the ancient Olympic Games. However it's not alien or supernatural in origin or beyond the knowledge of the era in which it was made.
In fact reconstructions of the device show that it was not particularly accurate, but was consistent with the sophisticated astronomical theories current in its day. Further research suggests although the engineering was remarkable for its era it was unable to match the design concept with considerable accumulative inaccuracies in manufacture of the gear trains, cancelling out many of the subtle anomalies built into its design.
Perhaps we should stop looking for supernatural explanations and simply marvel at the brilliant creativity, imagination, engineering skills and sheer ingenuity of our ancient ancestors even if the end product was something that actually didn’t work very well!