Throughout our history, humans have produced some amazing things. From pyramids to rockets, our innovation and skills have been displayed in thousands of texts, monuments, buildings, and objects. But sometimes, we lose the context of these objects. What is left behind are articles that leave historians scratching their heads as they try to figure out what the artifact is or why it exists. Here are some such artifacts that stumped experts-
The Voynich Manuscript
Carbon-dated to the 15th century, the Voynich Manuscript is one of the most puzzling texts ever unearthed. Named after its Polish owner, the Manuscript contains over 200 pages full of illustrations and texts. But, the text is written in an unknown script. The only thing experts know is that it reads from left to right. The illustrations are mostly of plants and animals, but some seem out-of-the-world.
Some believe that the script is a code, and many cryptologists (including expert code-breakers from the first and second World War) have tried to decipher it, but have been unsuccessful so far. Many interpretations have been refuted on various grounds. This enigmatic nature of the document has caused many speculations, ranging from an elaborate hoax (perhaps by Voynich himself) to a lost diary of a traveler- from another world- who was busy recording the wonders of the Earth. Whatever the reality may be, it would be great to finally understand what the manuscript really contains.
The Harrapan Language
On the topic of mysterious languages, there is one that exists closer to home. Ever wondered why we know so much about the rules, economy, and society of ancient societies like Egypt and Mesopotamia but almost nothing about the Indus Valley Civilization? That is because we have decoded the languages of these cultures and understand them, while that of the Indus Valley remains a mystery. In fact, experts cannot even agree on whether the language is phonetic (sound based) or semantic (meaning-based). Given how short most inscriptions are, many states that the Indus script may not be depicting a language at all.
Most old and forgotten languages are deciphered with the help of bilingual inscriptions, which allow the comparison of the unknown language with the known one to understand words and their meanings. But in the case of the Indus script, no such text or inscription has been found. Till such a document becomes available or some other clue comes forward, we may remain in the dark about what messages the thousands of Harrapan seals carry, and what really was the story of the Indus Valley.
The Nazca Lines
The popularity and religious significance ascribed to the Nazca lines make them no less enigmatic. In my experience, historians tend to give religious significance to anything even vaguely weird. Having survived due to favorable climatic conditions, the Nazca lines are a series of geoglyphs (designs produced on the ground) in the Nazca desert of Peru. Some designs are simple geometric shapes, while others are more complicated depictions of animals or flora. They can be seen from airplanes or the surrounding foothills. Two main considerations about Nazca lines are important- one, how on Earth did they manage to make giant diagrams without an aerial view? Secondly, do the Nazca lines have anything to do with Aliens?
The first question is answered by calculations, surveys, and sheer luck and determination. Some suggest the Nazca culture (circa 500 BCE-500 CE) had some simple flying methods, such as a hot air balloon. The second question has more do with popular imaginations. As stated, many believe that religion, even though the most plausible, may be an inadequate explanation. Instead, they chose to believe that these lines are some sort of ancient come-hither alien call sign. It seems like the world’s understanding of these negative white lines will continue to change, both due to new evidence and evolving popular perceptions.
Nearly everyone has heard or seen pictures of the Stonehenge, the famous pile of prehistoric rocks in gold olde England. But what exactly is its purpose? And how was it built? If you don’t know, it’s fine- neither do the experts. Traditionally believed to be a burial ground, the Stonehenge is also associated with astronomy, sun worship, healing and of course, Aliens. Since it was created over five thousand years ago (circa 3000 BCE) by a culture that left no written records, precious little is known about it. The Stonehenge as it stands today is the product of many periods of activities and several falls, and it is suggested that the original monument could have been much larger, complex, and awe-inspiring.
Much of the head scratching is about how exactly the monument was constructed. To move such massive stones without any technology is almost impossible- bear in mind that the making of the Stonehenge probably started before the invention of the wheel. This is one of the few cases where extra-terrestrial aid actually seems plausible. Given that many theories seem to revolve around space and astronomy give fuel to this fire. But it is just as well likely that the ancients had techniques that they never wrote down. Experts regularly roll logs to rediscover such methods.
The Piri Ries Map
The timeline of the discovery of the world beyond Asia and Europe is heavily contested. Many claims that certain explorers have been wrongly credited with the discovery of the New World. The Piri Ries map, created by Turkish admiral and cartographer Piri Reis in 1513 is special in this context.
The map depicts the New World (North and South America) but then continues further down south to depict another landmass, which theorists believe is Antarctica, before it was completely covered in ice. They state that the map is an accurate representation of the coastline of Antarctica hidden beneath the ice. Since Ries used nearly 20 older maps (some maps were from the time of Alexander the Great, or even earlier) for his own map, many conclude that the map is an evidence of an advanced ancient civilization that conquered Antarctica way before 1818. Whether the map actually is proof or just a faulty copy of another faulty map is heavily debated. But if it is true, then the map could radically change our understanding of ancient civilizations.
The Al Ubaid Lizardmen
Apparently, 12 million Americans believe that lizard people are running the government. They may be right, but just off by 7000 years. Many historians today believe that the world’s first civilization was Mesopotamia in Iraq (circa 4000-3000 BCE). But it is the stone statues of the prehistoric Ubaidian period of this area that has confounded experts. Both male and female statues having slanted eyes, pointed faces, and padded shoulders. Some even wear adorable helmets.
Many cultures around the world- Indian, Japanese, Native American and South American- have talked in different forms about snakes, reptilian ‘people’, and their wisdom. So once again, the theories have shifted to conspiracies. Many see these old statues as evidence of a part-snake part-human race, who lived beneath the Earth while we humans populated the surface. But again, no convincing, solid evidence of this race has been unearthed. Since even religious explanation is refuted, these statues remain a complete mystery.
The most frustrating of artifacts seem to be those which came before a time humans used writing. These artifacts usually do not have any explanations, they just exist. In some cases, when a script is not understandable, the language itself becomes confounding. While historians give these artifacts religious meanings or simply shrug their shoulders, laymen tend to attach more fantastical explanations to them. But till more evidence is discovered, the alien theories are just as good as any.