Everyone knows about the giant stone heads (or Moai) of Easter Island. Less well-known, however, is that the Easter Islanders evidently possessed a written language, in the form of a hieroglyphic script called “Rongorongo.” This is itself a curiosity, as any form of written language was apparently unknown to the neighboring oceanic societies. Rongorongo has never been deciphered, in part due to the fact that Europeans who came to colonize the island banned the language, and destroyed most examples of it.



Helike was a city in the Peloponnesus mentioned by the Greek travel writer Pausanias in the second century AD. According to Pausanias, the city the capital of the Achaean League and a center of worship dedicated to the god Poseidon had been devastated by a powerful earthquake and tsunami which erased almost all traces of it in a single night. It was not until modern times that clues began to surface as to the precise location of the lost city, and in 2001 archeologists finally found its ruins of it in a lagoon.



The Carnac Stones are examples of ancient monument buildings that may share much in common with other megalithic sites and stone circles, the most famous of which is Stonehenge. The Carnac Stones, however, are some three thousand megaliths, set up in straight lines near the coast of northwest France, covering some seven miles. Neither the purpose of the stone lines nor the people who erected them are known. The myth says that they were a legion of Roman soldiers turned to stone; current theories run the gamut from astronomical markers of some kind to a kind of ancient earthquake detector.



Legend has it that a number of Roman soldiers escaped the defeat of the Roman general Crassus at the hands of the Parthians. These legionnaires supposedly went eastward and were said to have founded a town near the Gobi desert. There are reports in ancient Chinese records of an army fighting in the style of a Roman legion, and there have even been DNA tests done on local inhabitants in recent years to see if they were the possible descendants of this lost legion. The tests were inconclusive, indicating a possible European origin for some, but nothing more specific.



Over four thousand years ago, the island of Crete was inhabited by people who were known as “Minoans,” after the legendary king Minos, who was supposed to have ruled the Aegean at that time. The Minoans were contemporaries of the other great ancient civilizations of the Near East: Egypt, Sumer, Babylon, and the Hittites. Tradition says that they ruled a trading empire centered on the islands of the eastern Mediterranean and mainland Greece. They apparently lived in peace and in great security, as none of their cities that have so far been excavated show any signs of fortifications. What they do the show, however, is that the Minoans were highly sophisticated, artistic, and inventive people, clearly responsible for influencing the early Greeks who were their immediate neighbors. We know very little about them, however, because the few examples of Minoan language that have been found have proven undecipherable, and thus the Minoans are cloaked in mystery, and the greatest mystery of all is what brought their society to an end. We know that after about 1500 BC, the archeological record indicates that Crete was in the hands of mainland Greeks and the ancient Minoan styles of art and architecture come to an end. This date, interestingly enough, coincides with the date of a vast volcanic explosion on the island of Thera, which may have sent huge tsunamis crashing into Crete and blanketing the island with ash. It is theorized that Crete is the real “Atlantis” of legend, since so many of the circumstances surrounding it fit the story. But without a written record, we may never know what truly happened.



In the 1990s there was a discovery of some highly unusual two-thousand-year-old mummies in the Tarim basin of Western China. The mummies which were subjected to DNA testing were Caucasian in appearance, with blonde hair and long noses. The tests indicated that the mummies were true of possible European origin, despite being found in China. The mystery, of course, is who these people were and how they got there. Chinese texts dating back to the first millennium BC make mention of Caucasians living in the Far East, but their actual identity remains unknown.



The Indus Valley Civilization (also known as the Harappans after one of their cities was uncovered in an area of the same name in India) was an advanced culture that coexisted with the great civilizations of Mesopotamia. It’s believed that this society stretched from what is today Western India to Afghanistan, but they are largely shrouded in mystery since their language has never been deciphered. An archeological study has unearthed evidence of sophisticated sewage systems in their cities, as well as large, complex baths. To date, however, no one has ever found conclusive evidence as to what brought the Indus Valley Civilization to an end.




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