ARCHAEOLOGY

History's mysteries: 10 great archaeology puzzles

From lost people and places to mysterious objects, unexplained buildings and strange sculptures, our own history is itself a world of mystery. 

Harrison Ford Indiana Jones idol.jpg

Archaeologist and explorer Harrison Ford plummed the mysteries of the past in the 1981 film, "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Many intriguing archaeology puzzles remain unsolved.
Lucasfilm Ltd.

King David's Palace?

Archaeologists in Jerusalem claim to have uncovered two large buildings fit for a king -- Biblical King David, that is.

But not all historians agree; one group even argues that King David was no king at all.

Over the past year, archaeologists have excavated a site that they believe to be the fortified Judean city of Shaarayim, where David smote Goliath as described in the Bible. But is it?

Sky View/Hebrew University/Israel Antiquities Authority

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The Lost Colony

In 1585, explorer John White traveled to Roanoke Island, and made a map and other drawings of the island. In 1587, a colony of 116 English settlers landed at Roanoke, led by White. He left the island for England for more supplies but couldn't return again until 1590 because of the war between England and Spain. When he came back, the colony was gone -- lost in the wilds of a young America. Read more

AP Photo/British Museum

Roman Dodecahedron

Roman Dodecahedrons

It’s been called a war weapon, a candlestick, a child’s toy, a weather gauge, an astronomical instrument, and a religious symbol -- just to name a few. But what IS this mystery object, really? There are books and websites dedicated to properly identifying it, dissertations dedicated to unveiling the truth, textbooks and class curriculums spent arguing over what its function is. Fans can even “Like” it on Facebook. Yet the only thing historians will agree on is a name for the odd object. Read more

Portable Antiquities Scheme / British Museum

Leonardo da Vinci's "The Battle of Anghiari"

A Lost Da Vinci Work?

Researchers may have discovered traces of a lost mural by Leonardo da Vinci by poking a probe through cracks in a 16th-century fresco painted on the wall of one of Florence's most famous buildings. The latest findings still leave much mystery in the hunt for the "Battle of Anghiari," a wall mural painted by Leonardo in Florence's storied Palazzo Vecchio, and possibly hidden behind a fresco decades later. Read more

AP/National Geographic

Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript

Written in "alien" characters, illustrated with sketches, and dating back hundreds of years, the Voynich Manuscript has puzzled cryptographers, historians and bibliophiles for centuries. Has the mystery finally come to an end? A businessman from Finland named Viekko Latvala, a self described "prophet of god," says he has decoded the book and unlocked the secrets of the world's most mysterious manuscript. He described it as "sonic waves and vocal syllables." Read more

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

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Legend of Atlantis?

The volcano that may have given rise to the legend of Atlantis has awakened, researchers say. The cataclysmic eruptions at the Greek isle of Santorini about 3,600 years ago that spewed forth about 9.5 to 14.3 cubic miles (40 to 60 cubic kilometers) of lava devastated the ancient seafaring Minoan civilization, potentially inspiring the legend of the lost city of Atlantis. After a 60-year lull, Santorini awakened in January 2011 with a swarm of tremors, each magnitude 3.2 or less, new GPS research has revealed. Read more

NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

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The Mystery Sea Beast of Cincinnati

Is it animal, vegetable or mineral -- or something else entirely? The collective brainpower of several dozen scientists is unable to unravel the mystery of a strange beast nearly half a billion years old, tentatively nicknamed “Godzillus.” Ron Fine, an amateur paleontologist from Ohio, found the fossil of a very large, very mysterious "monster" that lived near Cincinnati 450 million years ago. But no one can explain it. Read more

Unniversity of Cincinnati

Nazca Lines in Middle East

The Nazca Lines

They stretch from Syria to Saudi Arabia, can be seen from the air but not the ground, and are virtually unknown to the public. They are the Middle East's own version of the Nazca Lines — ancient "geolyphs," or drawings, that span deserts in southern Peru — and now, thanks to new satellite-mapping technologies, and an aerial photography program in Jordan, researchers are discovering more of them than ever before. Read more

David D. Boyer

Copiale Cipher

The Copiale Cipher

A computer scientist recently helped crack the Copiale Cipher, a mysterious cryptogram bound in gold and green brocade paper. The 250-year-old coded document revealed the inner workings of an 18th-century secret society. After trying 80 languages, the team realized Greek and Roman characters in it were actually meant to throw them off, deliberately planted to misread readers. With the aid of statistics and algorithms meaningful emerged: “Ceremonies of Initiation,” followed by “Secret Section.” Read more

University of Southern California and Uppsala University

lost landscape of atlantis?

Lost World Beneath Atlantic?

Buried deep beneath the sediment of the North Atlantic Ocean lies an ancient, lost landscape with furrows cut by rivers and peaks that once belonged to mountains. Geologists recently discovered this roughly 56-million-year-old landscape using data gathered for oil companies. "It looks for all the world like a map of a bit of a country onshore," said Nicky White, the senior researcher. White and colleagues suspect it is part of a larger region that merged with what is now Scotland and may have extended toward Norway in a hot, prehuman world. Read more

R A Hartley et al.

History's mysteries: 10 great archaeology puzzles

From lost people and places to mysterious objects, unexplained buildings and strange sculptures, our own history is itself a world of mystery. 

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