6 of History's Greatest Unsolved Mysteries

RealClear Staff


Do you have the answers?

Our futures are shrouded in mystery, but what about our pasts? Here are six of history's greatest, and as of yet unsolved, mysteries.

1. The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich manuscript is one of history's most infamous cryptographic texts. The book features an unknown language or code, further accompanied by ornate drawings of indiscernible plants, obscure cosmological diagrams, and a host of what appear to be recipes. Nobody has any idea who wrote it, what it means, or if it's even just a medieval version of nonsensical science fiction. The only thing that historians do know is that it is about 500 years old, and that it probably hails from Northern Italy.

2. Göbekli Tepe

While it's not particularly unusual to find structures built by ancient civilizations, it is baffling when architects find one as a old as Göbekli Tepe. This Turkish site has been dated back to 10,000 BCE, making it older than written language, the wheel, and even animal domestication and agriculture. This implies that the mysterious civilization responsible for Göbekli Tepe somehow had the time to construct it before humans had really figured out how to stay in one place. Why and how it was built remains a mystery, as well as why the people of that time chose to deliberately bury the whole thing in 8,000 BCE.

3. The Sea Peoples

The Bronze Age was a pretty great time for the regions of ancient Egypt. Art, architecture, literature, and medicine were just a few things that they were starting to really nail down. That is, until virtually every civilization in the area suddenly collapsed during the mid-11th century BCE. This societal destruction can be largely attributed to a group known only as "Sea People". This army famously pillaged most of ancient Egypt, but historians are entirely unsure of who they were. Even more mysteriously, they seem to completely disappear from history as soon as the area was reduced to ruins.

4. The Nuremberg Celestial Event

People living in Nuremberg, Germany saw something in the sky on April 14th, 1561, that UFO enthusiasts dream about. At daybreak, a host of shapes in eccentric colors "fought" amongst themselves in the sky for hours before mysteriously disappearing. At that moment, a giant black spear appeared in the sky, seemingly ending the conflict. Some believe that an alien battle played out over Earth, while others subscribe to the idea that it was just sunlight passing through ice crystals. It's hard to tell when this image is the only thing we have to go on.

5. The Antikythera Mechanism

The Antikythera mechanism is one of the most complex machines of its time. It's so complex actually, that historians are amazed that it even exists. Known as the "first computer", the Antikythera mechanism is a 2,000-year-old device used by Ancient Greeks to predict the positions of stars and planets with nearly perfect precision. Nothing as intricate had been seen before the Antikythera mechanism, and, for some reason, nothing as sophisticated would be seen again for 1,000 years.

6. The Dancing Plague of 1518

Dancing mania is a very strange, though very real, phenomenon that plagued parts of Europe during the the Middle Ages. The worst case occurred in Strasbourg, France, in 1518. Within the span of a month as many as 400 people had engaged in spontaneous dance. People actually died from heart attacks and exhaustion. Historians and physicians alike can't explain the causes of dancing mania, or why it seemed to suddenly stop during the 17th century. We just hope that whatever caused it never comes back.

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