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10 Most Amazing Ancient Mysteries
Published on 4/21/2006

Nazca Lines: landing strips for alien spacecraft?

The Nazca Lines are geoglyphs (drawings on the ground) located in the Nazca Desert (Peru). The drawings include a hummingbird, monkey, spider and lizard, to name only a few of the over 300 drawings. They were created during the Nazca culture in the area, between 200 BC and 600 AD.

The Lines were made by removing the iron-oxide coated pebbles which cover the surface of the desert. When the gravel is removed, they contrast with the light color underneath. In this way the lines were drawn as furrows of a lighter color.

Since their discovery, various theories have been proposed regarding the lines construction. It has been proposed by some (for example Jim Woodmann) that the Nazcan lines presuppose some form of manned flight (in order to see them) and that a hot air balloon was the only possible available technology. The most famous (and controversial) theory was put forward by Erich von Däniken, who proposed that the lines were, in fact, landing strips for alien spacecraft. Another theory contends that the lines are the remains of "walking temples," where a large group of worshipers walked along a preset pattern dedicated to a particular holy entity.

Ten Lost Tribes of Israel: still around us?

These are the ancient Tribes of Israel that disappear from the Biblical account after the Kingdom of Israel was totally destroyed, enslaved and exiled by ancient Assyria.

Since at least the 17th century (the time of Oliver Cromwell and Sabbatai Zevi) both Jews and Christians have proposed theories concerning the lost tribes, based to varying degrees on the Bible accounts. An Ashkenazic Jewish tradition speaks of the Lost Tribes as Die Roite Yiddelech, "The little red Jews", cut off from the rest of Jewry by the legendary river Sambation "whose foaming waters raise high up into the sky a wall of fire and smoke that is impossible to pass through".

There are also ethnic groups such as the Pashtun who traditionally claim descent from the Lost Tribes. British Israelism proclaims the idea that the British are the direct lineal descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. Also:

  • Bene Ephraim (from southern India) claim descent from the Tribe of Ephraim
  • Bnei Menashe (from northeast India) claim descent from the lost Tribe of Manasseh
  • Beta Israel, also known as Falashas - Some of this ancient group of Ethiopian Jews as well as several Jewish scholars believe they are descended from the lost Tribe of Dan, as opposed to the traditional story
  • Persian Jews (especially the Bukharan Jews) claim descent from the Tribe of Ephraim
  • Igbo Jews claim descent variously from the tribes of Ephraim, Menasseh, Levi, Zebulun, and Gad
  • The Lemba tribe (from South_Africa) claim to be descendants from a lost tribe which fled from modern Yemen and journeyed south.

    Delphic Oracle: predicted the future based on water and leaves?

    Delphi was the site of the most important oracle of the god Apollo. Delphi was revered throughout the Greek world as the site of the omphalos stone, the centre of the universe. The oracle at that time predicted the future based on the lapping water and leaves rustling in the trees. She sat on the Sibylline Rock, or in a cauldron shaped bowl on top of a tripod, breathing in vapors from the ground and gaining her often puzzling predictions from that.

    This oracle exerted considerable influence across the country, and was consulted before all major undertakings: wars, the founding of colonies, and so forth. The oracle is also said to teached Socrates of his own ignorance, and this claim is related to one of the most famous mottos: "know thyself". Another famous motto of Delphi is: "nothing in excess".

    Noah's Ark: could have carried that many animals?

    According to the Bible, Noah's Ark was a massive vessel built at God's command to save Noah, his family, and a core stock of the world's animals from the Great Flood. The story is contained in the Hebrew Bible's book of Genesis, chapters 6 to 9.

    The Ark had a gross volume of about 1.5 million cubic feet (40,000 m³), a displacement a little less than half that of the Titanic at about 22,000 tons, and total floor space of around 100,000 square feet (9,300 m²). The question of whether it could have carried two (or more) specimens of the various species (including those now extinct), plus food and fresh water, is a matter of much debate, even bitter dispute, between literalists and their opponents.

    According to one school of modern textual criticism—the documentary hypothesis—the Ark story told in Genesis is based on two originally quasi-independent sources, and did not reach its present form until the 5th century BC. The Ark story told in Genesis has parallels in the Sumerian myth of Ziusudra, which tells how an ancient king was warned by his personal god to build a vessel in which to escape a flood sent by the higher council of gods. Less exact parallels are found in other cultures from around the world.

    From Eusebius' time to the present, the physical Noah's Ark has held a fascination for Christians—although not for Jews and Muslims, who seem to have felt far less impelled to seek out the remains. There have been various and conflicted claims of Ark sightings, but they were all ultimately shown to be at best false, and at worst hoaxes.

    King Arthur: actually existed?

    King Arthur is an important figure in the mythology of Great Britain, where he appears as the ideal of kingship in both war and peace. He is the central character in the cycle of legends known as the Matter of Britain. There is disagreement about whether Arthur, or a model for him, ever actually existed.

    The historicity of the Arthur of legend has long been debated by scholars. One school of thought is that Arthur was a Romano-British leader who lived sometime in the late 5th century to early 6th century and fought against the invading Saxons. Other writers suggest that King Arthur should be identified as one Lucius Artorius Castus, a Roman dux of the 2nd century, whose military exploits in Britain may have been remembered for centuries afterwards. Another theory proposes that the real Arthur was Artur Mac Aidan, a war leader of the Scots and Brythons. By this theory, Artur was predominantly active in the region between the Roman walls — the Gododdin. Artur was never "king" per se, but rather the son of the Scottish king Aidan Mac Gabran, who ruled from about 574 AD. Another school of thought believes that Arthur had no historical existence, explaining that he originally was a half-forgotten Celtic deity that devolved into a personage.

    Ark of the Covenant: taken to heaven?

    he Ark of the Covenant is described in the Hebrew Bible as a sacred container built at the command of Moses, wherein rested the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments. The Bible describes the Ark as made of acacia or shittah-tree wood. It was a cubit and a half broad and high and two cubits long (about 130 × 80 × 80 cm).

    In contrast to the general consensus of historians (that supposes that the ark was taken away and destroyed), variant traditions about the ultimate fate of the Ark include the intentional concealing of the Ark under the Temple Mount, the removal of the Ark from Jerusalem in advance of the Babylonians (this variant usually ends up with the Ark in Ethiopia), the removal of the Ark by the Ethiopian prince Menelik I (purported son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba), removal by Jewish priests during the reign of Manasseh of Judah, possibly taken to a Jewish temple on Elephantine in Egypt, and the miraculous removal of the Ark by divine intervention (C.f. 2 Chronicles).

    Atlantis: disappeared into the sea?

    Atlantis is an ancient mythical island, whose existence and location have never been confirmed. The first references to Atlantis are from the classical Greek philosopher Plato, who said it was engulfed by the ocean as the result of an earthquake 9,000 years before his own time, which would be well into the most recent Ice age. Plato claimed it was somewhere outside the Pillars of Hercules, now known as the Strait of Gibraltar.

    According to Critias, 9,000 years before his lifetime, a war took place between those outside the Pillars of Heracles and those who dwelt within them. The Atlanteans had conquered the Mediterranean as far east as Egypt and the continent into Tyrrhenia, and subjected its people to slavery. The Athenians led an alliance of resistors against the Atlantean empire and as the alliance disintegrated, prevailed alone against the empire, liberating the occupied lands. "But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea."

    There have been dozens—perhaps hundreds—of locations proposed for Atlantis. Most of the historically proposed locations are in or near the Mediterranean Sea (islands such as Sardinia, Crete and Santorini), and locations as far as Antarctica, Indonesia and the Caribbean. The submerged island of Spartel near the Strait of Gibraltar is a proposed location which would coincide with some elements of Plato's account; location (just outside the Pillars of Hercules) and date of submersion (9000 years before Plato).

    Pope Joan: the female Catholic Pope?

    According to legend, Pope Joan was a female pope who allegedly reigned from 853 to 855. The Chronicon Pontificum et Imperatum, by Martin of Opava, states that "It is claimed that this John was a woman, who as a girl had been led to Athens dressed in the clothes of a man by a certain lover of hers. There she became proficient in a diversity of branches of knowledge, until she had no equal, and afterwards in Rome, she taught the liberal arts and had great masters among her students and audience. A high opinion of her life and learning arose in the city, and she was chosen for pope. While pope, however, she became pregnant by her companion. Through ignorance of the exact time when the birth was expected, she was delivered of a child while in procession from St Peter's to the Lateran, in a narrow lane between the Colisseum and St Clement's church. After her death, it is said she was buried in that same place."

    Pope Joan is regarded by some historians as an anti-papal satire, though it enjoys an air of plausibility due to certain elements related in the story.

    Garden of Eden: where was it?

    The Garden of Eden is described by the Book of Genesis as being the place where the first man - Adam - and woman - Eve - lived after they were created by God. The past physical existence of this garden forms part of the creation belief of the Abrahamic religions.

    The Genesis account supplies the geographical location of Eden in relation to four major rivers. However, because the identification of these rivers has been the subject of much controversy and speculation. Most put the Garden somewhere in the Middle East near Mesopotamia. Locations as diverse as Ethiopia, Java, Sri Lanka, the Seychelles, Brabant, and Bristol, Florida have all been proposed as locations for the garden. A substantial consensus now exists that the knowledge of the location of Eden has been lost.

    The Garden of Eden story recounts that God placed Adam and Eve in a garden, which they were to tend and which contained many plants they were to enjoy. God commanded them not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and they were expelled from the garden after they disobeyed Him, having been tempted by a serpent, and having eaten of the "fruit". The Tree of Life, also planted in the garden, was then denied them by means of a physical barrier, a cherubim and a flaming sword, at the entrance to the garden.

    Christianity associates the serpent with Satan, based on the correspondence between Genesis and Revelation. However, an early Gnostic Christian sect, known as the Ophites, turned this on its head, worshipping the serpent as the hero trying to impart gnosis, and casting God as the evil villain trying to imprison them in the creation of the demiurge.

    Knights Templar: had the Holy Grail?

    The Knights Templar, was one of the most famous of the Christian military orders. It existed for about two centuries in the Middle Ages, created in the aftermath of the First Crusade of 1096 to ensure the safety of the large numbers of European pilgrims who flowed towards Jerusalem after its conquest.

    The Templars were an unusual order in that they were both monks and soldiers, making them in effect some of the earliest "warrior monks" in the Western world. Members of the Order played a key part in many battles of the Crusades, and the Order's infrastructure innovated many financial techniques that could be considered the foundation of modern banking. The Order grew in membership and power throughout Europe, until it was charged with heresy and other crimes by the French Inquisition under the influence of the French King Philip IV and was forcibly disbanded in the early 1300s.

    The Knights Templar have become surrounded by legends concerning secrets and mysteries handed down to the select from ancient times. Most of these legends are connected with the long occupation by the order of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and speculation about what relics the Templars may have found there, such as the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant, or fragments of the True Cross from the Crucifixion.

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