“Discover how to visit the past and bring yesterday’s stories into our lives today”
Gillian Hovell, ‘Visitng Past’
We can only guess what sort of bizarre and terrifying ‘treasures’ from long-gone ancient civilisations are still hidden in crypts, caves and deep within the earth. Between important archeological findings researchers occasionally unearth evidence of the darker side of humanity – cannibalism, sacrifice, mass murder, deadly paranoia and other disturbing aspects of mankind history.
When you dig into the ground, you never know what mysteries you might uncover.
Altamura Man, Neanderthal who fell down sinkhole 150,000 years ago starved to death and FUSED with its walls
This is the Neanderthal who became immortalised after suffering a brutal death. The body – found in the walls of a cave in southern Italy – was discovered by experts in 1993 in Lamalunga, near Altamura.
The skeletal remains have become fused to the walls, with the body believed to have been badly injured – possibly after starvation upon falling down a sinkhole. Since being discovered, scientists debated whether or not the body was that of a human or Neanderthal.
But experts are now able to answer that question after extracting a part of the shoulder bone for study. Researchers at Newcastle University, working alongside Sapienza University of Rome and University of Firenze, discovered that the DNA matches that which belongs to other Neanderthal remains. One of the palaeoanthropologists leading the study, Giorgio Manzi, said: “Altamura Man is an incredible treasure for the Alta Murgia territory.
“We hope that this fossil skeleton will become a key for a virtuous combination of scientific research, protection of our heritage and its promotion and development.”
Murdered Bog Bodies
The peat bogs of northwestern Europe have turned out to be one of the richest sources of ancient human remains in the world, preserving bodies so perfectly that they sometimes still contain blood and stomach contents. ‘Bog bodies‘ such as the Grauballe Man, pictured, date from 8,000 B.C.E. to the early medieval period. It seems that these people were not buried in the peat bogs, nor did they simply die there – they died violently. Researchers believe they were most likely sacrificed, or executed as punishment for crimes or perceived flaws.
Dozens Of Shackled Skeletons Were Found In Athens
Three dozen skeletons were found in recent excavations near Athens to have been shackled and buried in a mass grave along with several dozen more people. Archaeologists have suggested these may relate to a coup attempted by a man named Cylon (or Kylon) in 632 BC. When his attempt to take over Athens failed, his followers were all executed. Unfortunately, the historical record from the 7th century BC is incredibly spotty — other than the coup of Cylon, there’s information on the laws of Draco. But that’s pretty much it.
Archaeologists narrowed down the date of the mass grave, according to the Greek press, to the “third quarter of the 7th century BC.” Unfortunately, the international media doesn’t seem to understand how dates work BC. The press release sent out by AFP through PhysOrg, Yahoo News, and other outlets translated this to 675-650 BC, and this date was picked up by outlets such as the Washington Post. But the third quarter is not 675-650 BC. If it were, the archaeologists’ suggestion that the skeletons relate to Cylon’s coup makes no chronological sense at all. Rather, the third quarter of the 7th century is actually 650-625 BC. Which fits in fine with the Cylon coup.
This uncovered grave has the potential to tell us quite a lot about the rise of the city-state of Athens. Maybe it involved the coup of Cylon, and maybe not. Regardless, Phaleron will undoubtedly change our view of ancient Athens and fill in the spotty historical record of the 7th century BC.
Fire Mummies of the Philippines
Scientists believe these mummies were first created sometime by the Ibaloi tribe between 1200 and 1500 CE. What makes these mummies unique is the process by which they were made. Mummification began shortly before a person died, where they would ingest a very salty drink. After death, the body was washed and set over a fire in a seated position, thus drying the fluids. Tobacco smoke was blown into the mouth to dry the inside of the body and internal organs. Finally, herbs were rubbed on the body. It’s estimated that the entire process could take weeks, sometimes months, to finish. They were then buried in the caves. The practice died out in the 1500s when Spain colonized the Philippines.
Today, the mummies are left in their natural caves with relatively little security and have been designated as one of the 100 most endangered sites in the world. Officials know of between 50 and 80 other mummies, but they will not give their locations for fear of vandalism. A small museum in Kabayan also displays a few mummies.
The Aztec Shrieking Death-Whistles
The Aztec death whistle, sometimes described as “the scream of thousand corpses” is a frightening sound indeed. The skull-shaped whistles, discovered only 20 years ago by archaeologists, were dismissed as toys or burial trinkets. THAT IS, until someone decided to blow into one and… oh my god that horrifying sound came out.
Archaeologists and historians still aren’t exactly sure what the Aztec whistles were specifically used for. Some suggest the terrifying sound the whistles make were used as a weapon of psychological warfare to scare the shit out of their enemies. Imagine hundreds of these whistles going off at the same time. Horrifying, right? Others suggest these whistles were used as a sendoff to the dead during burial ceremonies or perhaps for human sacrifices.
The video below, lets you hear what a single Aztec death whistle sounds like and then imagines what hundreds of these things going off at once might have sounded like.
The Screaming Mummies
Imagine opening a sarcophagus to find a mummy that seems to be screaming for all eternity. In the past, when ‘screaming mummies‘ were discovered, archaeologists assumed that they must have been buried alive or killed in some other painful manner. Now, however, they usually agree that mummies are commonly found with their jaws open due to their heads falling back after death. The most famous screaming mummy is Unknown Man E, an Egyptian mummy found in 1886, who could be the murderous son of Ramses III. Another is even more shocking, with its hands covering its face in apparent terror; it was among the remains of the Chachapoya Indians of Peru.