Sometimes, it’s hard to fathom the world is still a mysterious place. Humans have been around for over 20,000 years, yet much of the earth remains unexplored, and what has been explored can sometimes reveal startling mysteries.
These creepy archaeological finds leave researchers with more questions than answers. Not all creepy digs take place in strange, remote, or exotic places, either; the weird can appear in unsuspected, ordinary, and seemingly benign places. You’ll find mysterious manuscripts, supposed vampires, unsettling details regarding our hominid ancestors, and much more. So read on, and learn a bit about some eerie, strange, and downright shocking discoveries at archaeological digs.
In 1845, Sir John Franklin led two ships, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, on a voyage meant to chart the Arctic. Franklin had participated in two earlier Arctic expeditions, earning the title Commanding Officer. Unfortunately for Franklin, this expedition would prove to be his last.
The ships became stuck in ice - not an unforeseen event for polar explorers, but in this case, unseasonably cold summers meant they were trapped their longer than expected. In 1848, the crew mysteriously decided to leave their ships (which were still full of food) and undertake a desolate 1,000-mile trek to a trading port on Hudson Bay.
Research suggests the explorers may have suffered from a variety of maladies, including lead poisoning, starvation, tuberculosis, scurvy, hypothermia, and pneumonia, and these might have caused them to become deranged or confused, leading to poor judgment and the decision to walk away from their food stores.
Most shocking of all, cut marks found on several bones from the area suggest that the crew resorted to cannibalism for survival: "not only did the starving explorers cut flesh off the bones of their fallen comrades, they also cracked open the bones to suck out the marrow."
These "alien skulls” were discovered in a Mexican graveyard. At the site, researchers found a total of 25 children's skulls, 13 of which possessed strange malformations. Though they look alien, they are in fact the result of skull binding, an ancient practice in cultures around the world. Several also had dental mutilation, filing their teeth. It seems that many or all of the children may have died from failed attempts at cranial deformation.
The finding isn’t exactly new, but it is the first time the practice was discovered north of Central and South America. Often these unusual skull shapes were created by wrapping an infant's malleable skull between two boards. Over months or years, this would lead to a "cone-shaped" head. Archaeologists aren't sure exactly why this group practiced cranial deformation, though it's often considered a sign of elevated social status.
British archaeologists made a grizzly discovery in Oxfordshire when they uncovered 92 skeletons at Littlemore Priory, a medieval home for nuns. Their findings included a leprosy victim, a skull suffering from blunt force trauma, the remains of a stillborn baby, and a woman buried face down. Face-down burial was usually reserved for the wicked, and it's thought that the woman buried face down was either accused of witchcraft, or was considered a sinner in life.
Contemporary accounts accused the Littlemore nuns of "lewd" and "immoral" behavior including having sex with priests; these rumors caused the priory to be shut down in the early 16th century.
Researchers in Belgium discovered the remains of Neanderthals who had become a meal for someone else - and the likeliest culprits appear to be other Neanderthals.
Neanderthal burials are of special interest to researchers, since it appears our extinct relatives often engaged in complex burial ceremonies for loved ones. However, the remains of six individuals (including those of two children) bore “irrefutable” marks of cannibalism, according to archaeologists: "human bones from a newborn, a child and four adults or teenagers who lived around 40,000 years ago show clear signs of cutting and of fractures to extract the marrow within."