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Historical Objects Most People Think Are Legendary But Actually Existed

July 22, 2020 8.2k votes 1.3k voters 83.9k views12 items

List RulesVote up the historical objects you thought were the stuff of fiction.

It's easy to dismiss spectacular, sordid, or powerful historical objects as mythical or the stuff of legends. Sometimes, items from history are presented as magical or aspirational, never even opening up the possibility of their existence.

However, there are a lot of mythological objects that are, in fact, real. The same can be said for legendary weapons, religious relics, or subjects of common turns of phrase based in historical truth.  

What have you heard about the real mythical objects listed below? Which blows your mind the most?

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  • 1

    Mary's Little Lamb

    More of a nursery rhyme than a legendary object, Mary and her little lamb both very much existed. "Mary Had a Little Lamb" is a story based on the activities of Mary Sawyer, a young girl in Sterling, Massachusetts, during the early 1800s.

    Unlike the children's tale, the real Mary rescued her lamb after its mother rejected it. Sawyer recalled how the little lamb "could not swallow," so she nursed it to health. After that, the lamb really did follow her around, even tagging along to school on one occasion:

    The day the lamb went to school, I hadn't seen her before starting off; and not wanting to go without seeing her, I called. She recognized my voice, and soon I heard a faint bleating far down the field. More and more distinctly I heard it, and I knew my pet was coming to greet me. My brother Nat said, "Let's take the lamb to school with us."

    Mary and Nat took the lamb with them, hid it until their teacher heard it bleat, and then took it outside.

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  • 2

    The Braveheart Heart

    Said to have been taken to the Holy Land during the 14th century, the heart of Robert the Bruce (d. 1329) was taken by his knights per his request. Robert the Bruce had vowed to go on a pilgrimage but, after realizing he would not live to make the trek, asked his friend Sir James Douglas to carry his heart in a silver casket to Jerusalem instead. 

    The embalmed heart of Robert the Bruce made its way into battle against Spanish Muslims (Douglas perished while in Spain), but never reached the Holy Land. It was taken back to Scotland and buried at Melrose Abbey.  

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  • 3

    The Hand Of Glory

    Severing a limb from a criminal has been a technique of deterrence dating back at least as far as the Code of Hammurabi (c. 1772 BC). At times, however, those discarded parts - especially hands - were used for nefarious ends.

    A "hand of glory" is purported to have magical powers. According to legends (of which there are many), after the hand is taken from a hanged criminal and dried, it can be used to cast spells or unlock restricted areas.

    When the hand is waved in front of people, they are rendered helpless, opening themselves up to thieves or some other violation or vulnerability. Sometimes hands of glory were used as candles, dipped in or fitted with wax derived from the fat of the body from which the hand came. 

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  • The Tower Of Babel is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Historical Objects Most People Think Are Legendary But Actually Existed
    Photo: Pieter Bruegel the Elder / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Described in the biblical book of Genesis, the Tower of Babel was a building constructed by humans in an attempt to reach the heavens. The Tower of Babel, as part of biblical narrative, explains the disunity and dispersal of humanity, with God endowing the builders with different languages to deter their task. 

    Archaeological evidence indicates a real tower once stood in Babylon. A tablet dated to the sixth century BC features an image of the tower, although exactly when it was constructed remains in question.

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