It's a running theme here at Cracked that a lot of what we think we know about history has been filtered through many centuries of utter bullshit. Our image of the past is largely made up of Hollywood inventions, propaganda and uneducated guesses.
So you will probably be surprised to find that...
We get so busy being amazed by the Pyramids, with their massive, meticulously layered sandy golden bricks, that we forget that what we're seeing are the broken-down remnants. If you could see them new, you'd barely recognize them. They were much more awesome back then.
What we think of today as the Pyramids are really just the exposed layers of the structural base. The original pyramids lit up like the Times Square of ancient Egypt. Egyptians were all about having the maximum amount of glittery goodness, especially when it came to death.
Pharaohs liked tacky shit? We would have never guessed.
And since the Pyramids were the tombs of the pharaohs, they made sure they were the biggest, most sparkly things of all. The original outside consisted of smooth, white limestone that hid the layers of brick, giving the effect that a pyramid was one giant solid piece. Don't take our word for it; you can still see bits of that decorative layer on some of them:
That outer crunchy candy shell was then polished until it was on the verge of blinding from all the light it would reflect from the sun or moon. It was said that they could be seen from miles away, even during the night.
Of course that wasn't enough, so the capstone was then plated in gold or electrum. Had the technology existed, we're sure the pharaohs would have stuck 24-inch chrome rims on them, too.
Why We Picture it Wrong:
What we're looking at today are the equivalent of sports cars that have been long forgotten in some junkyard.
Weather and time have been beating down the pyramids for four and a half thousand years. Well, partly it was time, but mostly it was assholes. Those shiny layers of white and gold? They were stripped off and used in the construction of Medieval Cairo, and there are cracks and holes where 19th century treasure hunters tried to get in with pickaxes and in one unfortunate case, dynamite.
Oh don't worry about it looters, those were only the greatest architectural accomplishments of the Ancient World. We're sure what you needed the stuff for was way more important.
Sure, the T-Rex may be the go-to killer dinosaur, but everyone who's anyone knows that Velociraptors were the real baddest asses of prehistoric times. Cracked Paleontologists theorize that if it wasn't for a giant boulder shot from outer space wiping them all out, Velociraptors would be ruling the planet today, only keeping humans around for food and sport.
"We'll give you a two minute head start."
These deadly beasts of yore looked like miniaturized Tyrannosaurs, but sleeker, quicker and more dangerous. The dinosaur Kobe to the T-Rex's Shaq, if you will. Anyone who's seen Jurassic Park has a pretty good idea of what Raptors looked like. Well... except for one minor detail.
"We hope it's not something that makes us look totally lame!"
They had feathers. Not just a few here and there either. But a full on, honest to goodness coat of teeth-to-tail FEATHERS.
Now, it would be awesome if this meant they could fly, but obviously if they could do that, you'd already damned well know about it. No, it turns out Velociraptors were just big fluffy looking lizards, who most likely used the feathers to show off to other raptors, or in mating rituals. Apparently Raptor ladies were impressed if you looked like the bastard offspring of a komodo dragon and Big Bird.
Velociraptors: Preening douchebags of the thunder lizard kingdom.
Why We Picture it Wrong:
We actually didn't know about this until 1998, when a bone proving the extent of quill knobs on Velociraptors was discovered, and many a childhood ruined.
Here's to hoping they do a Star Wars-style special edition for Jurassic Park, with updated, more accurate CGI dinosaurs. That should be goddamned hilarious.
Quick, what do you picture in your head when we say, "Ancient Greece"? If you're like most people you either picture lots of dudes standing around in togas, or white marble statues with no pupils in their eyes:
"Colorful clothes are for gangbangers and homosexuals."
Those ornate statues made of pure white marble, depicting the austere beauty and power of epic gods and heroes, have made quite an impression on history. Renaissance sculptors carved their own marble statues based on the belief that that's how the ever wise Greeks did things.
Ancient Greece looked more like someone crashed their LGBT pride parade into a Mardi Gras Festival.
Recent studies using the awesome powers of lasers and shit (no, seriously!) have found that once completing the iconic marble statues and buildings we know today, the Greeks covered them head to toe in bright primary colors. Greek sculptors worked together with painters to come up with psychedelic patterns and colors to make their statues and buildings pop.
So in the midst of all that theorizing and philosophizing, the Greeks were also really focused on making sure their day to day life looked like the album cover of Magical Mystery Tour. Oh, and you know the iconic Parthenon? Based on the way buildings were painted back then, it was most likely an eye-searing mash of bright yellow, red and blue.
Why We Picture it Wrong:
As years passed, like with the Pyramids, the primitive paint used on the statues chipped and wore off, so when they were rediscovered by later civilizations, they appeared in their all white form. And frankly people just liked the idea of the all white marble look.
Even so, archaeologists knew that the statues used to be painted, since there were ancient records showing people painting the damned things. However, people simply preferred to display the plain white statues, since they looked more like something made by the founders of Western civilization should look like, in the minds of many scholars. Pure, clean, capturing the shape and essence of scientific accuracy and artistic beauty--whereas the painted versions kinda looked like something you might have made during middle school art class.