Archaeologists, for the most part, aren't the intrepid adventurers Indiana Jones makes them out to be. Most of the time they just sit around, sifting through dirt and praying for something as exciting as a pointy stone. Hats and whips are only deployed when somebody's been naughty, or if their head is cold. But every now and again, archaeologists stumble upon something that defies normal logic and convention ...
5Teotihuacan, the Real Temple of Doom
Just outside of Mexico City sits Teotihuacan, a vast ruined city of pyramids and palaces. Teotihuacan is not its original name, but rather one invented by the Aztecs, who gave it a title that would dislocate the tongue of anybody trying to speak it in order to hide it from the civilized world. You see, the Aztecs did not build Teotihuacan, they discovered it ... 500 years after it had been completely abandoned.
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You don't want to climb this one without comfortable shoes ... also a flare gun.
So who lived there? How did they manage to build something so gargantuan and advanced? Why did they leave? Nobody really knows. The Aztecs couldn't comprehend how such a vast city had just appeared in the middle of nowhere, so they assumed the gods had built it (Teotihuacan literally means "place of the gods"). No other decent theories exist, since no writings have been discovered that would more realistically explain this incredibly ominous monolithic structure whose origins are shrouded in mystery. But if we had to venture a guess, we'd say Ganon is waiting in there for the Hero of Light to arrive.
UNESCO doesn't even advise looking at this picture without a blue potion and the Hookshot.
We know that Teotihuacan was a bustling metropolis (at its peak, there may have been up to 250,000 people living there) and that it was built to a strict urban grid system, much like New York City. But that's it: No writing or art exists to hint at who the citizens were. But judging by all the skeletons showing signs of human sacrifice inside one of the pyramids, you didn't exactly want to invite them over for a neighborhood barbecue.
"Can we bring anything? Buns? Coleslaw? A curse as old as time itself?"
This is one of many pits inside of the Feathered Serpent Temple -- an ancient artifact that finally lives up to its terrifying name. Archaeologists have discovered over 200 decapitated bodies in there, dating back to the construction of the temple and repeating with each new expansion. That's right: These poor souls died as part of a building's opening ceremonies.
As for what else the mysterious city full of corpses holds -- who knows? Only about 5 percent has been unearthed so far. Or, to put that more ominously, 95 percent of the city still lies buried -- waiting, waiting to see the light of day again. To be even more overwrought: No living man knows what is interred there, in the dark ...
But judging by their 200 headless corpse ribbon cutting ceremony, we're just going to take a wild guess here and say it's probably not going to be dried flowers and ancient jump ropes.
4The Works of the Old Men
You're flying across the desert when the pilot gets on the PA: "If you'll look to your left, you can see an undulating sheet of beige stretching off into eternity. On your right, you can see ... the same thing. Sand. Sand. Saaand-" and then he falls asleep and you all die buried in a dune because this is a terrible story. If only your hypothetical pilot had come across these:
A sepia-tone Clearasil ad?
That's what RAF pilot Percy Maitland stumbled upon during a routine mail delivery flight way back in 1927 -- strange wheel-like stone patterns up to 230 feet in diameter. And not just one, but hundreds of them. Thinking there was probably an easy explanation, he spoke to the local Bedouin tribesmen, who had no explanation to give. With hushed tones and fearful glances, they told Maitland the circles were "the works of the old men."
And that's how you start a horror story, folks.
You can see them for yourself on Google Maps. Seriously, click on that link and scroll around for a good long while and try not to get a little freaked out by the scale of the things (they're not always so tightly spaced -- just when you think they've ended, you'll find another 10 screens away).
Apparently "Don't Be Evil" is a hollow slogan, otherwise Google wouldn't be showing us this.
How, what, why ... we don't have any answers here. Archaeologists have studied thousands of images over the years and found no conclusive explanation for anything. It's unlikely that they're ruins of whole buildings at such scale and distance, although there is evidence of man-made structures here and there, and there doesn't appear to be any astrological alignment to the wheels' inner "spokes." They might be associated with burial rituals, but excavation has yet to take place. All we really know is that they are at least 2,000 years old, they stretch across hundreds of miles from Syria to Jordan to Saudi Arabia and possibly beyond, and some are grouped in large clusters, while others are more isolated. Nests of underground monsters? Alien launchpads? The remains of some sort of crashed space circus? Almost certainly, yes -- all of the above. At least until scientists explain that they're like a stupid erosion pattern or something.
But until then!