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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 ...

Teotihuacan, 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.

Susana Gonzalez/Getty Images News/Getty Images
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.

The 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:

Google Maps
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).

Google Maps
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!

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The Giant Rock Monument Under the Sea of Galilee

In 2003, a team of Israeli archaeologists were conducting a seabed survey upon the Sea of Galilee, probably joking about awakening Cthulhu or something, knowing that it would just be a bunch of murky mud and blurry fish, like always. Then they found this, and the room presumably got real quiet:


So what? Is that supposed to be Godzilla's skid mark or something? How are we going to spin a darkish smudge into something ominous this time?


Because this is the zoomed-out version. Up close, you'd see that the harmless smudge up there was actually made up of thousands of meticulously arranged stones. This cone-shaped collection measures 230 feet in diameter, stands 39 feet high, and weighs at least 60,000 tons. This makes it roughly twice as big as Stonehenge and six times heavier than the Eiffel Tower. It's huge, ancient, on the bottom of the sea ... and not a natural formation.

It's hard to pinpoint a possible civilization that could have built this thing, since scientists say it could be anywhere from 2,000 to 12,000 years old -- which you may recognize as science-speak for "Hell if we know anything about this sumbitch." They at least reckon it was built on land and flooded after the fact, which is probably a safe bet until the Mermen inevitably rise up against us. We have no idea what its purpose was, either: One suggestion is that it might have been an artificial fish nursery, another theory notes a similarity with ancient European burial sites, and still a third insists it's Reverse Atlantis, destined one day to catastrophically rise from beneath the sea (that last one's ours).

Nan Madol


This is Nan Madol, a thousand-year-old ruined city near the tiny island of Temwen.

Temwen is home to only a few people, all of whom are scared shitless by Nan Madol. They refuse to visit it. To them, the city is taboo, evil, cursed, and, like, really far from any quality restaurants. Just not a good vacation spot, all things considered.

"That was the worst B&B I've ever stayed at. I'm Yelping this place into oblivion as soon as we get cell service."

Of course, that doesn't stop archaeologists, who have to fulfill an annual curse quota or risk losing tenure. They've been searching the massive ruins for a while now, taunting its various angry ghosts and trying to discover its origins. And yep, you guessed it: They basically have no clue. We know very little about Nan Madol. It was likely the seat of the Saudeleur dynasty, but why they built this implausible place, and how, remains a mystery. We know that the 200-plus-acre city is comprised of roughly a hundred tiny man-made islands, consisting of about 800,000 tons of building materials. Some of the individual boulders weigh over 50 tons all by themselves.

All of this makes precisely zero sense. It's a bunch of miniscule islands surrounded by water in every direction -- what's with all the friggin' mammoth stones? Archaeologists believe they came from neighboring islands, but that doesn't explain how. They've tried to replicate a possible method of transport by floating the blocks over on wooden rafts, only to have the rafts promptly sink -- because, y'know, 50-ton stones.

Man, ancient LEGOs were harsh.

The petrified locals, of course, have their own theories: They believe the blocks were levitated there by dark magic that pervades the place to this day ... to which Science laughed, and continued sinking boulders in the ocean.

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Goseck Circle: The Murder Observatory

Way back in 1991, local surveyors were going through aerial photographs of a sleepy German town called Goseck when they spotted something strange. It appeared to be a gargantuan circular ridge underneath a field:

Virtual Globetrotting
The German version of Signs is somehow even worse than the original.

And upon further inspection, it turns out that's exactly what it was.

Not exactly helpful information, we know.

It took German archaeologists 11 more years to conclude that the circle was the remains of an ancient observatory, roughly 250 feet in diameter, and with gateways pointed toward sunset, sunrise, and the north. Slightly more informative! Other than that, though? Not a goddamned thing. We have no clue who built this thing, or how (because "Steve" and "carefully" don't make the history books). The structure is at least 7,000 years old -- older than, well, pretty much anything else around, really. Our ancestors back then weren't even supposed to know how wheels worked, never mind how to build something so huge, elaborate, and purposeful. They were supposed to be a bunch of murderous savages bashing each other to pieces. And hey, would you look at that? They totally were!

This wasn't just an elaborate clock, after all -- archaeologists also found the remains of ritual fires and human bones with cut marks on them. This indicates that this circle was not just great for stargazing, but also for human sacrifice.

Ancient Germans did not kid around when it came to timeouts.

It makes sense: When you get bored gazing at the majestic stars, you can just do a 180 and take in a nice leisurely murder. So no, we don't know very much at all about the culture that built the circle; we do, however, know a bit about the people who revived it. In 2005, the Goseck people rebuilt the entire circle from scratch.

There's always room for more astrology-themed slaughter, apparently.

We're not saying that the Gosecks are still engaging in brutal and bloody death rituals in an attempt to raise some horrible and ruthless Space God; we just think it's a little weird that no Goseck tourism pamphlet denies it either.

N. Christie is currently traveling the world to determine once and for all what the Seven Wonders of the World really are.

Related Reading: You'd be surprised at the sort of thing people can keep secret- like the secret spire in the Chrysler Building. If impossibly impressive ancient creations are more your bag, check out the dam built in 750 B.C. that worked for more than 1,000 years. Ready for the exciting future of batshit crazy architecture? Click here.

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