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Ask Indiana Jones, Lara Croft, and Nathan Drake: Archaeology is a fascinating discipline of hidden worlds, mysterious artifacts, and punched Nazis. But sometimes, in their excitement at having possibly discovered something, even the most stoic stubble-jawed professor can jump the gun and have his revolutionary new artifact turn out to be nothing more than a weirdly shaped rock. It's tragic, really: They punched that poor henchman's face into a plane for nothing.

The Bosnian Pyramids

Aleksandar Todorovic/Hemera/Getty Images

In 2005, amateur archaeologist Semir Osmanagic announced an incredible discovery -- he'd found five huge pyramids in Bosnia, just like the ones in Egypt, only much bigger. Because Europe doesn't really have pyramids, this was a huge deal, but on top of that, these would be by far the biggest pyramids on Earth, and the oldest.

But they're not just intriguingly pyramid-like from a distance. Closer inspection found the tell-tale signs of human construction.

Matt Lutton / Anarchy Images
All that delicious almond bark was a dead giveaway.

And a geologist was quoted as saying, "This is definitely not a natural formation." Given all this, Osmanagic received significant official backing and hundreds of thousands of dollars to unlock the mysteries of Bosnia's past.

Morten Hvaal
Most of which was spent on that outfit.

How did such enormous and ancient monuments go undiscovered until the 21st century? Well, they were so friggin' old that time had actually covered them in a layer of dirt and foliage so thick, they looked like regular mountains. Clearly we're talking about the houses of the Old Ones here.

The Truth:

Or else they were just regular mountains.

There's a reason Osmanagic is an amateur archaeologist. On top of searching the world for hidden pyramids, his other hobbies include claiming that the Nazis "escaped to a secret underground base in Antarctica" and preparing humanity for the "cosmic vibrations" that were supposed to elevate us to a higher plane in 2012. He's basically the Ancient Aliens guy. We're sure he has some very interesting theories about 9/11 and chemtrails.

Chris Clinton/Photodisc/Getty Images
Why do we get the feeling that "cosmic vibrations" was part of a pick-up line?

But that doesn't account for the fact that they really, really look like pyramids, right? There's the pointy triangle shape, the blocks that they're built from, and the fact that even regular archaeologists who aren't conspiracy theorists were fooled.

The answer is shockingly simple: The "building blocks" are just weak sandstones broken by tectonic stress to create the illusion of small blocks, and tougher stones are likewise broken into large blocks. It's all just natural stone with fissures and cracks, and it can be seen in formations across the world. Twelve thousand years ago, European man was capable of building only flimsy huts, as the actual archaeological evidence revealed, and which the Bosnian state, thankfully, acknowledged upon withdrawing funding. Governments are just like little kids sometimes -- they want to believe in the awesome fiction so badly that only when the X-Ray Spex show up in the mail do they begrudgingly admit they wasted their Popsicle money.

At least the kids would've enjoyed that they got a nice sledding hill out of the deal.

And as for the mysterious pyramid shape, well ... it's just a slightly pointy hill. Sometimes the world is kind of a drag, kids.

Rockwall, Texas


Rockwall is a town in Texas most famous for its annual chili competition. Oh wait, no ... hold on, let us consult our notes. Ah, it says here that Rockwall is most known for the nearby rock wall. Who could have guessed? Discovered at the town's founding in the mid-19th century, the long, partially buried wall of mysterious origin even contained what appeared to be rooms and windows.

"More windows! We gotta make sure we're taking advantage of this scenic view."

Further studies dated it as being constructed up to 100,000 years ago as part of a gigantic, ancient fortress of an enigmatic and unknown civilization. Good lord, Battlestar Galactica's shitty ending was right all along.

Rockwall Historical Foundation
The entire structure is somehow supported by deceptively weak plot points.

The Truth:

Despite a bevy of excited archaeologists feverishly speculating about ancient American cities from beyond time, calmer (smarter?) scientists have known since way back in 1909 that these are sandstone dykes -- basically fragments of sandstone filling in long cracks in the surrounding landscape.

Over time, heat and the movement of the Earth cause horizontal breaks in the stone, making it look like bricks. In the 1920s, the man-made theory was promoted by an acknowledged tomb raider named Count Byron Khun de Prorok (come on, he is clearly the villain of this piece -- there hasn't been a good count since Chocula). The Count had an agenda in mind from the second he stumbled across the wall: He wanted to link it with the fabled King Solomon's Mines. The excavations in the 1930s had been a prelude to opening the area up as a tourist site. And he would've gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for those meddling geologists and their rotten dog ... ged tendency to value facts over a good story.

Via Wikipedia
"I'm bored with this whole 'Promised Land' thing; let's go to Texas."

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The Underwater City of Japan

Robert Schoch

In 1987, divers off the coast of Japan found what appeared to be an underwater city, which has since been named the Yonaguni monument. It's a vast mess of pyramid-like structures, staircases, walls, pillars, and even an amphitheater submerged 80 feet underwater -- if you squint, you can almost see where an ancient merman carved "Slayer rulez" into that bench.

Kihachiro Aratake
"Seasons in the Abyss" was especially loved by Atlanteans.

Experts estimate the age of the monument to be up to 12,000 years old, and scarf-wearing archaeo-hipsters estimate the monument to be up to 12,000 times cooler than the sellout mainstream Atlantis. Numerous expeditions have been done, and huge press interest has been generated on a discovery that, if confirmed, could change everything we know about the origins of civilization.

The Truth:

Although Yonaguni really looks like a complete city with intact steps and walls, no actual artifacts have been found, and there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever of an advanced society being in the area thousands of years ago, much less one with scuba gear and a very poor sense of civic planning. When you look at some similar formations nearby, above the water, suddenly it doesn't look so mysterious.

Robert Schoch
But soak this baby and BOOM, 8th Wonder of the Ancient World.

The idea that Yonaguni is some kind of ancient city was championed by the author Graham Hancock, who writes books about bullshit lost civilizations for a living. There isn't a pile of three rocks in the world that Hancock hasn't declared to be the fingerprint of some mysterious lost people. The rest of the media are to blame here: The History Channel may not exactly be a serious source these days, but National Geographic gave credence to the idea, and Britain's Channel 4 gave Hancock a three-part series. We know it was a slow day on the programming slate, but come on, guys: That's no excuse for feeding pseudoscientists the press attention they require to keep from withering into a bunch of asshole-scented husks like the media vampires they are.

The Face in Canada

Google Earth

Satellite and air surveys have opened up many doors to archaeologists, enabling them to discover new Egyptian pyramids and map the origins of human settlements. And in 2006, it also led to an astonishing discovery by an Australian grandmother. Now, that descriptor sure doesn't sound like she's a credible expert on ancient civilizations, but honestly, we don't know enough about Australia to make that blanket statement. Or grandmothers, for that matter. So let's see what she found:

Google Earth
A Mesoamerican iPod ad?

This is the Google Maps view of some mountains in Alberta, Canada, spookily shaped to resemble a Native American complete with headdress ... and rockin' out to earbuds, apparently? While the discoverer herself never implied it was anything but a natural formation, it was a big hit with fellow "Google explorers" and received national attention, sparking the imaginations of the Native American Hillface conspiracy theorists, of which there are so many.

David Sacks/Photodisc/Getty Images
Seen here.

The Truth:

The Alberta face is just a quirky twist of erosion, and as unromantic as it sounds, those earphones are not evidence of time-traveling Native Canadian rock-sculptors. They're a road leading to an oil well. From the ground, it looks like what it is: a regular, unimpressive hill.

Via YouTube
Now that looks more like the thrilling Canadian landscape we know.

It's a prime example of pareidolia: seeing seemingly meaningful images (in this case, a face) in abstract forms. Software has even been designed to search Google Maps for images that look like faces. Seriously, plug the right algorithm in and the whole world is full of mysterious giant faces.

In Russia:

Google Earth

In France:

Google Earth

And, famously, on Mars:

Aww. Poor guy got ditched by the other giant rock monsters.

So either there's a race of planet-hopping titans who are way into the hip new trend of geo-selfies, or we as a people just habitually read too much into everything.

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Ancient UFO Relics from Russia

F. Lamiot, via Wikimedia

In 2012, Russian scientists, whom we unfairly assume to be drunk, declared that they'd found an ancient relic embedded in rock that appeared to be a series of interlocking cogs and some kind of gear mechanism. The most unusual thing about this was that they were some 400 million years old, so, obviously, aliens.

Hmm. Maybe our earlier assumption wasn't so unfair after all.

Steampunk aliens. Finally.

The Truth:

Sure, they really look like a clock exploded, but these are actually the remnants of an animal called a crinoid, which conveniently leaves little circular indentations when it fossilizes.

F. Lamiot, via Wikimedia
Apparently the niche evolution was filling with this was "animal that fucks with people on message boards."

See, it's usually a good idea to be skeptical when someone claims to have found a machine that predates the human species as we know it. Well, unless it's suspiciously shaped like a DeLorean. But even so, controversy erupted again earlier in 2013 when various publications reported the discovery of a 300 million-year-old "UFO tooth wheel" inside a piece of coal in Vladivostok.

Only extraterrestrial hands could've crafted this.

If, for just one brief moment, we entertain the possibility that it is not a scrap of somebody's ancient interstellar hooptie, then we can at least consider the alternative: That it's just a broken piece of modern-day mining equipment. Or possibly iron pyrite, a mineral known to assume bitchin' shapes of its own volition, such as this pugilistic robot:

JJ Harrison, via Wikipedia
"Come at me, Bromide!"

We guess what we're saying is, if nature can make her own Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots any ol' day of the week, maybe you don't call the papers the next time you find something that kind of looks like a stair if you squint at it funny.

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

Related Reading: Mother Nature's also a pretty fair hand at special effects. Check out Yosemite's fiery waterfall. And if you think that's impressive, check out these wasps who can hack trees. If you'd like to see some advanced technology mother nature has bested, click this link here.

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