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.
#5. The Bosnian Pyramids
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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.
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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.
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.
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.
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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.
#4. 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.
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.
"I'm bored with this whole 'Promised Land' thing; let's go to Texas."
#3. The Underwater City of Japan
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.
"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.
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.
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.