5 Ridiculous Ancient Beliefs That Turned Out to Be True
We've worked pretty hard here at Cracked to establish the fact that people from the past were batshit insane. They believed some of the most ridiculous things imaginable, though you can't blame them considering that instead of scientists, they had crazy people claiming to be oracles.
Yet... some of the outlandish myths wound up suspiciously close to the mark. How? We have no idea.
Even if you've never been in the same room as a Bible, we're guessing you know the story of Noah's Ark.
Or have at least seen the ethnic, gay, television drama version of it.
God decides mankind is so utterly corrupt that it's time to hit the reset switch and just flood the planet. Similar stories come up in folklore all over the world, from the ancient Greeks to the Babylonians, always with a huge flood that kills almost everyone, and often with mankind having to recover its population. For instance, in China, it's a goddess named Nuwa who stops the flood and creates humans out of clay.
Some are more clay-like than others.
In the Bible's version, God tells Noah that he is less of a dick than everyone else on Earth, and instructs Noah to build a really big boat. Really, really big. So big that it could hold at least two of every single animal on the entire planet. It rained for 40 days, flooding the world and killing off all life except that which was on Noah's boat. When the flood ended, all of the animals got off the boat and immediately started boning for their lives, because two individuals needed to repopulate their entire species.
At some point a duck wandered into the wrong tent and POW: Platypuses.
A worldwide natural disaster that kills everyone but a huddled few, who then have to repopulate the world? It happens all the time. When biologists analyze the past of a species they often run into what they call genetic bottlenecks, indicating evolutionary events where virtually all of a species were killed or otherwise prevented from reproducing.
For instance, cheetahs had one of these not too long ago. You know how if a human gets a skin graft or kidney transplant, we have to find a relative who's a close enough match and take immunosuppressants so our body doesn't reject the donor organ? A cheetah wouldn't have to do any of that. They had such an extreme genetic bottleneck recently (that is, so few remained) that all the Cheetahs we have now are essentially close relatives.
"Cheetahs are the inbred rednecks of the African savannah." - Jack Hanna
And humans? We've previously talked about the Toba Event, some unknown disaster 75,000 years ago that may have reduced the population of humanity to just 5,000 freaking people.
More than were supposedly on Noah's Ark, sure, but few enough you could have fit everyone left on Earth on board the Titanic.
And while we're on the Bible...
The Tower of Babel and the Birth of Languages
So there you are: A descendant of the aforementioned Noah. You think you are so great just because you happen to be a direct descendant of the only righteous man of his time. So, you, along with your brothers and cousins, decide that you will build a huge-ass tower to reach the heavens so that you will be famous and what not. If you know the Old Testament you know that at this point God gets all pissed because... well, we actually don't know. The story doesn't really make it clear. If God just hates huge, pointless engineering projects then you'd think Dubai would have been hit by a meteor by now.
Seriously, that sailboat/hotel/island resort thing is about as retarded as it gets.
Anyway, God decides to punish mankind and derail the project by making all of the people at the construction site spontaneously start speaking in different languages. The confused builders abandoned the tower and went their separate ways. That is the Bible's explanation for why people around the world speak different languages. And to think that was all in nine verses.The Science:
If you're into linguistics or have taken a class on the subject, you will recognize how uncannily similar this is to the Theory of Monogenesis. This is one of the major theories out there about the evolution of languages, and it states that all of the world's languages evolved from one language, in one place, at one time.
The original language? Oddly enough, Pig Latin.
It's a pretty straightforward idea, albeit controversial.
Alfred Trombetti theorized that this single human language came about right around the same time the first humans came about (though it could also be traced back to the aforementioned near-extinction event, where everyone but the speakers of a single language were killed off).
Either way, the theory is that a single human language arose among a single group of humans in a single region, where it then spread it to the rest of the globe.
Then, there's Hollywood's theory that all languages have a British accent.
Then each region and race developed the several thousand languages we have in the world today. Just like in the Tower of Babel story, only without the big-ass tower. It's impossible to know it if it was also due to mankind doing something to piss off God, so we're going to guess "yes."
The Creation of the Universe
The Bible has no monopoly on this one. Every culture has a creation myth, which makes sense because from the beginning of time kids have been asking their parents where the world came from and you have to tell them something.
Eventually, jingling keys doesn't cut it for them.
You can't just sit there like a dumbass, even if you're living in an era when science has given you zero information on the subject. We're humans, we don't just go around admitting we don't know.
So, the ancient Egyptians told their kids, "A lotus flower arose from the sea by way of an explosive interaction as a bud. Then the lotus flower opens and Khepri emerges." (Khepri being a deity who gives birth to creation.) Meanwhile, thousands of miles way, some Chinese parent was telling his kid that, "A cosmic egg appeared in the chaos by way of 18,000 years of the chaos coalescing. Then the cosmic egg cracks and P'an-Ku emerges." Again, P'an-Ku is a being who creates the universe.
Here, the Chinese creation story is recreated by the WWE.
And of course, we have the Genesis account of the universe being formless and empty, then God speaking a word that brings forth light and matter and life.
What's remarkable is how similar these universal creation myths are, be they Chinese, Egyptian, Hindu, Finnish or otherwise. And, whether it is a golden womb, a cosmic egg or a flower blossom, it's all generally the same idea, you just plug in the words:
In the beginning, there was nothing but chaos, often depicted by a vast sea. Then, suddenly, a (noun) (arose from/appeared in) the (sea/chaos/nothingness) by way of (some event or lack thereof). Then the (same noun) (erupts/cracks/opens) and (a deity/creation) emerges.
Garnish with warfare and hilarious laws for flavor.
You've already guessed it. As fantastic as the mythical versions are, the mechanics of the modern Big Bang theory are remarkably similar. In the beginning of the universe, there was nothing. Not even empty space - merely nothing.
You can fit it exactly into the framework proposed above: In the beginning, there was nothing. Then, suddenly, an atom appeared in the nothingness. Then the primeval atom erupts and the universe emerges.
Whether or not you practice any of the aforementioned religions, you've got to admit that's an impressive guess for people who would have burned you as a witch if you'd shown them a telescope.
The Sun Eats Stars and Poops Light
Many cultures either worship the Sun as a deity or at least assign it some kind of personality (for instance, at the time of this writing, it's July and the Sun seems goddamned furious with us).
It's only a matter of time until it plummets angrily from the sky to kill us.
But our favorite depiction has to be from Native American folklore (particularly the Paiute tribes in the Western U.S.) who have given the whole cosmos a Silence of the Lambs twist.
Their story goes that the reason the stars disappear during the day is because they're running away from the Sun. Why? Because the Sun is known to eat them.
In fact, the reason the sun emits light is because of the stars he's digesting.The Science:
It is now thought that when the universe was formed, all the stars that were born were freaking huge, and they all were made almost completely out of hydrogen and helium. Metal was virtually non-existent. It was formed, however, as the first stars aged and then finally exploded.
After billions of years of this happening, this metal shrapnel was spread thoroughly around the universe, the remains of those stars getting swallowed up by newer ones. Like our very own Sun. It shines with the remains of old stars, just like the legend says.
Granted, the Paiute also believed the Moon was the Sun's wife and that they could give birth to more stars, presumably via some Sun-on-Moon fucking.
"Big dipper" indeed.
But give the guys a break. If you can't work a little erotic fan-fiction into your cosmology then why even bother?
Related: Cracked Round-Up: Sun-Eating Edition
Adam and Eve
Once again, the Old Testament is far from the only place where you find an "Adam and Eve" couple who gives birth to all of humanity. In Norse mythology, their Adam and Eve were named Ask and Embla.
It's a scene that can probably be found airbrushed on countless vans.
The Mongols tell of the first human couple being born out of clay. In Korea, the story goes that a tiger was transformed into the first woman, who was impregnated by the god Hwan-Ung. The Navajo say the first man and first woman were formed from ears of corn.
Like Nebraska fans.
You get the idea. It's all very silly, really, the idea that all of humanity came from one woman and one man.
It starts with the genes. There are certain genes (mitochondrial genes) that you can pretty much only inherit from your mother. What scientists found was that these genes are remarkably similar in every single person, everywhere. That led them to believe that there was in fact one single woman, who lived about 200,000 years ago, who donated this genetic material to every human on Earth. The researchers promptly nicknamed her "Eve."
Now, it's not that she was the only woman on Earth. And as far as we know, she was not made from an ear of corn. It's just that whatever other women were on Earth at the time didn't pass their genes down (the lines died out, or they only had sons, etc).
Then, just 60,000 years ago, there was a guy who scientists call Y-chromosomal Adam.
He was an unnamed dude who also lived in Africa, who managed to pass on his DNA to every single male reading this.
Look around. Every guy in the U.S., China, India, Russia, everywhere. Every dude connected to the material from one African man's balls.
Seriously, we should build a monument to them.
Or we could just build two replicas of Epcot Center next door to this thing.
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