7 Archaeological Discoveries Out Of Your Darkest Nightmares
If you're a frequent Cracked reader, it should hopefully be clear by now that the most accurate part of the Indiana Jones series wasn't the flirty students, as you might think, but the fact that archaeologists really do stumble upon some face-meltingly horrifying shit. Sure, the following discoveries won't literally cause your eyes to pop out as your face turns into wax, but once you see them, you might wish they had.
And now that we've given the impressionable ample time to turn back, let's get this freak show on the road ...
The 2,000-Year-Old Corpse That Refuses To Rot
It's a small wonder that archaeology is a thing, what with the amount of scaremongering that popular culture does for the trade. Hollywood has taught us that every skeleton could attack us with a pirate sword, every normal-looking artifact is the key to unlocking a great evil, and every chest is a container for a horror of world-ending proportion.
Unfortunately for one group of archaeologists in 1971, pop culture hadn't started this crusade. If it had, they might not have found this:
"Oh, hey, have you guys seen the masseuse? I've been waiting for a while."
We'll continue after your soul has finished screaming. Done? Great. This is the body of Xin Zhui, a Chinese noblewoman who died over 2,000 years ago, yet continues to be blessed with the skin, flesh, organs, and sunny disposition of a fairly fresh corpse. In fact, she's so well-preserved that doctors were able to perform an autopsy in 1972, presumably right after they got her to stop screaming.
The gritty Mannequin reboot you've all been waiting for!
Experts still aren't sure, but they believe the whole reason her corpse managed to stay beautiful for this long is that it was buried so thoroughly that every method of decomposition basically went "lol j/k fuck that noise." Her tomb was located twelve meters underground, whilst her casket was placed Matryoshka-style inside seven other caskets and yet another burial vault. As for the body, it was wrapped in 20 layers in silk and suspended in a magnesium-infused acid bath. As a result, any corpse-eating bacteria would have suffocated through lack of oxygen and sheer fucking exhaustion.
Meanwhile, you haven't cleaned your shower curtain during Obama's second administration.
All kidding aside, Xin Zhui is one of the most important and awesome archaeological discoveries of the past century, as evidenced by the fact that she's still being studied to learn about ancient methods of corpse preservation. It'd go a lot faster if she didn't keep rising at night and absorbing the scientists' life force a la The Mummy, though.
The Shackled Skeletons
Archaeology is one of the few professions in which finding a corpse isn't a reason for alarm -- instead, it's a wonderful chance to make some fascinating discoveries about the past. And then, of course, there's the exciting opportunity to ... wait, uh, are those shackles?
OK, yeah, let's just pour cement over this thing and then never look at it again, because we've clearly stumbled upon the first act of a zombie movie. This is what must have gone through the minds of a group of archaeologists excavating a Roman graveyard in 2014 when they discovered the remains of several adults and children -- all of whom had iron shackles around either their legs, wrists, or neck. One specimen was even "constrained by multiple devices," leading us to believe that either Michonne from The Walking Dead was modeled after a real-life zombie-trapping machine or this "graveyard" is in truth the cellar of an ancient version of Fifty Shades Of Grey.
Fortunately, an analysis of the bodies quickly refuted all ridiculous suspicions of zombiism, revealing that several bodies showed evidence of bite marks and-- OH, SHIT.
Pretty sure this guy is skinny enough to take off the shackle. Dumb skeleton.
However, slightly more intelligent people -- with diplomas and glasses and shit -- have argued that the bodies are merely folks who were forced to fight in a nearby amphitheater, hence the chains and bites (from wild animals). As there's no definitive evidence to prove this, we hope future history book writers hedge their bets and talk about the epic Roman tradition of zombie amphitheater melees.
The Desert Hell Puppets
South America's Atacama Desert is the place where dreams go to die, and inhuman nightmares are forged under a hellish heat. Quite fittingly, then, it was the home of the Chinchorro, an ancient tribe whose interests included fishing, long walks on the dunes, and using their loved ones as twisted marionettes in a bizarre death-worshiping theater of the damned.
Really? Long sleeves in that weather?
According to the archaeologists who drew the short straw when being assigned career moves, the Chinchorro first appeared in the area in 5,000 B.C., right around the time that mutilated (respectfully mutilated, mind) corpses started appearing in the landscape. Over the course of the 3,000+ years that they were living in this area, several distinct styles of corpse decoration emerged. In the first, the dead would be disassembled into a pile of bones. Then, using sticks and reeds, they would be "rebuilt" with working limbs and fleshed-out insides made from earth and animal hair. As for the skin, this would be reconstructed using an ashen mixture, and voila ... a puppet made from nightmares.
Ventriloquism acts back then were even creepier.
Other methods included slicing the body open and replacing the organs with earth, or coating the body in mud and leaving it in the Sun to form a cocoon for all eternity. That's not hyperbole, either. Thanks to these treatments, their bodies have survived in perfect condition for the last several millennia, and will likely forever serve as testament to the great abyss that will eventually engulf us all.
... except we've fucked that up too. In moving the bodies from the desert to the moist environment of the laboratory, they have started melting into piles of bones and black goop, as if the Chinchorro spirits themselves had decided we're not worthy to look at their handiwork.
If this ever gets turned into a horror movie, hopefully they come up
with something better than "defeated by air conditioning."
The Cemetery Full Of Deformed Skulls
Amongst the Internet adverts for Scientology and dick cream, you've probably seen this image ...
"No, you're supposed to apply the cream to your other head."
... accompanied by some kind of bullshitty, clickbaitish title about how it's the skull of a long-lost species of monster or an inhabitant of planet Remulak or something. Here's some good news: It's neither, because the Universe is a dark, empty void, barren of wonders to distract us from our pointless lives. You want the bad news? It's a human skull that someone once dug up for realsies, before presumably succumbing to ... actually, this paragraph is already way too existential, so here's a dog sassing some baby bears.
That specimen, along with 24 others, is the result of an ancient practice known as cranial deformation. This was like a satanic version of folding balloon animals. It consisted of binding the heads of children using rope and wooden board, morphing their skulls into a particular shape. Mainly carried out by the Mayans, it was intended as a way of marking certain children as socially important, which we guess makes this the old-timey equivalent of putting your kid on a beauty pageant (but less torturous).
At least Zippy looks like he's finally having fun.
According to records, there were two methods of doing this, one of which would result in a flat, wide face, and another that would result in what we're going to politely call a pointy head. Unfortunately, there were a few drawbacks. In the majority of cases, it was applied to the children days after they were born (the sweet-spot for skull squishiness, according to our serial killer friend), causing horrendous pain and/or death. Here's the link to that dog vs. bears video again, if you need it.
The Tiny Coffins Of Arthur's Seat
As we've previously covered, nothing good ever comes pf exploring caves. If any more evidence is needed for that assertion, here's a story about a group of schoolchildren who, while hunting for rabbits, stumbled upon a cache of miniature coffins containing miniature wooden dolls that might or might not be connected to one of the grisliest murder sprees in history. If you've got your horror cliche bingo cards ready, that was a game-winning sentence.
Old-timey action figure packaging was way harder to open with your teeth.
Discovered in 1836, the coffins were each a little under a meter long, and each contained a carved wooden doll dressed in custom-made clothes and painted black boots. If you're thinking that they were simply left behind by another child playing in the cave beforehand, nice try, Scully. According to the boys, the coffins were stacked in a pile. When they were examined, it was also found that the dolls at the bottom of the pile were older than the dolls on the top, suggesting that someone had been stashing them there for years. Presumably to flip them on eBay. The point is: Everything indicates they weren't made by a kid.
That is, unless the child you're thinking of is Damien from The Omen.
The only real explanation for the dolls is that they're an homage to the victims of the serial-killing duo Burke and Hare, who killed 17 people and sold their bodies to medical schools for dissection. Did you want to guess how many coffins there were? Seventeen.
Tragically, we'll never know the answer. As you'd expect, no one ever came forward to claim their collection, and to make matters worse, the boys decided to trash the dolls before handing them in. However, the spookiest fact of all? All of those children are now dead, so clearly there was some kind of curse on them. Heads up, guys: If you ever find a cache of occult crap in a cave, leave it the fuck alone.
The Prehistoric Plague House
While excavating the strangely Muppets-sounding prehistoric Chinese village of Hamin Mangha, a group of archaeologists discovered the ruins of over 20 circular single-room houses. Though the vast majority contained nothing more exciting than old pieces of pottery, the tedium was certainly broken when they discovered that one house contained 97 bodies. Now, if that were the only weird thing about this house, it wouldn't be that horrific. You've got to put your dead people somewhere, right?
Honestly, we find grosser shit whenever we move the couch.
Except it turned out that the victims were all of a similar age (between 19 and 35 years), making the cache eerily similar to a nearby mass grave containing the victims of a mysterious infectious disease. That's why the scientists are saying that the disease arrived and ravaged the population with such speed that they were unable to bury everyone, hence why they were happy to cram the victims into someone's house. Presumably Gary's, because screw that guy.
It was only after several decades that this grotesque tale comes to the end. It turned out that the bodies on the top of the pile were horrifically burnt. This suggests that the locals were unsure of how to properly deal with their death house and went the old "let's just fucking burn it" route.
The smoke spelled out "SUCK IT, GARY."
Obviously, there's the chance that this was an accident. But what's more likely? That a stray lightning bolt burned down the only house in this village of identical houses that contained a mass grave, or that someone was doing their neighbors (or their realtors) a favor? C'mon.
The Mummy Found Inside Buddha
If there's anywhere that you'd never expect to find horror, it's inside a Buddha statue. After all, the "knowledge," "peace," and "blessedness" circles on the universe's Venn diagram don't generally intersect with those for "never-ending screams," "sobbing," and "terror poops."
OK, let's not kid ourselves. You know where this is going.
"See? I told you guys I'm big-boned."
In 2015, a millennia-old statue of Buddha was being analyzed using X-rays when the experts noticed something unusual about the cavity inside the hollow statue -- namely, that it had been filled with the skeleton of a monk who, as it later turned out, had undergone a hideous self-mummification ritual. As this was a great achievement, he was rewarded by being placed inside the statue for veneration by future generations of a village in China ... whereupon it was stolen centuries later and ended up on the antiquities black market. Seriously? Were we the only people to see Temple Of Doom? Stealing shit from a village shrine is a surefire way of ending up as crocodile poop.
Still, at least that's the only example of thi-- fuck.
From now on, assume every empty object around you is filled with mummies.
Behold, the Lord Of Patience. Having stood watch over the parish of San Bartolo, Mexico, since the 18th century, historians thought it was due a good cleanup. However, during this process, the restorers noticed that the statue's eight teeth had a particularly lifelike quality to them. That intuition was later proved to be correct after an X-ray confirmed that the teeth were, you know, fucking teeth. Human ones.
Cavity-free, too. Because when you only have eight teeth left, you take damn good care of them.
After presumably confirming that the statue wasn't creeping into houses at night and acting as the anti-Tooth Fairy, the restorers concluded that the teeth had been donated for use in the icon by a follower as a token of appreciation, citing examples of other parishioners donating hair to make wigs. Honestly, guys, the next time someone suggests that you give everything for your faith, don't be so goddamn literal.
With special thanks to Carolyn Burke and JM McNab. For more from Adam, check out 6 Archaeological Discoveries Scarier Than Any Horror Movie and 8 Terrifying Skeletons of Adorable Animals. You can contact him by email at email@example.com.
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