Ah, archeology! Though tragically devoid of whips and Nazi-punching in real life, this unassuming scientific field never fails to provide when it comes to balls-out terror. Trying to decipher what our ancestors got up to just by looking at bones and some broken pieces of pottery can be daunting at best -- but sometimes, as we've pointed out before, what they've found wouldn't be out of place in a horror movie.
What's the most depressing thing you could find as an archeologist? A puppy cemetery? The mummy of your own father, carbon dated to be at least 2,000 years old somehow? A literal bag of dicks?
How about 12 dead babies arranged in a circle around a bunch of mummies?
University Libre de Bruxelles
A bunch of sad, empty mummies.
In 2012, archeologists at the ancient Peruvian site of Pachacamac opened a small, hitherto undiscovered 3,000-year-old burial chamber of the pre-Incan Ychsma people. It was packed with the skeletal remains of no less than 80 mummies. The oval-shaped, 66-foot-long chamber was separated into two nested sections, full of mummies laid out in a fetal position and accompanied with strange, wooden fake heads that researchers assume were death-masks that showed the identity of the deceased.
University Libre de Bruxelles
Or ping-pong was surprisingly popular in the Ychsma afterlife.
All of this was surrounded by the remains of, yes, a dozen babies, arranged in a neat circle around the mummies. The Ychsma are not a well-known folk, so researchers are not certain what the purpose of all this was, beyond the obvious summoning of cacodemons to devour the dreams of whoever opens it.
Their best guess is that the people inside suffered from diseases, and were drawn to the site with promises of a miracle cure. When this didn't work and they passed away, they were laid to rest in this peculiar setup. It is still unclear whether the babies were also victims of the disease, or some sort of a ritual sacrifice that was supposed to ease the mummies' passage to afterlife. And to be honest, if it's the latter, we're pretty cool not knowing.
University Libre de Bruxelles
"You know what? Let's just re-bury this shit."
NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV/AFP/Getty Images
Way before we started stocking up on ammo in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, our European ancestors were shitting their pants at the thought of undead creatures known as revenants, which were basically the same thing but with more room for quaint folklore and absurd protection rituals.
Ireland, in particular, didn't mess around when it came to the fine art of revenant warfare: When they suspected someone of possible life-after-death shenanigans, they made sure that said someone damn well stayed buried. Take these two gentlemen from the 8th century, whose mortal remains were recently unearthed in Kilteasheen -- a move that may or may not be a precursor to a horror movie trilogy. The two skeletons were found buried side by side, with large black stones shoved into their mouths:
Apologies if you found this page Googling "interracial necrophilia."
The evidence makes it clear they weren't buried together -- they were moved from different locations and placed together on purpose. This form of burial is called "deviant burial," and was most likely done to people who were considered a threat to society, such as rapists, murderers, victims of murderers (which seems a bit unfair), and people who died from unexplained diseases. Why? Well, these were the folks that were considered most likely to go undead on the living community's ass, and as such, they received a mouthful of rock so their reanimated revenant remains could not bite its way through the burial shrouds.
Speaking of biting: A few centuries down the line, revenants started falling out of fashion. Enter the vampire, and with it -- you guessed it -- people who goddamn staked each other in the heart, hopefully post-mortem:
Natural History Museum/HO/EPA
Well, hopefully the staker wasn't post-mortem. You never know.
That's a dig from Bulgaria, believed to be the grave of a vampire. The remains are those of a male in his mid-40s, staked through the heart with a metal spike. His left leg has also been amputated and placed beside him in the grave, presumably because Dracula is considerably less scary when he comes after you hopscotch style.
And that dude got it light. The body of another "vampire" was straight-up decapitated, and his severed head was placed between his legs, thus condemning him to an eternity of teabagging himself.
Andrzej Grygiel/EPA via theguardian.com
"Dude, I know you beat me in Halo, but this is just overkill."
Archeologists on an island off the coast of Sweden were digging up old pieces of clay on the site of an old fort, when they stumbled on a scene straight out of the unseen aftermath of a scaled-down Roland Emmerich movie: An ancient 5th century ringfort littered with dozens of bodies, almost all of them in positions that suggested they died suddenly. The site, formally known as Sandby fort, is eerily similar to the ruins of Pompeii: The entire scene is frozen in time, with everything left exactly as it was on the day of whatever the hell happened there.
Kalmar County Museum
This guy died with a remote control in hand, which raises further questions.
Wait a second; Sweden is not particularly well known for its volcanoes. So what could have caused such a perfectly preserved historic panorama?
Us, that's what. Well, our Scandinavian ancestors, anyway. In fact, the whole thing is not so much an aftermath to a natural disaster as it is an ancient crime scene of such grittiness that the residents of the area were afraid to set foot in the place for ages after the incident.
Kalmar County Museum
As opposed to today, where it looks like a wonderland of whimsey.
From the evidence gathered, the residents of the fort-town were taken entirely by surprise, and barely had time to blink before they were struck down where they stood. Some were found at the doorway of their hut, trying in vain to make a hasty escape. An older man was cut down in the middle of a hall. An adult and a small child were ruthlessly killed and their bodies fell/were tossed into a burning fireplace.
Photo by Daniel Lindskog
The second-most terrifying story about fireplaces, after "Baby, It's Cold Outside."
Now, the peculiar thing about the find is this: Not only were the denizens of the fort-town surprised to the point of barely having time to react, but the archeologists have found several valuable artifacts (jewelry boxes, beads, intricate gilded brooches, etc.) that seem to indicate the people of the fort were either wealthy as hell, or specialized in making jewelry.
Why would someone organize a super-efficient raid in a fortified town and not take all the treasure? Was the town hiding an even larger treasure, and the raiders couldn't be bothered to carry all of it away? And if Sandby fort was carrying the era's equivalent of Smaug's hoard, what in the everlasting shit could have kept all the inevitable thieves and scavengers from cleaning the place from valuables after the dust had settled?
And if it was a curse, how fucked now is everyone reading this?
The questions are endless. Hell, we don't even have a clue about who the historical supervillain behind the attack could have been (although since we're talking about a proto-Viking-filled, 5th-century Scandinavia, the suspects probably include every single person who lived in Sweden at the time). Luckily, science is just as curious about Sandby fort as we are. In fact, researchers are going full CSI on the case: Through the magic of modern, 3D-mapping technology, they are trying to recreate the entire scene (they removed the skeletons as they found them, as archaeologists are wont to do), hoping to better understand what happened.
Kalmar Lans Museum
"They're finally on to you, Grimvald Skullpooper."
Archaeology is like going to the most suspicious part of the town and heading for the shadiest looking buffet: Usually, you find a bunch of moldy pots and pans, but sometimes you walk right into 80 decapitated heads.
And then you use them as hand puppets, because you gotta break the tension somehow.
Such was the case with a team of archeologists working in China's Shaanxi Province, who came across the site of a 4,300-year-old massacre in 2013. They excavated a total of 80 heads from two separate pits and scattered across an ancient wall. All of the heads belonged to young women, who were presumably captured during ethnic or tribal violence, and used as human sacrifice. This theory is supported by the fact that the researchers were unable to locate the bodies of said decapitated heads.
Most of the skulls showed signs of fire and blunt force trauma, suggesting they were both hit and burned before they were buried. These mass decapitations were most likely a part of a ceremony to bless the foundation of the wall that was built to protect the inhabitants of the Neolithic city of Shimao.
Fact: Every wall built without a mass-sacrifice crumbles, eventually.
Shimao, incidentally, was constructed during the Xia Dynasty, and abandoned only 300 or so years afterwards. While we're not ones to believe in ghosts, we're going to hazard a guess that this hasty abandonment just might have something to do with the fact that they buried 80 fucking skulls of their enemies right in front of their city walls.
If that's not going to get your boroughs haunted, nothing will.
Atacama desert is the geographical equivalent of the devil's dangling balls, only somehow even worse: The land is dry to the point where NASA uses it for testing their Mars equipment, and what little water there is to find is laced with arsenic. A certain comedy site once named the area #1 on a list of unlivable hellholes.
It beat out five separate joke entries about New Jersey.
So, let's say you're an archaeologist, sent to excavate around Atacama after your boss found out you're screwing his wife. As awful as the place is, it soon proves to be a veritable goldmine for your profession, since the conditions are custom made to preserve ancient dead folks. So you cavort happily about, cataloging mummies as you stumble upon them.
And then you find this fucking thing:
What. The. What.
Bullshit. You're sure that's a fake, like maybe someone in your crew dropped a plastic souvenir doll he bought from one of those alien-themed roadside attractions. But it's a real mummy, and holy crap, did you just find an actual ancient alien?
That little buddy is called "Ata" (as in, "Atacama"), and it certainly comes with a massive side order of Fox Mulder theories re: its possible extraterrestrial origin. Apart from the obvious alien head (complete with an underdeveloped jaw and face), Ata also sports just 10 ribs instead of the 12-pack most humans have. Oh, and it's just 6 inches tall. That's another point for the "it's an alien" camp, we suppose.
In reality, of course, scientists have been able to verify that Ata is very much a human. He's not the eons-old mummy he seems, either -- in fact, chances are the poor guy died just a few decades ago. The reason behind his ... unconventional look is still up for debate: Some say that Ata is a miscarried, severely malformed fetus. There is also evidence that he may have been 6-8 years old at the time of death, and suffered from an extreme form of dwarfism, progeria, or other disease that might have accounted for his appearance. Either way, we're almost certain you won't wake up to find this little guy climbing over your pillow tonight.
Personally, we suggest never sleeping again.
For more fuel for your nightmares, check out The 24 Creepiest Discoveries People Just Stumbled Into and 6 Archaeological Discoveries Scarier Than Any Horror Movie.
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