6 Scary Archaeological Finds (That Should've Stayed Hidden)
We're not saying that digging around certain sites will stir up ancient curses. But, we're not saying it won't, either.
What we do know is that ancient horrors are all around us, if you know where to look. And some things, well, should remain undisturbed ...
Dozens Of Shackled Skeletons Were Found In Athens
During a 2016 construction project to build a new library and national opera house in downtown Athens, crews unearthed the Falyron Delta necropolis, a sprawling cemetery thought to be the final resting place of more than 1,500 ancient Greek citizens. That's hardly enough for a haunting on its own -- the world is full of cemeteries -- but they found a smaller chamber within. Lying there were more than 80 skeletons with their hands fucking shackled above their heads.
So, probably not a 50 Shades situation here.
In some places the bodies were double-stacked like history's most disturbing game of Tetris, indicating that while the Greeks may have been great at inventing Democracies and Olympicses, they were shit when it came to digging their holes big enough. Each of the victims died young and healthy, and while the exact cause of death is still to be determined (though it's probably safe to rule out a hug overdose), all signs point to a mass execution.
Well, just the one sign, really.
The best theory as to the identities of the shackled corpses is that they are the remnants of a 632 BC coup against Athens led by Cylon, an "Athenian noble and Olympic champion" and definitely not a cybernetic galactic time traveler. After the coup failed, Cylon hid in a temple and later escaped, but all of his followers were summarily executed. Ancient Greece being a heavily militaristic society, however, the soldiers would have been buried with respect ... right up until those burying them ran short on hole space, apparently.
Granted, this doesn't explain the fact that the Greeks didn't feel comfortable unchaining these assassins even after they were freaking dead. Shackles aren't cheap, you'd think they'd want those things back ... unless prior experience had taught them that the corpses may still have some fight in them. We may not be fancy archaeologists here, but we know goddamned Zombie Coup aftermath when we see it.
The Altamura Man Became One With The Cave That Killed Him
Imagine you're a speleologist (also, imagine you know that speleology is the scientific study of caves). You're just going about your day, studying the rocks and ... well, the rocks of the Lamalunga cave network near Altamura, Italy, when your flashlight beam lands on this:
Now imagine it's hissing.
You could be forgiven for temporarily forgetting the scientific method (as well as the basics of bowel control) and assuming you'd discovered the remnants of some ancient, bumpy-headed reptilian humanoid. What you're actually looking at, however, is the Altamura Man.
He's not a shitty Italian superhero, but a Neanderthal who stumbled into a sinkhole while out hunting mammoths one day and subsequently died of starvation. In the eons since, calcium carbonate concretions built up a protective layer over his remains, strangely preserving them while also giving anyone who looks upon them a potentially fatal case of the heebie jeebies. Essentially, the cave ingested him. Hell, scratch the past tense -- the cave is still ingesting him. Slowly.
Though the skeleton was left in place to avoid damaging it, researchers did carve off a bit of shoulder 20 years after its discovery and determined that Altamura Man is the oldest Neanderthal ever found, having lived during the earliest phase of their existence around 150,000 years ago. Based on a laser scan of the remains, Dutch artists Kennis & Kennis recreated the Altamura Man by subtracting the creepy pearly deposits and adding a healthy splash of Charles Bronson to show us how he would have appeared to his enemies and potential mates.
No, you tell him he had a death wish.
Holy shit. Had wallets existed in his day (or pockets, even), Altamura Man's would have said "Bad Motherfucker" on it. The fact that that cave didn't tuck tail and run when it saw him coming tells us that, while researchers might think they've found history's oldest Neanderthal, what they've really found is history's most badass cave.
The Filipino Fire Mummies
The term "fire mummies" isn't meant to imply that these corpses are about to spring to life and puke a stream of magma, thus melting your eyeballs Ark Of The Covenant-style. That's the good news. The bad news is that you're about to inherit a devastating new aversion to barbeque.
It took humanity eons and countless tragic accidents to perfect smoked pork.
The nickname is actually a reference to how the bodies were prepared for burial. We've previously discussed the Kabayan Burial Caves of the northern Philippines, where loggers unwittingly discovered countless tiny, nut-like coffins. But have you ever wondered how the Ibaloi -- the ancient culture responsible for said coffins -- managed to fit their dead inside a casing the size of a largish walnut? Undoubtedly you have not, but allow us to proceed to tell you any-damn-way.
When a member of the Ibaloi tribe was close to death -- as in, still alive, but fuck you for trying -- they were forced to gulp down a heavy saltwater solution to begin curing them from the inside. Once they died the rest of the way, they were rubbed down with herbs (leave it to history to make patchouli even more terrible) and slow-roasted over a period of weeks to months. To speed up the process the tribe would also blow tobacco smoke inside the body -- presumably by way of the ol' poop chute, because of course they'd do it in the most disgustingly horrifying way possible.
If this mummy's facial expression is any indication, our presumption is spot-on.
The end result was a compact, crispy (but surprisingly well-preserved) corpse that could be stuffed into a tiny wooden nut and stashed in a cave. You can still see their intricate tattoos and outward displays of existential horror to this day.
Remember, kids: Tattoos really are forever.
The Ibaloi continued their BBQ-ish rituals until the 1500s, when the Spanish colonized the Philippines and brought with them the obviously superior method of burying full-size coffins and rendering massive swaths of the countryside forevermore unusable.
Related: Mummies Got Packed With Mummy Snacks
The Aztec Shrieking Death-Whistles
When researchers excavated an Aztec temple near Mexico City, they stumbled upon the type of find that makes an archaeologist hop up and down in giddy excitement and everyone else instinctively clench their sphincter in dread: An ancient human skeleton clutching a strange, skull-shaped whistle in each hand. The researchers then proceeded to lock those sumbitches away in a warehouse straight out of Raiders Of The Lost Ark, because blowing on shit like that is how you get your entire town haunted by heart-cleaving spirits.
Don't let the pink one's goofy-ass smile fool you.
What followed was a protracted series of double- and triple-dog dares that spanned the better part of two decades. Finally, a particularly brave and/or curious and/or doltish archaeologist gave one of these so-called Whistles Of Death a puff, at which point his eyeballs promptly burst like gore-filled water balloons.
OK, that didn't happen, but you really must hear their otherworldly wail yourself in order to get the full, pants-filling effect. Crank your speakers up and have a listen.
If you can't or won't watch the video, good. Good for you. Unlike the rest of us, you'll sleep soundly tonight, never having experienced the aural equivalent of having a Dementor zealously twist a dull corkscrew deep into your ear hole.
Roberto Velazquez, a mechanical engineer who has spent his life recreating the sounds of his ancestors, believes that this haunting screech was played as background accompaniment when Aztecs were sacrificed to the gods (because Aztec sacrifice wasn't terrifying enough without a soundtrack), while other researchers posit that they used the sound as a sort of psychological weapon against their enemies during combat. Imagine an entire army's worth of Whistles Of Death sounding off as the opposing army's lower torsos simultaneously erupt into a gush of liquid terror, and it's clear that the Aztecs' idea of a WMD was dehydration.
Books Bound In Human Skin Are Surprisingly Common
By some untold turn of events, someone on staff at Harvard University's Houghton Library -- "the primary repository for Harvard's rare books and manuscripts" -- suspected something macabre, yet eerily familiar, about a particular volume in the collection. Said volume was Des destinees de l'ame (Destinies of the Soul), a mid-1880s book by writer Arsene Houssaye, and we like to think the aforementioned turn of events went a little something like this: After a hard day of caressing the supple binding of the library's rare volumes, a librarian went home and, just before bed, hopped in the shower. As he soaped up his back -- really rubbing it in there to free his skin from the grime of a hard day at the bookshelves -- he had an epissany, which is a word we just made up to describe a sudden realization that causes you to release the entirety of your body's moisture by way of your pee hole.
Des destinees de l'ame, in case you haven't already figured it out, is bound in human skin.
There is not enough hand sanitizer in the world.
While two other books in Harvard's collection -- one at the Harvard Law School Library and one at Harvard Medical School's Countway Library -- that were also suspected to be bound in human skin were ultimately proven to be sheepskin, this one is the real deal. After writing the book Houssaye reportedly gave it to his dear friend Dr. Ludovic Bouland, who bound it in skin from a female Jane Doe who'd died of natural causes.
Though, when you think about it, "natural causes" is a frighteningly vague term. If we were to bash in your skull with a hatchet -- an implement constructed of natural wood and natural iron -- could you be said to have died of natural causes? A court would say no, obviously, but a guy with a name like Dr. Ludovic Bouland might say otherwise (right before he transformed you into a copy of Moby Dick).
This isn't just a Harvard oddity, either. Termed anthropodermic bibliopegy by academic types who you wouldn't be comfortable sitting next to at dinner, binding books in the skin of executed criminals, dead soldiers, and incurable sick people was practiced from the 16th to 19th centuries.
This "Burke's Skin Pocket Book," for example, is self-explanatorily bound in the skin of murderer William Burke
The Anthropodermic Book Project has identified 47 books throughout the world that are suspected of being a bit too human, though of the 30 they've tested so far, only 18 have actually proven so. We'd say those were pretty good odds, if not for the fact we'll be repeatedly counting those 18 like ghastly sheep as our eyes refuse to close tonight.
For The Toraja, Funerals Never End
Think about how much of what we've learned of ancient cultures comes from how they treated their dead. Consider the ancient Egyptians, for instance -- how would we ever have known that they were gauze-encased zombies with guts made of roiling scarabs, if not for the fact that we pried open the tombs where they intended to ride out eternity? (Ha! Joke's on you, ancient Egyptians!)
That being the case, consider the Toraja people of southern Indonesia a living archaeology lesson.
Bear in mind that we're using the term "living" figuratively here.
When a family member dies in the Toraja culture, it doesn't lead to a swift funeral and burial as it does for Westerners. Instead, the loved one is treated with formaldehyde and kept right there at home. As the body slowly mummifies, family and friends visit it, converse with it, and even bring it meals.
Brain curry, served over brains.
This could go on for months. Why months? Because the family needs to save up for the funeral, and Torajan funerals are goddamned expensive. They're village-wide affairs that begin with the mass slaughter of (and subsequent feasting upon) buffalo and pigs, and end with depositing the somewhat recently departed in a rockin' hand-chiseled tomb that could easily cost more than the family's earthly (but ephemeral) abode.
Costly, but the bacon buffet takes their mind off it.
The upper classes might also dedicate expensive effigies known as tau tau to their deceased, because this article simply wouldn't be complete without some creepy-ass dolls.
Whatever, we're just glad they don't use human bones and living flesh.
And that's it. The End.
... except, if you know us at all, you know we're merely toying with your emotions (not to mention your bladder). Because every August the Taraja celebrate the ritual of Ma'Nene. It's much like a Western family reunion: barbeques, three-legged races, exhuming your long-dead loved ones to dress them in pretty new clothes and parade them all about town. You know, reunion stuff.
Know how family reunions are filled with old people smell? Yeah.
We know what you're wondering. "But Cracked, are there selfies?" Of course there are selfies!
Clicking on a Torajan's Facebook profile must be the social media equivalent of toying with the Hellraiser puzzle box.
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You know all those facts you've learned about psychology from movies and that one guy at the party who says, "Actually ..." a lot? Please forget them. Chances are none of them are true. Take the Stanford Prison Experiment, the one famous psychology study people can name. It was complete bullshit. Funny story actually, it turns out that when you post flyers that say, "Hey, do you wanna be a prison guard for the weekend? Free food and nightsticks," you might not get the most stable group of young men. So join Jack O'Brien, Cracked staff members Dan O'Brien and Michael Swaim, and Psychology Professor Martie G. Haselton of UCLA as they debunk Rorschach tests, the Mozart effec,t and middle child syndrome, so soon you can be that person at the party who says, "Actually ..." Get your tickets here!
For more historic horrors, check out 6 Archaeological Discoveries Scarier Than Any Horror Movie and The 7 Most Terrifying Archaeological Discoveries.
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