5 Historical Treasures That Are Accidental Comedy Gold
We've dug up archaeological discoveries that would make even the most hard-boiled explorers crap their pants in terror once or twice before. This isn't one of those articles. This is the article you use to wash those horrors out of your brain. It's mental mouthwash. Now swish.
The Poop Of A Hunter-Gatherer Who Ate A Whole Rattlesnake
Back in the 1960s, archaeologists collected hundreds of "coprolites" (read: fossilized poop) from a 1,500-year-old rock shelter in Lower Pecos, Texas -- an area that had long ago played host to tribes of hunter-gatherers. In a scene that echoed the ending of Raiders Of The Lost Ark, they then left these time turds to rot in a storage closet for the next half-century.
When archaeologists at Texas A&M recently reopened the collection, they didn't expect to find anything of note hiding away amongst these nostalgic #2s. They were wrong.
When the team broke open a sample that they unimpressively described as a "really skinny cow pat," they found themselves staring at a rattlesnake fang -- one that looked just as fresh (and just as lethal) as any modern-day counterpart.
And then they found the ribs.
And then the vertebrae.
And then the scales.
The team soon realized that they hadn't found the poop of a hunter-gatherer with a terrible taste in toothpicks; they'd found the poop of a hunter-gatherer who, for whatever reason, woke up one morning and decided to eat an entire rattlesnake. We can't say for sure whether they survived the ordeal, but they sure did have time to make afterwards, and the scientists didn't find any skeletons nearby curled up in intestinal distress. We guess that's the closest thing to a happy ending this story gets.
So what would make someone eat an entire snake, you might wonder? In the case of your mom, $5. In the case of this individual, we have no idea. The best guess anyone can come up with is that it was part of a ritual intended to bring about rainfall, perhaps because the area was stricken by a devastating drought. Honestly? We'd rather take the drought.
The Infinity Gauntlet Of Saint Teresa
Saint Teresa was a 16th-century nun from Avila, Spain who was so beloved that after her death in 1582, her body was dismembered and the pieces shipped to churches throughout the country -- which begs the question of what they would've done if they'd hated her.
One of these pieces was her right hand, which was shipped to Nuestra Senora de la Merced and subsequently encased -- as befitting a relic of its stature -- inside a silver glove covered in gemstones. We're not sure if these gemstones are meant to represent the fundamental elements of the Universe, or even if the glove is articulated enough to enable its wearer to snap their fingers, but ... there might be a reason they keep this thing under lock and key, and it's not that mad tyrants have a hard-on for stealing it.
An Ancient Bolivian Drug Lab
In 2008, archaeologists working at Cueva del Chileno in Bolivia uncovered a 1,000-year-old burial site hiding inside a mountainside cave. The grave was later found to be vacant (creepy), but the archaeologists didn't go away empty-handed, having also stumbled across a leather bag, which on closer inspection was found to contain everything the previous occupant of the grave would've needed to crash headfirst through the gates of the afterlife.
The bag contained several spatulas -- made of bone, no less -- that would've been used to grind down psychoactive seeds into a fine powder, which would've then been snorted brainwards using the wooden nostril-sized tube that was also found in the bag. As this was a classy operation, they didn't inbibe their drugs off the floor like savages. No, they crushed and snorted their product off two small wooden tablets embedded with gemstones, which is the pre-Columbian equivalent of gold-plating your vape.
Just to add to the party spirit, the bag also contained a multicolored headband -- like the ones that are everywhere at Coachella, minus the cultural appropriation -- as well as a small pouch made from the snouts of not one, not two, but three cuddly wuddly foxes.
This lunatic wasn't being sent into the afterlife with pristine equipment, either. When tested, it was found to be covered in traces of everything from cocaine to psilocin to ayahuasca, which also suggested that our party animal had connections. These products weren't available locally, see, so they were either trekking hundreds of miles every time they wanted to get high or had access to "really extensive exchange networks." Oh, and an apparent ability to smooth-talk old-timey customs agents.
What Blackbeard And His Crew Used To Read For Fun
While studying the wreck of Queen Anne's Revenge -- the scurvy seafaring vessel captained by Blackbeard himself -- archaeologists discovered scraps of paper lodged inside one of the cannons. On its own, this was an amazing find. We don't tend to recover much paper from shipwrecks, on account of how (and stop us if we get too science-y here) water makes it go mushy bye-bye.
Of course, discovering what the scraps came from was going to be a mammoth task. Were they pieces of a treasure map? A couple of doodles that Blackbeard scribbled in a fit of boredom? Some pornography that needed to be hastily disposed of? It was a mystery that was guaranteed to go unsolved forev- oh, they were from a book about ... badass explorers?
Using the handful of words printed on the scraps, conservators were able to figure out that they were ripped from a first-edition copy of A Voyage To The South Sea, And Round The World, Perform'd In The Years 1708, 1709, 1710 And 1711. This was a "voyage narrative" published in 1712 by Captain Edward Cooke, in which Cooke describes his exploits sailing the high seas, which included rescuing the real-life Robinson Crusoe.
Honestly, though, this discovery leaves more questions than answers. Namely, why did Blackbeard need a book about badass sailors when he was Goddamn Blackbeard? And if so, what, did he pick this up from a seaside Borders in Nassau along with some overpriced water and a neck pillow? We need to know.
Sacrificial Guinea Pigs, All Dressed Up With Nowhere To Go
When you think of ancient civilizations performing animal sacrifices, how does that play out in your head? If you're anything like us (and we certainly hope not), there's a guy in robes, a bigass knife, and some kind of lumbering beast like an oxen ... and later a bunch of people wondering why their crops are still failing. ("The 25,0001st cow must be the charm!") The animal sacrifice that we want to talk about, however, isn't like that at all.
While excavating a 16th-century Incan settlement in Peru, archaeologist Lidio Valdez stumbled across the corpses of 100 guinea pigs. He hadn't discovered the ruins of a PetSmart, though. These guinea pigs had been buried alive as a sacrifice intended to bring good fortune to the settlement -- after which their bodies were sealed beneath the floors of several buildings, which we're reasonably sure led to the cutest haunting in history.
The weirdest part, though? These lil' squealers were sent to the afterlife wearing the finest miniature duds the Incas had to offer. On closer inspection, every guinea pig was adorned a necklace/earring combo fashioned from lengths of colored string.
According to Vldez, the fact that the Incas sent these animals into the afterlife like they were attending a Mardi Gras parade suggests that they weren't just any ol' sacrificial animals. They were important, and represented some kind of "special gift" intended for nature. Between the clothing and the fact that most of the guinea pigs were on the younger side, it's entirely possible (according to another archaeologist) that they were intended to serve as replacements for child sacrifice. Aaaaand we're back to talking archaeological horrors. See you at Halloween, folks!
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