5 Historical Wonders That Are Total Nightmare Fuel
It's that time of year again, where we look back on the creepiest archaeological discoveries to recently grace the history books of the future ... and which will surely grace your nightmares for the next year. Happy Halloween, everyone!
The Hunger Stones Of The Elbe
In 2018, Europe was hit by a heatwave that destroyed crops, ignited a series of devastating wildfires, led to poisoned water supplies, and killed thousands of people. It was like the entire continent had fallen victim to a supernatural curse. Is that a little hyperbolic? Maybe, but what else are we supposed to think when this heatwave was accompanied by several spooky ancient stone monuments emerging from the deep to reiterate -- as if it were needed -- how totally fucked we are?
The River Elbe flows from Czechia into Germany. During the heatwave, its water level dropped so much that it exposed the "hunger stones" -- a series of 27 boulders installed in the river's bed by past generations to "commemorate" the area's history of droughts and famines, which apparently goes as far back as the 1100s.
If that was all the stones did, it'd be fine. Haunting, but fine. But they're also inscribed with warnings intended for future generations, explaining that if these stones show up, things are about to get a little apocalyptic. They warn us to prepare for bad harvests (check), food prices going up (check), and that things are going to be particularly hellish if you're poor (check).
Some stones are even inscribed with what appear to be wailing laments. A stone in Techlovice reads "We cried -- We cry -- And you will cry." One in Bleckede promises survivors that "When this stone sinks, life will become more colorful again." Our personal favorite is the stone at Decin, which simply reads, "If you see me, weep."
The Corpse Tangle Of Tlalpan
The White Walkers from Game Of Thrones are cruel, bloodthirsty, inhuman monsters who take great pleasure in murdering as many people as they can in the very worst ways. In the last season, they take the time to dismember some victims and arrange their flesh into a pinwheel-like shape, for no other reason than to fuck with anyone who stumbles upon the scene.
And like a lot of other things in GOT, this has historical precedent! In 2018, archaeologists excavating a 2,400-year-old burial pit at Tlalpan in Mexico City found the remains of ten people locked together in a bizarre entanglement of flesh and bones that makes your mom's weekly key parties seem downright innocent by comparison.
Upon closer inspection, archaeologists found that all of the grave's occupants were linking arms with their neighbors, while some were linked in ... cozier ways. "There was one individual over the other, for example," excavation director Jimena Rivera explained. "The head of the individual on the chest of the other, the hands of one individual under the other's back, the baby on the body of another."
The handsiness of the dead suggests that they were all related, but that's not (yet) been proven. We also don't know how these people died, or even why they were arranged like this, because this is the first time that archaeologists have found such a burial. Or at least, it's the first time they've been able to talk about it before a curse kicked in and everyone involved with the dig became part of a human centipede.
The Exploded Skulls Of Pompeii
In 79 CE, the city of Pompeii was destroyed by a volcanic eruption. Over 2,000 people died, the majority suffocated by ash or buried in rubble. Except that's not quite the case. As it turns out, the people who were choked, flattened, and charbroiled were the lucky ones. While there's no no "good" way to die from a volcanic eruption, at least their heads didn't explode like overripe melons in a microwave.
After the initial eruption, but before the ash, fire, and brimstone fell from the sky, a superheated cloud of gas overran Pompeii like a wave, flash-frying everything and everyone. The heat vaporized every drop of moisture in their flesh and soft organs, while their brains .... well, we're going to leave this to the scientists responsible for this nightmarish finding:
In the present work, careful inspection of the victims' skeletons revealed cracking and explosion of the skullcap. Such effects appear to be the combined result of direct exposure to heat and an increase in intracranial steam pressure induced by brain ebullition [literally boiling], with skull explosion as the possible outcome.
Oh, and we know what you're wondering. The red and black stuff on the skulls? That's blood and brain fluids. You're very welcome.
The Direwolf Of Yakutia
As the world gets hotter, we're starting to find the horrific secrets that our frozen wastes have been hiding. There are forgotten corpses of soldiers from wars long past, innumerable ancient viruses and bacteria, and if a recent find from Yakutia, Siberia is anything to go by, the monstrous remnants of predators like this 40,000-year-old Pleistocene wolf.
We're not joking when we say "monstrous." One brave scientist -- who presumably lost a bet -- measured the thing's head and found it to be almost 50% bigger than those of modern-day wolves. It's even possible that this specimen wasn't the full-sized model (it was only between two and four years old when it died). We are almost certainly overdue for a movie wherein Liam Neeson punches one of these things to death.
The Mother Of Imola
In 2010, archaeologists excavating a graveyard in Imola, Italy stumbled across the skeleton of a young woman who had undergone trepanning -- an early form of brain surgery whereby a series of holes were drilled into one's skull. We don't want to sound glib, but the surgeon did a bang-up job, because she died a week later.
But this skeleton wasn't just a sad monument to the inelegance of ancient medicine. It was also an onion, in that there were layers to the horror.
While excavating her pelvic region, archaeologists found an assemblage of small bones ... which turned out to be human. It seems that the woman had been pregnant when she died, meaning that when she was buried, her child was laid to rest with her. In a (thankfully) rare example of what archaeologists call a "coffin birth," the decomposition gases inside her body pushed the fetus out, like a champagne cork from the devil's own wine cellar.
This alone should put to rest the idea that archaeology is all fortune and glory. There are days when you might find historical treasures, sure, but they're outnumbered by the days when you have to explain to your horrified benefactors, "No, no, no. The baby wasn't born into a cold, dark, suffocating grave after its mother died from having her head drilled open. It was just stillborn!"
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