Welcome to the Top10Archive! History is filled with discoveries of wonder and amaze, but have you ever stopped to think about the creepier things that have been dug up? From archaeological findings to scientific discoveries, these are the top 10 creepy discoveries throughout history.
Mass Grave of Tuam, County Galway
World history is no stranger to mass graves, and while often backed by a tragic story, few could be as tragic as the remains of approximately 796 infants and toddlers found in the septic tank of an Irish home for single mothers in Tuam, County Galway. Between 1925 and 1961, the home was run by Bon Secours nuns, who, after the discovery, were alleged to allow the children to go malnourished and neglected. Apparently, when a child died – and many did of pneumonia, measles, gastroenteritis, and tuberculosis – they were wrapped in an unmarked shroud and buried in the same spot that once held a water tank near the home. After its discovery, the mass grave was left unmarked and a housing estate was erected around it.
Sewer of Babies
Roman bathhouses are a place of relaxation, so the discovery of around 100 infant remains in the sewers beneath such an establishment at Ashkelon raises many, many questions. Post-discovery, it was discovered that the remains were mostly intact, an indication that the infants were probably thrown into the sewage drain either before or shortly after its death. All of the infants are expected to have died shortly after birth due to the lack of neonatal lines, though their remains show no sign of skeletal malformation or disease. Sadly, with no known natural cause of death, researchers expect the near 100 deaths to have been from infanticide, either during a time of famine or war or even possibly as a result of courtesans birthing unwanted offspring.
Headless Viking Burial Ground
The Vikings were brutal soldiers, but even the most driven of fighters can be bested. Found in a morose burial pit in southern England in 2009 were the bodies of 51 Viking men. They weren’t just laid to rest peacefully, though – the English beheaded these 51 men, threw their bodies carelessly into a pit, and stacked their heads in a separate pile. As if being beheaded wasn’t enough, the complete lack of any sort of cloth or clothing found around the site indicate that the Viking captives were likely buried naked, thrown together in a tangled heap. Cut marks on the skull and jaw of several of the remains indicate that their death wasn’t swift and decapitation took multiple strikes.
Early Chemical Warfare
Chemical warfare is a terrifying concept, but we also view it as a fairly new addition to war, with the first known chemical weapons behind used during World War I. In reality, though, ancient Persians may have been far ahead of their time and could actually lay claim to the first use of deadly chemical weaponry over 2,000 years ago. In 2009, archaeologists located evidence of a chemical attack on 20 Roman soldiers whose bodies were uncovered some 70 years ago in Syria’s underground. The Roman remains were revealed in a tunnel, opposite one unlucky Persian that was found. Archaeologists claim that the Persian’s waited as Roman’s dug a tunnel during a siege, eventually flooding the tunnel with a deadly mix of Sulphur crystals and bitumen.
The Tortured Mummy
Also referred to as the Screaming Mummy, this embalmed body, believed to be Prince Pentawere, the son and suspected conspirator in a murder plot of Pharaoh Ramses III, looks to have died in agony, its gaping mouth positioned as if its final screams for help have been immortalized forever. Most archaeologists actually believing the dropping draw is a natural occurrence when not sewn shut, but there is still a factor to this mummy that may give some chills. The wrapping is made entirely of sheepskin, a material Egyptians viewed as unclean, his organs were left intact, and his grave was unmarked, hindering his passing into the afterlife. How and why this figure was killed and mummified remains a mystery, but he sure wasn’t given the Egyptian red-carpet mummification treatment.
An aerial view of the Nazca Desert in southern Peru looks quite similar to a children’s sketchbook. Approximately 70 different zoomorphic designs, hundreds of nonsensical geometric shapes, and several phytomorphic shapes like trees and flowers have been etched into the desert ground – and while some may hope for an extraterrestrial origin, the story behind these incredible designs is far more human than that. Originally discovered in 1553 and mistaken for trail markers by Pedro Cieza de Leon, the designs were later elaborated on by Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejia Xesspe. One belief claims that Nazca people drew the designs for their god’s viewing pleasures while another is a bit more scientific, pointing to early astronomy, celestial bodies, and astronomical calendars.
The Essex Sarcophagus
It was an incredible find for Stephen Drake from Willingham Auctions in Cambridgeshire, definitely not something he expect to come across when he first saw the dilapidated Bradwell-on-Sea home. While meandering through the home, which was in the middle of being refurbished, Drake came to a hole in the wall. Peering through it, his eyes landed upon a 3,000 year old sarcophagus, an artifact the relatives of the deceased former-home owner knew nothing about. Dated and authenticated by Cambridge University, the sarcophagus was deemed real, which begs the questions of where its former owner retrieved it from and what happened to the body that likely once inhabited it.
Book of Smallpox Scabs
When you open up a really old book, one that’s centuries old, you hope to find a historic relic, maybe a letter or map leading to some great discovery – you don’t hope, and certainly don’t expect, to come across an aged envelope filled with human scabs. Such was the case in College of Santa Fe’s Fogelson Library in 2003, when Susanne Caro opened an 1888 book on Civil War medicine. The inscription on the envelope read “scabs from vaccination of W.B. Yarrington’s children.” The Center for Disease Control isolated them as scabs from a smallpox patient, and while Ms. Caro cautiously opens up every old book she handles now, government health officials get a first rate look at the evolutionary processes of a disease like smallpox.
Prehistoric Mounted Skulls
What kind of treatment would you wind up giving your enemies? Would you mount their severed heads on poles and leave them for unsuspecting archaeologists to stumble across thousands of years later? It may not have been what these Stone Aged people of Sweden had planned, but it’s precisely what happened. In 2009, archaeologists happened across the remains of 11 individuals in what was once the bottom of a lake. The remains, specifically at least 2 of the human skulls, had been pierced with a stake. It’s unclear whether they were the remains of the tribe’s enemies, but they were found within what was believed to be a ritualistic site, mixed with animal bones and other human remains.
King Henry IV’s Head
As if being assassinated wasn’t enough, King Henry IV’s body was exhumed in 1793 and beheaded. Where the head went was a mystery until 2010, when it was found in the attic of a retired tax collector, Jacques Bellanger, who had purchased it from a French couple who had obtained it in the early 1900’s via auction. Digital facial reconstruction and tomography scans matched the skull with portraits of the very late king, though DNA testing in 2013 may have found a disconnect in the lineage that Henry IV stemmed from. Identity of the head aside for a moment, we can’t ignore that some aged tax collector was storing a 17th century head in his attic.