Throughout history, archaeologists have unearthed certain artefacts whose origins are unclear; uses are unknown, or a combination of the two. Some technology that shouldn't have existed in a specific time period has been dated to periods thousands of years before more modern science would have allowed.
Amazingly enough, these finds aren't isolated to one region or time period. Mysterious objects from antiquity have turned up all across the world and are dated from millions of years ago up to as recent as the 16th century. Below are some of the most confusing artefacts found and some speculations about their uses or origins.
5 Roman Dodecahedra
These geometrical objects are composed of twelve pentagonal sides with spheres places at each of the vertices. Each of the twelve sides contains a hole carved out of the centre in varying sizes. Since their first discovery over two hundred years ago, over one hundred of these ball-like objects have been found all over Europe.
The mystery of the Roman dodecahedra lies in their use. No one is quite sure what they are constructed to do. Many speculations exist including candle holders (due to wax being found inside one), measuring instruments, dice, decorations, and toys. One of the more ingenious explanations includes a device for predicting the path of warlike projectiles, which might explain why they've been dug up all over the ancient Roman empire.
Others believe that they were used to find the best date for planting wheat by determining the angle of the sunlight shining through the object's holes. However, the dodecahedra come in many different sizes and configurations, so they are not uniform and would all give different dates. Maybe they are simply religious objects. Whatever they might have been, they were likely valuable and have been found in treasure rooms with other riches.
4 The Piri Reis Map
Piri Reis was an admiral in the 16th-century Turkish navy. He was the man who drew a highly accurate map of the new world years before it would be possible for Europeans to know such details. One unexplainable feature is the presence of the Andes Mountains in western South America, even though Europeans would not make their first visit to this area for years.
It's also unclear as to why some details that were known at the time of the map's creation are inaccurate while allegedly unknown details are very accurate. Piri Reis is known to have created the map by borrowing information from over twenty original maps.
This fact makes the mystery of the Piri Reis even more complex. Where did these maps come from? How did the small 16th-century Turkish empire acquire them? How were they drawn so accurately without modern cartography techniques and tools? Some scholars even believe that this might only be half of a world map, making the enigma even more cryptic.
3 Antikythera Mechanism
This Greek device dates back over 2000 years and is one of the most complex and puzzling archaeological finds ever discovered. It is the first known computer and was used to predict astronomical dates with surprising accuracy.
Some of the occurrences it was able to calculate include: lunar and solar positions and eclipses; planetary motion; and where the next Olympic games would be held. This machine was comprised of an intricate series of gears interlocked in such a way that wouldn't be seen until more modern clocks were constructed in the 18th century.
Using instructions inscribed in the mechanism's sides, scientists have been able to reconstruct a replica to test its accuracy. It's unclear how the Greeks were able to create such a highly technological device so long ago since there is no mention of it anywhere else in history.
2 Baghdad Batteries
Alessandro Volta is recognised as the creator of the first battery in the late 18th century. So why did archaeologists unearth devices that were capable of generating electricity over 2000 years before Volta's invention?
The Baghdad battery was a clay pot with a nail made of iron wrapped in a copper sheet placed inside. On top of the battery was an asphalt stopper and if filled with an acidic liquid such as vinegar, it could generate over one volt of electricity. Two modern experiments have proven that these batteries could, in fact, generate electricity, but it's still unclear exactly why they were needed. No historical records were recorded in this era; however, some researchers believe that the batteries may have been used to electroplate metal objects with gold.
1 Nazca Drawings
These drawings are massive (sometimes over 15 miles long) spirals, lines, and images of animals that cover much of Peru's landscape in the Nazca desert. It's not entirely clear what their meaning or purpose was, but some hypothesise that they were intended to be seen from the sky.
If so, how would the people of the ancient Nazca culture be able to see these from high above? A few people believe that these drawings were guides for landing and/or navigating extraterrestrial aircraft. Others think that they are maybe somehow connected to the zodiac and constellations. However, newer archaeological facts point to them having been constructed for religious reasons.
The Nazca Desert was a difficult place for agriculture, so its inhabitants practised a religion centred on nature guides, many which were believed to be powerful animal gods of water and fertility. This might explain the massive animal outlines. One last explanation for the lines of the Nazca drawings are great pilgrimages to places pleasing to the water gods. These pilgrimages consisted of very long processions—the straight-lined walks of many people could have created the lines in the Nazca drawings.
As science and technology evolve and archaeologists discover more and more artefacts, perhaps more light will be shed on the history of these ancient finds. Maybe we will know more about the mysteries of the past and how certain technology could exist so many years before we thought possible. Or will new discoveries prove to be even more complex than those already unearthed? Only the future contains the answers to the distant past.