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View Full Version : What are some unusual [ancient historical] mysteries/plots/stories?



bhawtho
09-07-2016, 10:45 AM
We all hunt for inspiration from time to time and some of the best places are of history itself. It can be difficult to sift through it all without knowing exactly what to look up. So, what have you guys found during your late night research grinding sessions?

As tribute, I recently learned of Hypatia: A mathematician and philosopher of Alexandria. After becoming the head of a Neoplatonist School, she taught knowledge of Plato and Aristotle to students, including pagans, Christians, and foreigners. During an episode of city-wide anger stemming from a feud between Orestes, the prefect of Alexandria, and Cyril, the Bishop of Alexandria, Hypatia was murdered.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypatia

Sunflowerrei
09-07-2016, 11:02 AM
You should come hang out with us the Historical Writing forum. This kind of stuff is a lot of what we talk about.

bhawtho
09-07-2016, 11:21 AM
Oh cool, I didn't see that thread. I'll check it out.

Siri Kirpal
09-07-2016, 10:22 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

It's not a thread, but a whole section of the forum. Go to forum and scroll down to Genre, then to Historical (near the bottom of the list).

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

dinky_dau
10-23-2016, 03:39 AM
When I find stuff like this, I usually keep it to myself for my own stories.

Some obvious ones though:
The Pyramids
Stonehenge
Temple of Zeus
Volcanic eruptions
Trojan War
The lost tribes of Israel
The lost Ark of the Covenant
Holy Grail, Holy Spear, Holy Shroud
Greek fire
What happened to the Mayans?
What are these things drawn on the desert floor?
What happened to Eastr Island?
What happened on Roanoke Island?
'Where'd that treasure from the First Crusade wind up?'
Who traveled over what land bridge to get...where?
The first sailors to cross the _____ sea?
'What are these rocks doing here when they should be over here?'
There's also a lot of mysteries related to 'author unknowns', the provenance of famous documents, the 'who-really-wrote-what' kind of thing; 'who really was Dionysyus of Alexandria'?
Or, what are now considered 'lost books'. One famous 'who the hell wrote this?' type of mystery is the 'Voynich Manuscript' (I'll tell ya that one for nothing).

My personal favorite (but one which no one else ever seems to wonder about save me) ....why the hell did it take so long for the bicycle to be invented? No one seems to have an answer for me. Yew tellin' me that for ten thousan' yrs of western civilization, all the way up to the 1800s --no one thought of slapping a couple of wheels together and sitting down between them? Its astounding. They made astrolabes and chronometers, but couldn't make a Schwinn?

Mrs-Q
10-23-2016, 03:45 AM
I'm a big fan of saints (especially ones popular in the middle ages), sagas from oral traditions, and Babylonian myth for this kind of thing.

There are a lot of interesting ideas from oral traditions (like invocation of spirits and establishing the heritage and credentials of the storyteller in verse) we don't do. It's neat to see different structures as well as different sets of symbols and unfamiliar plots.

aygnm
11-25-2016, 10:27 PM
When I find stuff like this, I usually keep it to myself for my own stories.

Some obvious ones though:
The Pyramids
Stonehenge
Temple of Zeus
Volcanic eruptions
Trojan War
The lost tribes of Israel
The lost Ark of the Covenant
Holy Grail, Holy Spear, Holy Shroud
Greek fire
What happened to the Mayans?
What are these things drawn on the desert floor?
What happened to Eastr Island?
What happened on Roanoke Island?
'Where'd that treasure from the First Crusade wind up?'
Who traveled over what land bridge to get...where?
The first sailors to cross the _____ sea?
'What are these rocks doing here when they should be over here?'
There's also a lot of mysteries related to 'author unknowns', the provenance of famous documents, the 'who-really-wrote-what' kind of thing; 'who really was Dionysyus of Alexandria'?
Or, what are now considered 'lost books'. One famous 'who the hell wrote this?' type of mystery is the 'Voynich Manuscript' (I'll tell ya that one for nothing).

My personal favorite (but one which no one else ever seems to wonder about save me) ....why the hell did it take so long for the bicycle to be invented? No one seems to have an answer for me. Yew tellin' me that for ten thousan' yrs of western civilization, all the way up to the 1800s --no one thought of slapping a couple of wheels together and sitting down between them? Its astounding. They made astrolabes and chronometers, but couldn't make a Schwinn?

How about:

* Gobekli Tepe
* The Megalith Builders
* Kiffian & Tenerean People of Gobero, Niger
* Caral, Supe Valley, Peru
* The Chachapoya: "Cloud Warriors"
* Gonur People

Friendly Frog
11-28-2016, 12:29 AM
Unique or mysterious archeaological artefacts can often be a cool starting point as well. Stonehenge or the Nazca Lines are very obvious, but things like the Nebra Sky disk or the Antikythera Device surely must fascinate other people as much as they fascinate me. Undecyphered scripts like Indus Script, Linear A, or the carved Pictish symbols can make for good mysteries too.

My last research was into mediterranean bronze era menhirs with carved faces (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filitosa) which far too few people seem to even know about to appreciate.


My personal favorite (but one which no one else ever seems to wonder about save me) ....why the hell did it take so long for the bicycle to be invented? No one seems to have an answer for me. Yew tellin' me that for ten thousan' yrs of western civilization, all the way up to the 1800s --no one thought of slapping a couple of wheels together and sitting down between them? Its astounding. They made astrolabes and chronometers, but couldn't make a Schwinn?
Oh, I'm sure plenty of people thought about it, some probably will even have tried it and most afterwards would likely have tried forgetting about it real quick, I'm guessing, as soon as they could walk properly again.

The thing about bicycles, IMO, is that without the 'invention' of flat roads and rubber tyres it is not a transportation device as much as a torture device.

King Neptune
11-28-2016, 12:38 AM
Unique or mysterious archeaological artefacts can often be a cool starting point as well. Stonehenge or the Nazca Lines are very obvious, but things like the Nebra Sky disk or the Antikythera Device surely must fascinate other people as much as they fascinate me. Undecyphered scripts like Indus Script, Linear A, or the carved Pictish symbols can make for good mysteries too.

At least two different people deciphered Linear A, and they got the same result, but there are other unknown scripts and sets of symbols.


My last research was into mediterranean bronze era menhirs with carved faces (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filitosa) which far too few people seem to even know about to appreciate.

I've only read one story about such a menhir.

Friendly Frog
11-28-2016, 01:39 AM
At least two different people deciphered Linear A, and they got the same result, but there are other unknown scripts and sets of symbols.
That would be new to me. As far as I know the underlying language of Linear A is still unknown even if a number of symbols may be reliably tied to sounds due to the kinship the script has to Linear B. But while Linear B is used to write an early form of Greek, the language in which the Linear A texts are written is -again, as far as I know- still unknown, and suprisingly distinct from other known languages. So even if a significant amount of the signs of Linear A are known, they will still need the underlying language to be able to 'read' the texts, therefor I would say the decypherment of Linear A as at best incomplete.

King Neptune
11-28-2016, 04:51 AM
That would be new to me. As far as I know the underlying language of Linear A is still unknown even if a number of symbols may be reliably tied to sounds due to the kinship the script has to Linear B. But while Linear B is used to write an early form of Greek, the language in which the Linear A texts are written is -again, as far as I know- still unknown, and suprisingly distinct from other known languages. So even if a significant amount of the signs of Linear A are known, they will still need the underlying language to be able to 'read' the texts, therefor I would say the decypherment of Linear A as at best incomplete.

Several years ago, I was looking for something about obscure languages, when I found an article about someone having deciphered Linear A. That surprised me, because it should have been a small item in the news, but it hadn't been. Then i searched for anything related to get details, and I found that two people had announced deciphering within about a year. It was a minor interest of mine several years ago, so I just let it stay in my memory until now, and now I find that no one has announced deciphering Linear A. I assume that either they retracted their claims or I slipped into a parallel universe where they hadn't succeeded. I wish it had been a major interest for which I would collect information, but it wasn't . They both found that the language was an ancient form of Greek with some Coptic words, as is the case with Linear B.

Now I have to find a way to determine whether there were retractions, or if this is a parallel universe.

autumnleaf
11-28-2016, 02:00 PM
My personal favorite (but one which no one else ever seems to wonder about save me) ....why the hell did it take so long for the bicycle to be invented? No one seems to have an answer for me. Yew tellin' me that for ten thousan' yrs of western civilization, all the way up to the 1800s --no one thought of slapping a couple of wheels together and sitting down between them? Its astounding. They made astrolabes and chronometers, but couldn't make a Schwinn?



Oh, I'm sure plenty of people thought about it, some probably will even have tried it and most afterwards would likely have tried forgetting about it real quick, I'm guessing, as soon as they could walk properly again.

The thing about bicycles, IMO, is that without the 'invention' of flat roads and rubber tyres it is not a transportation device as much as a torture device.

It's not the wheels that are the important part of a bicycle; it's the gear and pedal mechanism. Otherwise, it's a great way of getting downhill but useless uphill or on the flat.

One theory about why the bicycle was invented in the 19th century: The price of oats went up, making horses more expensive to keep and promoting the need for a cheaper means of transportation. http://mentalfloss.com/article/73585/15-facts-about-year-without-summer

Another is that rubber became more available, at first through expansion of the British Empire and then through development of synthetic rubber. Cycling on wooden wheels is really uncomfortable!

A bicycle is actually a rather ingenious machine, estimated as the most efficient form of transportation in terms of energy consumed. https://www.exploratorium.edu/cycling/humanpower1.html

blacbird
11-28-2016, 11:46 PM
My personal favorite (but one which no one else ever seems to wonder about save me) ....why the hell did it take so long for the bicycle to be invented? No one seems to have an answer for me. Yew tellin' me that for ten thousan' yrs of western civilization, all the way up to the 1800s --no one thought of slapping a couple of wheels together and sitting down between them? Its astounding. They made astrolabes and chronometers, but couldn't make a Schwinn?

Pre-European conquest American civilizations never used the wheel, as I understand. But the Mexican and Andean societies, in particular, were prosperous and highly sophisticated.

The first thing that really resembled a bicycle was the velocipede, which you propelled (and stopped) with your feet. No pedal mechanism at all.

caw

Roxxsmom
11-29-2016, 12:17 AM
Oh, I'm sure plenty of people thought about it, some probably will even have tried it and most afterwards would likely have tried forgetting about it real quick, I'm guessing, as soon as they could walk properly again.

The thing about bicycles, IMO, is that without the 'invention' of flat roads and rubber tyres it is not a transportation device as much as a torture device.

I think this may be the answer. Even the amazing Roman roads were much bumpier than modern asphalt (invented in 1870, though macdam composite dates to the early 1800s). And rubber tires only date to the late 1800s. Still, the earliest velocipedes (popular with dandy types for taking a turn around the park) date to the early 1800s, followed by the invention of various 3 and 4-wheeled devices, then (finally) modern bikes.

It is rather strange that no one came up with pedalable three or four-wheeled "carts" before this, though. Bumpy roads or no, they couldn't have been worse than riding in an old style cart, wagon or carriage, and horses and oxen were messy and not always practical (or affordable) to keep in larger cities.

Though there's a guy in China claiming that this device was invented more than 2000 years ago. No idea how credible he is.

http://metro.co.uk/2010/03/24/was-this-the-worlds-first-ever-cycle-189288/

If you're tossing out ideas for a fantasy society with pedal power, I can't think of a reason why, if history had played out a bit differently, something like the above device couldn't have been refined to a point where it was practical and caught on somewhere in a pre-industrial culture.

Friendly Frog
12-02-2016, 11:03 PM
Several years ago, I was looking for something about obscure languages, when I found an article about someone having deciphered Linear A. That surprised me, because it should have been a small item in the news, but it hadn't been. Then i searched for anything related to get details, and I found that two people had announced deciphering within about a year. It was a minor interest of mine several years ago, so I just let it stay in my memory until now, and now I find that no one has announced deciphering Linear A. I assume that either they retracted their claims or I slipped into a parallel universe where they hadn't succeeded. I wish it had been a major interest for which I would collect information, but it wasn't . They both found that the language was an ancient form of Greek with some Coptic words, as is the case with Linear B.

Now I have to find a way to determine whether there were retractions, or if this is a parallel universe.
I'm not really surprised, after all, every few years there's someone who claims to have translated the Voynich-manuscript. To this day that hasn't caught on either. But not all the people who claimed to have translated something undecyphered actually publish their work in scientific journals and even of those that do much depends on whether the scientific community accepts their work as sound. So there may not even be a retraction for you to find.

King Neptune
12-03-2016, 12:33 AM
I'm not really surprised, after all, every few years there's someone who claims to have translated the Voynich-manuscript. To this day that hasn't caught on either. But not all the people who claimed to have translated something undecyphered actually publish their work in scientific journals and even of those that do much depends on whether the scientific community accepts their work as sound. So there may not even be a retraction for you to find.

There's a huge difference between the Voynich-manuscript and Linear A. I would be willing to bet that tthe Voynich-manuscript is not in any language, but Linear A is language, and there are many samples of it. It's just a matter of time until someone puts forth a word list of Linear A and doesn't run away when people start criticizing it.

Friendly Frog
12-03-2016, 01:23 AM
True, Voynich may likely be more like a code than an actual undetermined language. But both Voynich and Linear A are undecyphered at the moment and that means many people -either amateur or professional- will want to be the first to crack them. And for people with only a passing interest (like say, me) it's almost impossible to determine when one of those decypherment-claims makes the news to discern whether there is any verifiable linguistic basis for their claim or whether they're just making things up. I would need other specialists to conform these claims because I lack the knowledge myself.

I mention the Voynich-manuscript specifically because it has been often claimed to have been decyphered, making the world news in the progress, when afterwards, as soon as some expert take a look at the claims, they don't stand up.

King Neptune
12-03-2016, 03:36 AM
I don't know how close he is to a complete decipherment, but this gentleman has putt a lot of the basics online.

http://www.people.ku.edu/~jyounger/LinearA/

ome of the other links on the wikipedia article on Linear A also are attempts at decipherment.

King Neptune
12-03-2016, 03:42 AM
True, Voynich may likely be more like a code than an actual undetermined language. But both Voynich and Linear A are undecyphered at the moment and that means many people -either amateur or professional- will want to be the first to crack them. And for people with only a passing interest (like say, me) it's almost impossible to determine when one of those decypherment-claims makes the news to discern whether there is any verifiable linguistic basis for their claim or whether they're just making things up. I would need other specialists to conform these claims because I lack the knowledge myself.

I mention the Voynich-manuscript specifically because it has been often claimed to have been decyphered, making the world news in the progress, when afterwards, as soon as some expert take a look at the claims, they don't stand up.

One theory about the Voynich thing is that it s a work of design art, and there is no language involved. It has been pointed out that the glyphs could have been put on using a template that had each one every so often. The creator(s) would have simply moved the template and applied ink. I read the story of it, as far as is known, but I don't know how much money the creator(s) of the thing made from it.

shakeysix
12-03-2016, 04:15 AM
I am obsessed with the missing lighthouse keepers on Eilean Mor. Keith McCloskey wrote a recent book on it but it has been a mystery since 1902 I believe. I remember reading about it as a grade school kid. The overturned chair and half eaten meal are fiction. McCloskey believes that the over the top Log entry was also false. Everything was tidy, nothing out of place--just as if they had tidied up before leaving--which makes it spookier. Two sets of oilskins missing and on set hanging on its hook. Three men missing. No one had seen the light for 11 days. The gate was latched and the front door locked. If one keeper ran out to save the other keepers from a giant wave why latch the gate but not wear his oilskins? The island is only a few acres nd almost impossible to access --where were the bodies?

If you don't think 1959 is too recent, and if you can handle photos of eyeless corpses, There is always the Dyatlov Pass (shudder!)

Roxxsmom
12-03-2016, 04:47 AM
I always found the Mary Celeste mystery intriguing.

The Auckland and Taos (and other such) "hums."

The stone circle under Lake Michigan (http://www.ancient-code.com/researchers-find-a-rock-with-a-carving-of-a-mastodon-at-the-underwater-stonehenge-of-lake-michigan/) (clearly, ancient Native Americans created it when the water level was lower, but still, it's intriguing).

Who in the hell was Jack the Ripper?

Where are the remains of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (or what happened to them if they left no remains)?

The untranslated Voynich Manuscript (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voynich_manuscript)

What happened to the Indus Valley Civilization (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indus_Valley_Civilisation) (they had flush toilets and indoor plumbing more than 4000 years ago), and how did their government work?

King Neptune
12-03-2016, 04:59 AM
What happened to the Indus Valley Civilization (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indus_Valley_Civilisation) (they had flush toilets and indoor plumbing more than 4000 years ago), and how did their government work?

That's an easy one. There was climate change, and the region dried considerably. There used to be six rivers, but the one near that city dried up, so the people moved to better areas, but they left their writing system.

Deb Kinnard
12-04-2016, 03:09 AM
I've read several tales that attempt to explain the complete disappearance of the Ninth "Hispana" Roman legion. Their fate may never be learned but I find the tales fascinating.

Brightdreamer
12-04-2016, 03:43 AM
I've seen reprints of the Voynich manuscript going through the library lately. IIRC, some believe it was a deliberate hoax - there was (and remains) a market for "secret codexes" containing hidden mystical formulas and such, meaning someone could've made a great deal of money for their time. (Or it could've been a fictional work created for its own artistic sake, never intended to be seriously translated, like an early version of the Codex Seraphinianus (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex_Seraphinianus) - which I've also seen go through the library.). Barring time travel, I don't expect we'll ever know for sure.

I'm reading a book now on technologies that shaped human evolution and culture - some of those early cave paintings and markings would be interesting to understand in full.

I've also read enough to wonder just how much we lost to Ancient Rome's rewriting of history and destruction of other cultures - utterly erasing at least one contemporary power that was at least as advanced as they were.

RN Hill
12-08-2016, 07:47 AM
My local newspaper used to have a '100 Years Ago Today' column, in which they'd pull interesting tidbits from the paper 100 years ago and reprint a paragraph or two. Found some VERY interesting things that way, including the nonfiction book I'm still researching (though I think I may finally have hit the proverbial brick wall). And in researching that, I found all kinds of really weird things - serial killers c. 1900 - 1911 that have gone largely unnoticed in today's histories, and some local controversies of note.

I think the medieval papacy can't be rivaled for sheer 'holy cow what the frack'-ness. Especially Boniface VIII and the entire Avignon Papacy and resulting Great Schism. And the Medici popes.

Hildegarde of Bingen is also fascinating -

shakeysix
12-08-2016, 06:39 PM
OOOoo! One of my favorite mysteries: the axe murders in the early 1900s. The Villisca murder in Iowa was horrific, an entire family, mother, father, children and visiting children all murdered in their sleep, but it wasn't the only one. There were two ax murders in small Kansas towns, Paola and Ellsworth; ax murders in Colorado Springs and Columbia Missouri too. All within a couple of years and along the same railroad line. I used to go to school in Iowa and one of the girls on my floor told us the Villisca story one dark and creepy night. --s6

snafu1056
12-08-2016, 11:27 PM
I don't believe the "Old Shakespeare" murder of New York, 1891 was ever solved. It only became famous because it was speculated at the time that it was the work of Jack the Ripper. "Shakespeare" was a prostitute and was murdered in a very "Ripperesque" way. They arrested and tried some poor immigrant for the crime, but he turned out to be innocent and was eventually released. I dont believe the real killer was ever found. But I'm not an expert on the case.

King Neptune
12-09-2016, 01:04 AM
I don't believe the "Old Shakespeare" murder of New York, 1891 was ever solved. It only became famous because it was speculated at the time that it was the work of Jack the Ripper. "Shakespeare" was a prostitute and was murdered in a very "Ripperesque" way. They arrested and tried some poor immigrant for the crime, but he turned out to be innocent and was eventually released. I dont believe the real killer was ever found. But I'm not an expert on the case.

There was a significant string of murders elsewhere after Jack stopped operating in England that were done in a similar fashion. https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2005/may/03/books.ukcrime

This is not something that I have looked into, but it is possible.

snafu1056
12-09-2016, 04:42 AM
Yeah. People have made entire careers out of studying Jack the Ripper.

King Neptune
12-09-2016, 04:45 AM
Yeah. People have made entire careers out of studying Jack the Ripper.

As long as they don't emulate him.