Top 8 History Mysteries

In history, there are rarely any clear answers. It's up to us to piece together what evidence we have to draw the most likely conclusions about objects, events and people - but sometimes even video footage can't be trusted...

Top 10 Mysteries © Getty Images
1

Stonehenge

Constructed around 2500 BC, it has puzzled scientists and archaeologists. The largest stones weigh 30 tons and are thought to have been transported 20 miles. Smaller stones are believed to have originated 150 miles away in Wales. The oldest-known depiction shows Merlin placing a stone. In 1663, physician Walter Charleton claimed Stonehenge was a coronation site for Danish kings. Philosopher, John Aubrey believed Stonehenge was a Druid temple. It could have been a Neolithic place of pilgrimage. Human activity predates the stones by 4,500 years. Charcoal from 7000 BC has been unearthed.

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Stonehenge © Getty Images
Stonehenge © Getty Images
2

The Holy Grail

Claimed to be the cup from the Last Supper, and the vessel that received the blood from Christ’s side during the crucifixion, the Holy Grail is the most sought-after Christian relic. In the 12th century, it became tied up with King Arthur. In 2014, two Spanish researchers claimed that they found the grail. Another theory is that the grail is held at Fort Knox. But there are 200 goblets vying for the title of Holy Grail.

Miniature from Beatae Elisabeth Psalterium, Germany, 13th Century © Getty Images
Miniature from Beatae Elisabeth Psalterium, Germany, 13th Century © Getty Images
3

The Lost Island of Atlantis

Plato describes Atlantis as a powerful, scientifically advanced community, cast to the ocean floor after annoying the gods. Said to be bigger than Libya and Asia Minor combined, in the Atlantic, just beyond the Straits of Gibraltar. Scientist, Francis Bacon revived the topic with his utopian novel, The New Atlantis. Former US Congressman Ignatious L Donnelly hunted for the island, but no concrete evidence has been found. Theories suggest it fell victim to the Bermuda Triangle. Or that it was Crete and Santorini before the huge volcanic eruption in c.1600 BC.

Jim Atherton's illustration of an old-world style world map of the lost city of Atlantis © Getty Images
Jim Atherton’s illustration of an old-world style world map of the lost city of Atlantis © Getty Images
4

King Arthur

The first record is from St Columba in AD 565. The first purported photograph of Nessie was taken by London gynaecologist Robert Kenneth Wilson in 1934, but is now widely dismissed as a hoax. In 1962, Nessie-hunter Tim Dinsdale set up the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau, which used everything from airborne searches to echo sounders, hot-air balloons, sonar, infra-red cameras and submarines to investigate the creature’s existence. There have been more than 1,000 recorded sightings, with seven sightings in 2016.

1st August 1968: Members of the Loch Ness Monster Investigation Team scan the loch for a sighting of the monster © Getty Images
1st August 1968: Members of the Loch Ness Monster Investigation Team scan the loch for a sighting of the monster © Getty Images
5

Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle covers 500,000 square miles of ocean off the tip of Florida. Columbus reported a great flame that crashed into the sea there. Even Shakespeare was intrigued. Some believed The Tempest was about a real Triangle shipwreck. Over the past century, it has been blamed for the disappearance of over 20 planes and 50 ships. The most famous was five Bombers in 1945. They disappeared without a trace, as did their search party. Suggested causes are paranormal activity, structures under the seabed, that the Triangle comprises the souls of African slaves thrown overboard, Earth’s magnetic field, or cloud formations capable of causing 170mph winds and 45ft high waves.

Portrait of legendary Lost Squadron & plane "Flight 19" that supposedly vanished into Bermuda Triangle shortly after WWII © Getty Images
Portrait of legendary Lost Squadron & plane “Flight 19” that supposedly vanished into Bermuda Triangle shortly after WWII © Getty Images
6

The Phaistos Disc

Discovered on Crete in 1908, the fired clay Phaistos Disc is believed to date to 1700 BC, the height of Minoan civilisation. 16cm in diameter and 1cm thick, experts have studied the disc for centuries, trying to decipher the inscribed unknown language. Many believe the 241 symbols are meant to be read in a spiral direction and that contains a prayer to a Minoan goddess. Other experts remain unconvinced, some even proposing that the disc is an elaborate hoax.

The Phaistos Disc from the palace of Phaistos, Crete © Getty Images
The Phaistos Disc from the palace of Phaistos, Crete © Getty Images
7

Copper Scroll Treasure

Part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, it was discovered in caves at Qumran, from 1947-1956. It has been described as the most important and the least understood Scroll. Written on metal, it couldn’t be unrolled conventionally, so it was cut into 23 strips and pieced back together. Dating from AD 25-100, the Scroll contains directions to 64 locations where more than a billion pounds of treasure could be found. Hunts began almost immediately, but nothing has been found.

Original text of what is believed to be a 1,500 year old copy of the beginning of the book of Leviticus at the Dead Sea scrolls laboratory at the conservation laboratory of the Israeli Antiquities Authorities in Jerusalem © Getty Images
Original text of what is believed to be a 1,500 year old copy of the beginning of the book of Leviticus at the Dead Sea scrolls laboratory at the conservation laboratory of the Israeli Antiquities Authorities in Jerusalem © Getty Images
8

Jack the Ripper

Britain’s most notorious serial killer stalked Whitechapel in London’s East End between August and December 1888, murdering at least five women. The first was 42-year-old prostitute Mary Ann Nicholls, whose throat was slashed and stomach ripped open. A week later, the Ripper claimed his second victim, another prostitute, Annie Chapman. Her head was nearly severed and her bladder taken. The last victim, 25-year-old Mary Kelly, had her throat cut, and her nose and breasts cut off. Despite many suspects (including a member of the Royal family), the Ripper has never been identified.

Illustration shows the police discovering the body of one of Jack the Ripper's victims, probably Catherine Eddowes, London, England, late September 1888 © Getty Images
Illustration shows the police discovering the body of one of Jack the Ripper’s victims, probably Catherine Eddowes, London, England, late September 1888 © Getty Images
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This content first apppeared in the June 2017 issue of History Revealed