The disappearance of the Mayan Civilization is widely considered to be one of the weirdest societal collapses in human history. The Ancient Mayans, who were an indigenous people of Mexico and Central America that built sophisticated pyramids, temples, and palaces, evidently abandoned their intricate civilization and vanished into the Central American jungles. For a long time, people wondered why would such an advanced civilization just abandon the highly developed cities they had built in the Yucatan peninsula in the 700s or 800s AD.
Historians had believed for a long time that the Mayans were probably defeated in some battle by rival peoples and were forced to leave. Some even theorized that an internal peasant revolt might have been the reason.
However, historian Jared Diamond, in his 2005 book "Collapse”, mentions that the Mayans left because of an environmental disaster they were themselves responsible for. This theory was also confirmed in a study published in 2012 by the Arizona State University researchers. Apparently, the Mayans had burned and chopped down so many trees that the land's ability to absorb solar radiation was greatly diminished. This eventually led to drought and triggered erosion and soil depletion. The Mayans were hence forced to leave to avoid starvation and look for food in other places, say the researchers.
2. Mystery: How Did the Woolly Mammoth Go Extinct?
The Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) lived during the Pleistocene age (that began about 2.6 million years ago), and the majority of them died out at the end of the last ice age, about 10,500 years ago. While much is now known about the extinction of dinosaurs, there have been many unanswered questions about the disappearance of these magnificent giant beasts who were the distant relatives of modern-day elephants.
In 2017, though, a team of scientists from the Swedish Museum of Natural History revealed that the last woolly mammoths were wiped out after their DNA became full of errors. According to the scientists who have analyzed ancient DNA of the extinct animals for mutations, the genomes of the mammoths "were falling apart right before they went extinct". They also believe that this was the first case of "genomic meltdown" in a single species. The researchers came to this conclusion after studying genetic mutations found in the ancient DNA of a mammoth from 4,000 years ago.
3. Mystery: The “UFO” That Crashed Near Roswell in 1947
The "UFO" that crashed near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947 has fascinated people for years. In July 1947, at the dawn of the Cold War, the U.S. Army Air Forces sent out a shocking press release, declaring that they had recovered a “flying disc” from a ranch near Roswell. Also known as the Roswell incident, the stunning event sparked tremendous curiosity and many were led to believe that the mysterious object must have been a UFO indeed even though the Army had quickly retracted the statement.
After decades of wild conspiracy theories, the US Air Force in 1994 finally published a report stating that the crashed object was actually a high-altitude nuclear test surveillance balloon.
4. Mystery: Crop Circles Are Evidence of Aliens Visiting Earth
Crop circles have been appearing in grain fields all over the earth for the last few decades now. The first one to trigger widespread fascination appeared in a field near Warminster, in Wiltshire, England, in 1978. Not too long after, many similar crop circles began popping up throughout southern England and then all over the globe. The peculiar shapes in them confused people and it was widely believed that aliens, who were landing on these fields on their UFOs, were responsible for this.
None of this is true. In 1991, friends Doug Bower and Dave Chorley disclosed that they had created the original Wiltshire crop circle. They said that they had been inspired by a letter published in a 1963 issue of New Scientist about "flying saucer nests" and decided to make one themselves. Once their first crop circle caught the attention of the world, the two friends made hundreds more across England. They even showed how they made those circles – with the use of some simple ropes and boards.
You can watch their interview here:
5. Mystery: The 'Flying Dutchman' Ghost Ship
The 'Flying Dutchman' has been a great part of maritime lore for ages. The legendary ghost ship is believed to be doomed to sail the oceans forever as it can’t make port due to the rough waters. This European legend originated in the 17th-century where many “sightings” of a mysterious floating ship were reported in the Cape of Good Hope. Incidentally, almost all these sightings happened when the weather was quite stormy, according to the accounts of the narrators who witnessed the vessel. The stories almost always described the “ghost ship” as being caught in a storm and lit by some kind of spectral light before vanishing into the darkness all of a sudden. The sailors then believed that seeing the vessel was a bad omen.
According to scientists, though, these sightings were examples of a common optical phenomenon called "Fata Morgana." This happens when moisture and atmospheric conditions combine with light resulting in a disjointed image of distant objects. This phenomenon generally tricks the human eyes into seeing objects that don’t really exist there. In the sea, for example, scientists say that this illusion can make a ship appear to be floating on the water. This is most likely what happened with the sailors who sighted the Flying Dutchman at sea. Fata Morgana can be seen at sea and even on land or deserts where we can often mistake some image for a distant object.
6. Mystery: Why Did The Tsavo Lions Hunt People?
The chilling true story of the Man-Eaters of Tsavo, where two massive lions went on a rampage in 1898, killing and eating as many as 135 railroad workers in Kenya in about 9 months, has intrigued researchers and scientists from the world over for decades. It was railway engineer Col. John Henry Patterson who eventually killed the pair of beasts, also known as "The Ghost" and "The Darkness", and wrote about his accounts in a book.
Over the years, animal experts have been puzzled at the insatiable thirst the lions displayed for human flesh. It was suggested initially that the lions' desperate hunger made them kill humans. However, a recent analysis of the remains of the two man-eaters, a part of the collection at The Field Museum in Chicago, has indicated that that tooth and jaw damage might have been the cause. According to the experts, since the jaw pain in the lions would have made it difficult for them to hunt their usual large herbivore prey, they chose to go for the softer human flesh instead.
7. Mystery: The Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot Film
The image above is from the famous 1967 'Patterson-Gimlin Film', showing a mysterious beast lumbering along a northern California river bank. This well-known piece of footage, that was burned into the world's collective conscious for years, is thought to be the best evidence of the presumed existence of 'Bigfoot', an ape-like legendary creature that’s believed by many to be living in the northwestern United States and western Canada.
However, a 2004 book by Greg Long, "The Making of Bigfoot", proved that this video was a hoax. Apparently, the figure in the grainy film is a local man, Bob Heironimus, wearing a gorilla costume suit. Heironimus confessed that the hoax was staged near Bluff Creek in Northern California and he was promised $1,000 to get in the suit and walk in front of the camera. He further says that the filmmakers never paid him a penny for the stunt which went on to be considered the holy grail of proof of Bigfoot's existence.
8. Mystery: The Bermuda Triangle
You’ve likely heard of the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle, an area of water between Florida, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda that, according to myths, causes ships, planes, and people to disappear forever because of some allegedly sinister force. Reports of ships and planes vanishing without a trace in the zone, also called the Devil's Triangle and the Triangle of Death, have terrified people throughout the years. The theories to explain the mystery have ranged from underwater alien bases to strange natural phenomena. But there’s a more logical explanation available.
In his 1975 book, “The Bermuda Triangle Mystery — Solved”, investigator Lawrence David Kusche revealed that he had reviewed the official reports on ships that had supposedly vanished in the region and found that they usually sank because of adverse weather conditions or after suffering some explainable accidents. He even showed how the wreckage of some of those “lost ships” has been recovered.
Furthermore, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency clearly states that the U.S. Coast Guard "does not recognize the existence of the so-called Bermuda Triangle as a geographic area of specific hazard to ships or planes”. They even mention that after reviewing the accidents in the area, they couldn’t find anything that was unnatural or inexplicable.
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