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The Voynich Manuscript and Other Interesting Oddities in History

Updated on April 7, 2013

History is one of my favorite subjects. From the Black Plague to Cleopatra and her asp, I find nearly all of it fascinating.

History is full of great mysteries. For example, no one really knows why Stonehenge was built. No one knows what happened to the lost colony of Roanoke. How did they build the great pyramids of Egypt? What happened to the Mayans?

Those are some of the most discussed and familiar of history's mysteries, but what of the ones that are off the beaten path?

Fortunately for you, I live off the beaten path, and I love a good mystery. So here are my top five favorite mysteries of history, in no particular order.

The Tarim Mummy known as Chärchän man, or Ur-David. He was very tall and red haired.
The Tarim Mummy known as Chärchän man, or Ur-David. He was very tall and red haired. | Source

5. The Tarim Mummies

Mummies from ancient times, though rare, are not unheard of. The Tarim Mummies, however, are very different.

Found in a desert in China and dating from as far back as 1900 BC, the oldest of these mummies are the remains of noticeably Caucasian people. Some were even blond or red haired. Clothing found with some of the Tarim mummies indicates that the people may have originated as far West as modern day Switzerland.

The questions many have are: What were people of Western European descent doing in ancient China? Are these the people that brought Buddhism to China?

The discovery of these mummies has led to some ethnic controversy in China, and could possibly affect people's claims of being native to the area. Genetic testing is not 100% conclusive in relating those people to the mummies.

Sample of unidentifiable writing in the Voynich Manuscript.
Sample of unidentifiable writing in the Voynich Manuscript. | Source

4. The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript is a book that is officially dated to about the early fifteenth century. It depicts plants, astrology and biology, among other things, and is illustrated. What makes it unique is that it is written in an undecipherable language, and the plant life in the book does not resemble any known species. No one knows exactly where it came from and no one knows who wrote it or why.

There are theories upon theories upon theories of where this book came from and what it's purpose is. The book may have been purchased by Rudolph II, a Holy Roman Emperor who had an interest in the occult. It has been passed through many hands over the centuries and eventually found it's way to Wilfred Voynich, a Polish scholar from whom the book got it's current name.

All attempts to translate or decode this book over the centuries have failed. Professional cryptographers have been unable to crack the code. Though the book could be pure gibberish, many think it is not, and may be able to be decoded with a Cardan grille, a special grid that reveals only certain letters. The problem with this theory is that the letters in the Voynich Manuscript are in no identifiable language.

There is also a popular theory that this book is a well-crafted hoax.

The Ménec Alignment, part of the Carnac Stones.
The Ménec Alignment, part of the Carnac Stones. | Source

3. The Carnac Stones

The Carnac Stones are a series of megalithic sites in Brittany, France. There are over 3,000 stones in the collection, which is generally believed to date sometime between 4500 BC and 3300 BC which makes it older than Stonehenge.

The stones were cut from local rock and places in very specific alignments. Some of the placements are classic dolmens, or tombs. Though many of the stones are relatively small, some are huge. A panoramic photograph of most of the major 'alignments' shows that they resemble a graveyard but, with the exception of the dolmens, there is no evidence of anyone having been buried under them.

Over the years, conservation of the sites have cause some controversy. Though the Carnac Stones are prehistoric, some of them have been moved for fairly modern projects, such as the building of roads.

As with Stonehenge, the reason for the building of most the Carnac Stones is unknown.

Tollund Man, a Bog Body found in Denmark. He was found with the rope used to hang him still wrapped around his neck. He is one of the best preserved of the Bog Bodies and dates from as far back as 375 BC.
Tollund Man, a Bog Body found in Denmark. He was found with the rope used to hang him still wrapped around his neck. He is one of the best preserved of the Bog Bodies and dates from as far back as 375 BC. | Source

2. The Bog Bodies

Bog Bodies are hundreds of human remains that have been mummified or, more correctly, tanned by their funerary placement in bogs in certain areas of Europe. They have been found in areas where there is high acidity in the water, little oxygen, lower temperatures and the presence of a specific kind of moss.

Some of the bodies are nearly perfectly preserved, and the faces of some of these people are so unmarred by time that it's nearly impossible to believe that they have rested in the bogs since the Iron Age. In fact, when some of the bodies were recovered prior to modern archaeology, the condition of the remains caused authorities to believe that they were recently deceased.

The real question with the Bog Bodies is: Why are thy there? In nearly all of the remains found, marks on the bodies indicate that the people died by violent means, nearly all were naked and some even showed signs of having been of higher class backgrounds. Many of the bodies have been pinned into the bog presumably to keep them from floating to the surface. It was not the tradition at the time to bury the dead in bogs.

Some historians have speculated that some of these bodies may be the results of ritualistic killings, such as human sacrifices. Some of the Bog Bodies showed signs of having had some of their internal organs removed, which indicates the possibility of ancient fortune telling using the intestines of animals - in this case, humans.

Drawing of the components of the Baghdad Battery.
Drawing of the components of the Baghdad Battery. | Source

1. The Baghdad Battery

The Baghdad Battery is considered an Out of Place Artifact, or OOPART, because it is something that existed in a time when the technology required to produce it was inadequate for it's invention.

The Baghdad Battery, also referred to as the Parthian Battery, is a term for several of these artifacts that have been discovered in and around Iraq. They date to somewhere between the years 224 and 640 AD as evidenced by the style of pottery. They consist of terracotta jars with iron nails that are wrapped in copper sheeting. Theoretically, these 'batteries' may have been used as electricity sources for electroplating one metal onto another. Although this theory has been proven possible by TV's Mythbusters, no examples of electroplate from this era or geographic location have ever been found.

Electroplating is not the only theory that possibly explains the Baghdad Battery. They could have had no other purpose then the storage of important scrolls.

Either way, the Baghdad Battery is definitely food for thought.

© 2012 Georgianna Lowery

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    • pmorries profile image

      pmorries 5 years ago from Golden, CO

      Georgie-I am ashamed to say that I have never heard of Tarim Mummies. You wrote another great Hub, as per usual, and I voted it up.

    • qeyler profile image

      qeyler 5 years ago

      I knew these mysteries and like the author adore them, probably because they are mysteries. Very good hub

    • bluberrypossum profile image

      bluberrypossum 5 years ago from South Carolina

      Great Hub! I find historical mysteries high interesting too!

    • Georgie Lowery profile image
      Author

      Georgianna Lowery 5 years ago from Slaton, Texas USA

      pmorries,

      Never be ashamed! I'm glad you liked the Hub!

    • Georgie Lowery profile image
      Author

      Georgianna Lowery 5 years ago from Slaton, Texas USA

      geyler,

      I do love a good mystery! Thank you for the comment!

    • Georgie Lowery profile image
      Author

      Georgianna Lowery 5 years ago from Slaton, Texas USA

      bluberrypossum,

      I can get lost for days reading about things like these!

      Thank you for the comment!

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 5 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      Fascinating... you're an ocean of knowledge I must say.... I did not know about any of these...

      Great hub

    • dwachira profile image

      [ Danson Wachira ] 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Great hub Georgie Lowery, could Baghdad Battery be the fathers of our today batteries? Voted up and shared.

    • mollymeadows profile image

      Mary Strain 5 years ago from The Shire

      Fascinating. I love historical mysteries! There are so many untold stories. Maybe we should do a hub challenge to make up stories as to why blonde explorers were in China, or how the Bog unfortunates came to their sad end. Up and interesting.

    • shalini sharan profile image

      shalini sharan 5 years ago from Delhi

      interesting, i thoroughly enjoyed it, knowing the significance that these mysteries hold

    • Georgie Lowery profile image
      Author

      Georgianna Lowery 5 years ago from Slaton, Texas USA

      rahul0324,

      I love interesting facts, and I love to share them! Thank you for the comment!

    • Georgie Lowery profile image
      Author

      Georgianna Lowery 5 years ago from Slaton, Texas USA

      dwachira,

      I think they could be the originals, who knows? I doubt we will ever really know definitively what they were used for!

      Thank you for the comment!

    • Georgie Lowery profile image
      Author

      Georgianna Lowery 5 years ago from Slaton, Texas USA

      mollymeadows,

      I think YOU should write that Hub about why blonde people were in China! That would be really interesting!

    • Georgie Lowery profile image
      Author

      Georgianna Lowery 5 years ago from Slaton, Texas USA

      shalini sharan,

      I love a good mystery, and they're even better when they're real life ones! Thank you for the comment!

    • shalini sharan profile image

      shalini sharan 5 years ago from Delhi

      very well said Georgie

    • Rebecca2904 profile image

      Rebecca 4 years ago

      Very interesting Hub! I love things like this, real things that just don't make any sense. I guess Stonehenge is one such example but growing up with it pretty much on your doorstep you learn to take it for granted. Reading about different mysteries from around the world is much more interesting, in my opinion. My favourite from your list was the Tarim Mummies. How fascinating! It's quite a way to travel even now, back then it must have seemed like going to another world. I wonder why they did it... maybe to escape religious persecution?

    • Georgie Lowery profile image
      Author

      Georgianna Lowery 4 years ago from Slaton, Texas USA

      Rebecca2904,

      I love the Tarim mummies. I wonder if we'll ever know why people did some of these things.

      Thank you for the comment!

    • GetitScene profile image

      Dale Anderson 4 years ago from The High Seas

      The Voynich Manuscript is REALLY interesting, isn't it?

    • Georgie Lowery profile image
      Author

      Georgianna Lowery 4 years ago from Slaton, Texas USA

      GetitScene,

      It is. I wonder if it's all the cooked up dreams of some dude on opium or if it's the real deal. We will likely never know.

      Thank you for the comment!

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