Old graves and burial grounds are actually great sources of information about the lives of people in the past, but at the same time, they’re pretty creepy for obvious reasons. If you can get over the initial discomfort of researching a grave site, though, it can be quite fascinating.
In fact, every now and then, archaeologists and historians come across a grave site that offers no answers and only raises more questions. Each of these historical burial spots has been researched by experts, but they’re still leaving everyone a bit confused…
1. St. Augustine Donkey: In the summer of 2007 an archeologist discovered a mysterious grave in St. Augustine, Florida. The bones were identified as belonging to a donkey dating back to the 1600s. But that wasn’t the interesting part.
Curiously, all its limbs were ritualistically cut off and placed on top of its body facing north to south. It appears not to have been butchered for food or due to lack of grave space, and no other animal burial like it has ever been discovered!
Archaeological Institute of America
2. John Renie: Welsh painter John Renie died in 1832, and on his gravestone is a grid that’s 19 squares in width and 15 squares in height, with each one containing a letter of the alphabet.
Wikipedia / Robert Cutts
Some clear words like his name can be made out in places, but the purpose of it remained a mystery for 170 years. Finally, it was discovered that it’s a type of acrostic puzzle that spells “Here Lies John Renie” in 46,000 permutations!
3. Duffy’s Cut: In 1832, a ship containing dozens of Irish immigrants arrived in Philadelphia just as a cholera outbreak began. The ship was quarantined, but eight men died and were buried at a place known as Duffy’s Cut… supposedly.
Private records show that 56 people were actually buried there, and when researchers exhumed the bodies, many had died from physical trauma and bullet wounds, suggesting a massacre. We can never know for sure, however, just what happened.
Wikimedia Commons / Smallbones
4. Nick Beef: John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald is buried at the Shannon Rose Hill Memorial Park Cemetery in Fort Worth, Texas. In 1997, however, a nearly identical grave marker appeared right next to his reading “Nick Beef.”
It was eventually revealed to belong to a living Texas man named Patric Abedin. He has avoided speaking about it much publicly, but he says it’s not a joke and he has no plans to be buried there himself.
5. James Leeson: James Leeson died in 1794 at age 38, but not much else is known about him, which is odd given how famous his tombstone has become. The grave marker is adorned with Masonic symbols that include a coded message.
Running along the top of the stone, are symbols that seem to be based on the game tic-tac-toe! It remained a mystery for nearly 100 years until the code was cracked and the message was revealed to read “Remember Death.”
6. Betty Stiven: On the small Caribbean island of Tobago there’s a gravestone with a very mysterious inscription. To this day nobody is quite sure whether their words are meant literally or figuratively, and either way, they’re confounding.
Flickr / Angelo Bissessarsingh
7. Anaheim Cemetery: In the 19th century, the Anaheim Cemetery became the first in Orange County open to non-Catholics, so it became the preferred burial place of Chinese immigrants
While there are some burial records, they’re not complete, so nobody is sure how many bodies are actually there. Complicating matters further, many bodies were eventually exhumed and returned to China, leaving no comprehensive records.
8. Oxford Viking Grave: Mass graves aren’t unusual in England, but Oxford archaeologists were puzzled to discover this site containing 34 bodies. Unlike most mass graves in the country, the bodies hadn’t been buried over a period of decades.
In fact, the bodies were all buried at the same time. They all appeared to have been men of big build who ate shellfish, suggesting they were Vikings who were massacred upon landing in the British Isles, possibly on an order given by King Aethelred in 1002 AD.
9. Burgundy Well: In 2013, archaeologists uncovered an ancient Roman city in Burgundy, France, and they found vestiges of buildings, roads, and wells. Shockingly though, one of the wells had 20 bodies comprised of men, women, and children in it.
The remains of the bodies were dated to the 10th century AD, far after Roman presence in the area had ceased. Historians and scholars have some theories about how they might have ended up there, but we’ll never know for sure.
Past Horizons / Captair
10. Saxon Warriors: Archaeologists in England recently found two unusually large bodies dating from before the Norman Invasion of 1066 that appeared at first glance to be a husband and wife.
The bodies were buried embracing each other, but genetic testing revealed both were men! It remains unknown if they were lovers, relatives, warrior companions, or just good friends…
One of the most recent ‘gravesites’ in question has been a mysterious tomb uncovered in Alexandria, Egypt by a group of construction workers.
Egypt has always served as a source of incredibly significant historical discoveries. Experts have found treasures in the pyramids and investigated tombs like King Tut.
During its ancient heyday, the city of Alexandria was a bustling location full of ships, traders, and merchants. The city was founded by Alexander the Great, and it linked Greece to the Nile Valley in Egypt.
Obviously, the Alexandria of today is nothing like what it once was. Now it’s a jam-packed city full of businesses and apartments.
While construction workers were digging the foundation of a new building, they came across a massive tomb 16 feet beneath the ground. Experts eventually determined the tomb dated back to the Ptolemaic period, between 305 and 30 B.C!
Resting peacefully in the corner of the tomb was an enormous black sarcophagus. Compared to other ones found throughout Egypt, this one was abnormally big, leaving archaeologists flummoxed about what could be inside.
Along with the enormous black sarcophagus was a large alabaster head. The features of the head eroded over the years, and, unfortunately, no one could tell if it was supposed to be modeled after someone important, so they decided to investigate…
Nearly half a dozen men tried to pry off the sarcophagus’s lid, but the weight was immense! They were going to need some heavy machinery. The crew also contacted an expert on the matter…
His name was Ayman Ashmawy, and for many years he worked at Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities. He had plenty of experience examining historical finds. If anyone could shed light on this matter, it was him!
Right away he noted a layer of mortar between the lid and body, which meant for over 2,000 years it was perfectly sealed. It was also made out of black granite, a very unusual material to use at the time. This begged a very important question…
Was the person buried inside of a very high status, or, perhaps, someone infamous? The tomb was immediately roped off. Now that news was spreading of the find, it would likely be a hot spot for would-be vandals and thieves.
The goal was to eventually get the lid off, but there were actually people who were wary of the entire operation. There were many tales of the Pharaoh’s curse being unleashed with the opening of certain tombs. Was there an evil curse lurking inside?
Most people, however, believed there was someone incredibly important buried inside due to its size and special black granite material. Could it have been Alexander the Great himself? They would soon find out…
Using massive cranes and thick rope, the workers were able to get a solid hold of the lid. If it dropped mid-lift, not only could it destroy whatever lay inside, but it could seriously injure those involved. With the force of the crane, they slowly opened the coffin…
Almost immediately, the workers scrambled to escape the wretched fumes that rushed out of the now-open sarcophagus. Several wretched minutes later, though, most of the scent dissipated, and workers stared at the remains lying inside.
There were three mangled skeletons resting in a thick red liquid. The skeletons were alleged to be soldiers, and the red liquid, it turned out, was raw sewage that leaked into the sarcophagus and, over time, fermented into a horrific smelling goo.
A man named Innes McKendrick actually started a petition to turn the red goo into a carbonated energy drink for consumption! He firmly believed by consuming the liquid people would gain “powers.” Thankfully, in spite of signatures, the corpse juice will remain unconsumed.
The finds in Egypt show no sign of stopping. Researchers recently found an entire network of tombs right underneath the city of Cairo that’s upwards of 2,000 years old! This massive find, however, may take up to five years to completely excavate!
The opening of the mysterious black sarcophagus was clearly an underwhelming event. Experts hoped to find something of more historical significance, but instead, they got the sewage-covered remains of unnamed soldiers.
Even though the end result may not have been what workers hoped for, the entire process of excavating the tomb and removing the lid was incredible! Hey, you win some, you lose some.
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