Top 10 Mysterious World Landmarks

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The world is filled with ancient monuments built by master craftsmen in order to honor everything from kings and presidents to religious figures. And although most of these landmarks have been carefully studied and researched by scientists and historians, some are simply so old, incomplete, or obscure that we still don’t know very much about why they were built or what purpose they served. The following are 10 world landmarks that, whether by intention or simply due to the passage of time, continue to baffle the people who study them.

10. The Cahokia Mounds


Cahokia is the name given to an Indian settlement that exists outside of Collinsville, Illinois. Archeologists estimate that the city was founded sometime around 650 AD, and its complex network of burial grounds and sophisticated landscaping prove that it was once a thriving community. It has been estimated that at its peak the city was home to as many as 40,000 people, which would have made it the most populous settlement in America prior to the arrival of the Europeans. The most notable aspect of Cahokia today are the 80 mounds of earth, some as high as 100 feet, which dot the 2,200-acre site. These helped create a network of plazas throughout the city, and it is believed that important buildings, like the home of the settlement’s chief, were built on top of them. The site also features a series of wooden posts that archeologists have dubbed “woodhenge.” The posts are said to mark the solstices and equinoxes, and supposedly figured prominently in the community’s astronomical mythology.

The Mystery
Although scientists are constantly discovering new information about the Cohokia community, the biggest mystery that remains is which modern Indian tribe is descended from the residents of the ancient city, as well as just what it was that caused them to abandon their settlement.

9. Newgrange


Considered to be the oldest and most famous prehistoric site in all of Ireland, Newgrange is a tomb that was built from earth, wood, clay, and stone around 3100 BC, some 1000 years before the construction of the pyramids in Egypt. It consists of a long passage that leads to a cross-shaped chamber that was apparently used as a tomb, as it contains stone basins filled with cremated remains. The most unique feature of Newgrange is its careful and sturdy design, which has helped the structure remain completely waterproof to this day. Most amazing of all, the entrance to the tomb was positioned relative to the sun in such a way that on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, the rays from the sun are channeled through the opening and down the nearly 60 foot passageway, where they illuminate the floor of the monument’s central room.

The Mystery
Archeologists know Newgrange was used as a tomb, but why and for who still remains a mystery. The painstaking design needed to guarantee that the yearly solstice event occurs suggests that the site was held in high regard, but other than the obvious hypothesis that the sun featured prominently in the mythology of the builders, scientists are at a loss to describe the true reason for Newgrange’s construction.

8. The Yonaguni Monument


Of all the famous monuments in Japan, perhaps none is more perplexing than Yonaguni, an underwater rock formation that lies off the coast of the Ryuku Islands. It was discovered in 1987 by a group of divers who were there to observe Hammerhead sharks, and it immediately sparked a huge amount of debate in the Japanese scientific community. The monument is made up of a series of striking rock formations including massive platforms, carved steps, and huge stone pillars that lie at depths of 5-40 meters. There is a triangular formation that has become known as “the turtle” for its unique shape, as well as a long, straight wall that borders one of the larger platforms. The currents in the area are known for being particularly treacherous, but this has not stopped the Yonaguni monument from becoming one of the most popular diving locations in all of Japan.

The Mystery
The ongoing debate surrounding Yonaguni centers on one key subject: is the monument a natural phenomenon, or is it man-made? Scientists have long argued that millennia of strong currents and erosion have carved the formations out of the ocean floor, and they point to the fact that the monument is all one piece of solid rock as proof that it was not assembled by a builder. Others, though, point to the many straight edges, square corners and 90-degree angles of the formation as proof that it’s artificial. They often cite one formation in particular, a section of rock that resembles a crude carving of a human face, as evidence. If they are right, then an even more interesting mystery presents itself: who constructed the Yonaguni Monument, and for what purpose?

7. The Nazca Lines


The Nazca lines are a series of designs and pictographs carved into the ground in the Nazca Desert, a dry plateau located in Peru. They cover an area of some 50 miles, and were supposedly created between 200 BC and 700 AD by the Nazca Indians, who designed them by scraping away the copper colored rocks of the desert floor to expose the lighter-colored earth beneath. The lines have managed to remain intact for hundreds of years thanks to the region’s arid climate, which sees it receive little rain or wind throughout the year. Some of the lines span distances of 600 feet, and they depict everything from simple designs and shapes to characterizations of plants, insects, and animals.

The Mystery
Scientists know who made the Nazca Lines and how they did it, but they still don’t know why. The most popular and reasonable hypothesis is that the lines must have figured in the Nazca people’s religious beliefs, and that they made the designs as offerings to the gods, who would’ve been able to see them from the heavens. Still, other scientists argue that the lines are evidence of massive looms that the Nazcas used to make textiles, and one investigator has even made the preposterous claim that they are the remnants of ancient airfields used by a vanished, technologically advanced society.

6. Goseck Circle


One of the most mysterious landmarks in Germany is the Goseck Circle, a monument made out of earth, gravel, and wooden palisades that is regarded as the earliest example of a primitive “solar observatory.” The circle consists of a series of circular ditches surrounded by palisade walls (which have since been reconstructed) that house a raised mound of dirt in the center. The palisades have three openings, or gates, that point southeast, southwest, and north. It is believed that the monument was built around 4900 BC by Neolithic peoples, and that the three openings correspond to the direction from which the sun rises on the winter solstice.

The Mystery
The monument’s careful construction has led many scientists to believe that the Goseck Circle was built to serve as some kind of primitive solar or lunar calendar, but its exact use is still a source of debate. Evidence has shown that a so-called “solar cult” was widespread in ancient Europe. This has led to speculation that the Circle was used in some kind of ritual, perhaps even in conjunction with human sacrifice. This hypothesis has yet to be proven, but archeologists have uncovered several human bones, including a headless skeleton, just outside the palisade walls.

5. Sacsayhuaman


Not far from the famous Inca city of Machu Picchu lies Sacsayhuaman, a strange embankment of stone walls located just outside of Cuzco. The series of three walls was assembled from massive 200-ton blocks of rock and limestone, and they are arranged in a zigzag pattern along the hillside. The longest is roughly 1000 feet in length and each stands some fifteen feet tall. The monument is in astonishingly good condition for its age, especially considering the region’s propensity for earthquakes, but the tops of the walls are somewhat demolished, as the monument was plundered by the Spanish to build churches in Cuzco. The area surrounding the monument has been found to be the source of several underground catacombs called chincanas, which were supposedly used as connecting passageways to other Inca structures in the area.

The Mystery
Most scientists agree that Sacsayhuaman served as a kind of fortress of barrier wall, but this has been disputed. The strange shape and angles of the wall have led some speculate that it may have had a more symbolic function, one example being that the wall, when seen next to Cuzco from above, forms the shape of the head of a Cougar. Even more mysterious than the monument’s use, though, are the methods that were used in its construction. Like most Inca stone works, Sacsayhuaman was built with large stones that fit together so perfectly that not even a sheet of paper can be placed in the gaps between them. Just how the Incas managed such expert placements, or, for that matter, how they managed to transport and lift the heavy hunks of stone, is still not fully known.

4. The Easter Island Moai


One of the most iconic series of monuments in the Pacific islands is the Moai, a group of huge statues of exaggerated human figures that are found only on the small, isolated island of Rapa Nui, or Easter Island. The Moai were carved sometime between 1250 and 1500 AD by the island’s earliest inhabitants, and are believed to depict the people’s ancestors, who in their culture were held in the same regard as deities. The Moai were chiseled and carved from tuff, a volcanic rock that is prevalent on the island, and they all feature the same characteristics of an oversized head, broad nose, and a mysterious, indecipherable facial expression. Scientists have determined that as many as 887 of the statues were originally carved, but years of infighting among the island’s clans led to many being destroyed. Today, only 394 are still standing, the largest of which is 30 feet tall and weighs over 70 tons.

The Mystery
While there is a fairly solid consensus on why the Moai were erected, how the islanders did it is still up for debate. The average Moai weighs several tons, and for years scientists were at a loss to describe how the monuments were transported from Rano Raraku, where most of them were constructed, to their various locations around the island. In recent years, the most popular theory is that the builders used wooden sleds and log rollers to move the Moai, an answer that would also explain how the once verdant island became almost totally barren due to deforestation.

3. The Georgia Guidestones


While most of the mysterious monuments on this list only became that way as centuries passed, the Georgia Guidestones, also known as American Stonehenge, are one landmark that was always intended to be an enigma. The monument, which consists of four monolithic slabs of granite that support a single capstone, was commissioned in 1979 by a man who went by the pseudonym of R.C. Christian. A local mason carefully crafted it so that one slot in the stones is aligned with the sun on the solstices and equinoxes, and one small hole is always pointed in the direction of the North Star. Most interesting, though, are the inscriptions on the slabs, which an accompanying plaque describes as “the guidestones to an Age of Reason.” In eight different languages, the slabs offer a strange ten-point plan to ensure peace on Earth that includes vague proclamations like “prize truth–beauty–love–seeking harmony with the infinite,” to very specific commands like “maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.” Comments like this one have made the Guidestones one of the most controversial landmarks in the United States, and they have long been protested and even vandalized by groups that would like to see them demolished.

The Mystery
For all their controversy, very little is known about who built the Guidestones or what their true purpose is. R.C. Christian claimed he represented an independent organization when he commissioned the landmark, but neither he nor his group has spoken up since its construction. Since the monument was built during the height of the Cold War, one popular theory about the group’s intentions is that the Guidestones were to serve as a primer for how to rebuild society in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust.

2. The Great Sphinx of Giza


Sphinxes are massive stone statues that depict the body of a reclining lion with the head and face of a human. The figures are found all over the world in different forms, but they are most commonly linked with Egypt, which features the most famous example in the form of the Great Sphinx of Giza. Incredibly, the statue is carved out of one monolithic piece of rock, and at 240 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 66 feet tall, it is considered to be the biggest monument of its kind in the world. Historians largely accept the function of the Sphinx to have been that of a symbolic guardian, since the statues were strategically placed around important structures like temples, tombs, and pyramids. The Great Sphinx of Giza appears to be no different. It stands adjacent to the pyramid of the pharaoh Khafra, and most archeologists believe that it is his face that is depicted on that of the statue.

The Mystery
Despite its reputation as one of the most famous monuments of antiquity, there is still very little known about the Great Sphinx of Giza. Egyptologists might have a small understanding of why the statue was built, but when, how, and by who is still shrouded in mystery. The pharaoh Khafra is the main suspect, which would date the structure back to around 2500 BC, but other scientists have argued that evidence of water erosion of the statue suggests that it is much older and perhaps even predated the dynastic era of the Egyptians. This theory has few modern adherents, but if true it would mean the Great Sphinx of Giza is even more mysterious than previously believed.

1. Stonehenge


Of all the world’s famous monuments, none has gained as much of a reputation for pure, simple mystery as Stonehenge. Stonehenge has been inspiring debate among scholars, scientists, and historians since the Middle Ages. Located in the English countryside, the landmark is believed to date back to 2500 BC, and consists of several mammoth pieces of rock arranged and piled on top of one another in what appears at first to be a random design. The site is surrounded by a small, circular ditch, and is flanked by burial mounds on all sides. Although the rock formations that still remain are undoubtedly impressive, it is thought that the modern version of Stonehenge is only a small remnant of a much larger monument that was damaged with the passing of time, and it is largely believed that the building process was so extensive that it could have lasted on and off for anywhere from 1500 to 7000 years.

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The Mystery
Stonehenge has become renowned for puzzling even the most brilliant researchers, and over the years the many gaps in the history of its construction, the nature of its use, and the true identity of its builders have become known as “The Mystery of Stonehenge.” The Neolithic people who built the monument left behind no written records, so scientists can only base their theories on the meager evidence that exists at the site. This has led to wild speculation that the monument was left by aliens, or that it was built by some eons-old society of technologically advanced super-humans. All craziness aside, the most common explanation remains that Stonehenge served as some kind of graveyard monument that played a role in the builders’ version of the afterlife, a claim that is backed up by its proximity to several hundred burial mounds. Yet another theory suggests that the site was a place for spiritual healing and the worship of long dead ancestors.


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40 Comments

  1. This is an awesome list. I'll never forget the first time I stumbled across photos of the Yonaguni Monument and immediately thought of the Old Ones of H.P. Lovecraft fame. The shear scale of that place is so overwhelming.

    I know this is Mysterious Landmarks and not places, but I wanted to add on as a side note the Sumerian city of Ur. It evidently houses graves 1000 years older than the King Tuts and could be the birthplace of Abraham but because it's in Iraq there just aren't enough resources to fully expose the significance of the place. I tend to believe that the global elite don't want any unknown ancient Sumerian texts surfacing without their knowing, ie the Book of the Dead. You know, the one inked in human blood and the pages are made of human flesh.

    Here is a nice article on the attempted excavation of the city. http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100219/lf_afp/iraqa

      • Yes I’m well aware of that. The comment was meant as a joke playing on the legend that it was created by a giant

  2. dave1711, surely you're kidding. all of these are pretty much man-made, aslong as the water around yonaguni was a lot shallower in the past. giants causeway, volcanic. ie natural. a lot different! and not made by giants, shame…

  3. I was very surprised to see this list! I usually dont find this sorta stuff on here! Yeah!!! Its a good one {for me anyway}!! Im also enjoying the comments on this one as well! Im a sucker for ancient cultures and ruins… especially "lost" ones! Question tho….. Wheres Bimini??? Have a good one guys!!!

  4. Wow, I've been to four of these! You should put the text of the Georgia guide stones here, that'd freak some people out!

    • I researched their text over the web…. I found the message that the stones held to be a step toward the right directions. Keeping the population at a certain point {a mere 10% of our current total population} would solve SO MUCH alone! As I said…I read the message on the stones and would suggest that everyone read it! I feel its message could save the world as well as mankind!

  5. Crazy thing is…… people have been linking the G.stones to the "N.W.O."… I actually dont think thats the case. If they were behind it half of those..umm…suggestions wouldnt be there! As for the whole R.C. thing goes….. I didnt catch that and it is very intreging!!! Perhaps they were behind it all! LoL!

  6. Nice. The ruins of Nan Madol in Pohnpei (Federated States of Micronesia) should have been included in this list, though. Some believe that Nan Madol was the basis for the ruined city of R'Lyeh in the Cthulhu Mythos.How the megalithic structures was constructed remains a mystery to this day.

  7. In reference to the nazca lines, it is presumptious of the auther to say that it is preposterous for it to be made for an andvaced society. Considering it is unknown, saying such points to the auther of not trying to give information, but trying to encourage their own personal opinionated bias. That loses credibility.

    Additionally, with stonehenge, the auther also calls anyone thinking it has something to do with an advanced soceity or other than human sentience, to be wild and crazy. Sorry author, but when you put something online as an informational setting, don't put your own personal biased opinion on it. This is why science will always win out on anything that is based on "belief". Science bases itself off of fact and changes when new facts come. People who base things off of belief base it on personal bias that doesn't change. Cue the relious. Author, try being a little more mature.

    • you have got to be k on

      Really? Seriously? Ok, sure it is fine to have your own opinions about how you believe these sites to have been made, but beliefs, though all valid, have some that are much more likely than others. Archaeologists becomes experts on sites because they do extensive work, research and painstaking excavation on these places. By not looking at the most current evidence (which points towards less fantastic and admittedly less cool explanations) you are doing exactly what you chastise the author of this post for. He is just showing what is considered to be the most current and agreed upon explanation by people who are experts, not conspiracy theorists who troll the internet for false information and then decide they too are experts. Science is not a biase because science has no agenda. It is neutral.

      As a Andeanist (historian and archaeologist) I can tell you the reason why the Nasca lines are considered NOT to be made by or for an advanced society is because other geoglyphs like those in America are used for symbolic religious purposes. We have historical (and even current) accounts about how they were used. Now this isn't concrete evidence but it is the BEST answer we have so far. Pre-Inka, Peruvian societies are well known for ingesting hallucinogens and alcohol such as chicha for ritual purposes such as dances and ceremonies. A possible explanation for the lines is that they were walked or danced upon during these types of ceremonies. This is believed because of the clear 'entrance' and 'exit' lines on all of the geoglyphs, the size of them (they are like small highways) and the tread pattern made by prehistoric footprints. Like I said this is not an absolute answer but currently there is some nice evidence for it. Where is the evidence of an advanced society?

      I'm not even going to touch on stonehenge because I could type forever and I'm sure not convince you of anything because you seem to be pretty set in your beliefs. That is perfectly fine and I am in no way suggesting is reflects on you negatively because plenty of people believe similar things about stonehenge (or the pyramids or the rapanui for that matter). I just ask that before you criticize the author you do some of your own research and look at the papers which put forth scientifically based research. If you find that their explanations are not sufficient then by all means make your own theories. Please, just don't listen to any website on the internet that makes fantastic claims without evidence ,not based in opinion or results that have experiments that cannot be verified or replicated. Anyone can post ANYTHING on the internet and put it forth as fact. For example, I am the batman.

      I hope that is a satisfactory response for you.

      • "As a Andeanist (historian and archaeologist) I can tell you…"

        "Anyone can post ANYTHING on the internet and put it forth as fact. "

        Ahh, well, okay then.

        • you have got to be k on

          Spongenuts:

          True. You have no way of proving I am what I say I am but I think my post speaks for itself. Granted, looking back on it I may not have articulated myself as eloquently as I would have liked but certain things just irritate me so I go off on tangents. My point is, I could be lying but I'm not and I think if you need any proof of that my clear understanding of the material is as good as any. I'm doing my masters on pre-inca peruvian pottery right now and doing field work there this summer. You don't have to believe me if you don't want, and frankly I don't care. I was just pissed off enough by someone's comment that I had to post SOMETHING as a response. I'm actually pleased that you don't believe everything posted (often by trolls) on the internet. More power to you. Keep suspending disbelief unless you have proof!

  8. WOOOW, 2 Peru landsmarks, and should post more, we have plenty of those: Chan-Chan, Chavin, Kuelap, The Lima "Rivers" of the Yshma and Lima society, Caral (the oldest city of the New World), Pisac, Pachacamac, etc, etc ,etc. PERU KICK ASS MATE!

  9. WOOOW, 2 Peru landsmarks, and should post more, we have plenty of those: Chan-Chan, Chavin, Caral (the oldest city of the New World), Pisac, the Yshma and Lima “rivers”, The Qapac Ñam (The Inca Trail all over Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and some say Argentina), Huaca del Sol y la Luna, Kuelap, Pachacamac, etc, etc ,etc. PERU HAS IT ALL, HELL YEAH!

  10. Awesome list! The Yonaguni Monument is really cool looking, I wonder how it got there? So interesting..

    I’ve been to Sacsayhuaman, it’s a really cool place. Honestly, though, it’s not as awesome as the city it overlooks. =D

  11. Phil E. Drifter on

    Nice list.

    However, "The Neolithic people who built the monument left behind no written records" under Stonehenge is misleading and assumptive. You have no idea if any written instructions (hieroglyphics, anyone?) may have been left and summarily looted.

  12. How come no one is interested in the fact that ALL societies were building monuments of great astronomic relevans, and ALL of them were pointing the same things, and still standing. On top of that they were ALL interested in solstices, and not just the “solar cult” of Europe, but world wide societies that had no connection between them and lived in different times. And we talk of them as primitive???

    Many more similar facts are published by experts, but no one explains the similarity in global…

    I was shoked when I read how little difference there is between Egipt and S. America piramids!

    May I recommend the documentary Ancient Aliens, based on the book 'Chariots of the Gods' by Erich von Daniken, it rocked my mind!

    And for those interested in the “solar cult” and global conspiracy- Zeitgeist is the place for you :))

    I do belive that everyone has right to it's own mind, and the more we know – more options we have to belive in.

  13. Nazca Lines on

    There are a lot of theories abound regarding Nazca Lines ranging from landing strips for aliens to a giant seismograph. The most probable theory is from Maria Reiche, a German researcher who dedicated her life to studying the lines. Ms Reiche believed that the lines were part of a vast astronomic calendar whose figures marked different solar phases. If you want to know more about it and information to visit this mysterious place, visit the link below.

    http://www.yesperu.com/En/NazcaLines.aspx

  14. Well… for sure would be wise and respectful to ancient Greek history to put the “Akropolis monument!” in Athens, Hellas a nation that gave the “lights” to all and finally now got blind!
    2012 perhaps the end of a nation.

  15. Bhupendra kaneria on

    Well, The Easter Island is the place where I would like to see the historical land and feels the ancient era. It’s gonna be a wonderful journey for me.

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