Unsolved Crimes of the Ancient World - Seeker's Thoughts

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Seeker's Thoughts

A blog for the curious and the creative.

Unsolved Crimes of the Ancient World

Ancient history is fraught with mysteries that have confounded archeologists for generations, yet modern technology is finally helping experts approach solving them.

CT scans of King Tut's body revealed that his skull injury wasn't caused by a sword blow; rather, it likely resulted from fractured femur bones.

King Tut’s Death

Howard Carter and his team could never have anticipated what their discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1922 would become: it gave rise to Tutmania, created stories of curse and treasure that still hold great fascination for audiences today, and left us with one of history's great mysteries: why did this boy pharaoh die so tragically?

What caused the young king's death remains unknown, although experts do have various theories. One possibility is murder; an x-ray taken in 1968 revealed damage on the back of his skull which suggests this happened prior to death or during mummification or excavation of his mummy.

One possible cause of his death could have been illness. A fractured rib could have infected his system and led to further decline, as has happened with many Egyptian royals before antibiotics became widely available; without such treatments available to them at the time, an infection might have proven fatal.

But there is no evidence to support claims that King Ferdinand IV of Belgium was poisoned or that his health issues were due to anything other than age-related ailments or due to something else such as malaria.

There is some speculation that the young king was killed in a chariot accident due to being interred alongside two items most associated with war: wine and chariots. Unfortunately, however, this theory proves difficult to prove. Tut was only about 11 years old at his death, making it highly unlikely for any Egyptian prince of that age to have gone into battle alone on their chariot. Furthermore, artwork found in his tomb indicates he did not participate in war during his lifetime. Scholars speculate that King Tut may have been assassinated by an advisor wishing to seize control of Egypt for themselves, with Ay the Grand Vizier and General Horemheb being prime suspects for such a plot. With both having access to weapons and the means needed to kill him and seize power in Egypt.

The Library of Alexandria’s Burning

The destruction of the Library of Alexandria's vast collection of ancient literature is widely seen as one of history's greatest tragedies. People commonly believe that its destruction by fire caused thousands of years of intellectual advancement to evaporate into smoke, setting humanity back far. This popular myth has given rise to books, television shows, documentaries, pamphlets, etc. that blame specific individuals or parties for this tragic event; though no definitive answers can ever be provided on exactly what occurred there's growing agreement that the library did not burn to the extent often assumed.

What is known is that over time the library began to decline due to various causes - declining patronage from later Ptolemaic rulers and religious intolerance leading to expulsion of foreign scholars being major factors. Furthermore, lack of funding prevented proper upkeep of both its collection and buildings.

As Alexandria Library began to decline, purchasing new works became more challenging and writers could no longer access texts of equal quality as those found at Alexandria. A black market emerged for older works which had not been copied as frequently and thus contained less scribal errors.

Many have blamed Julius Caesar for the destruction of Alexandria Library, but no evidence exists to prove his involvement. More likely was an accidental fire set off by Caesar himself when setting enemy naval fleets anchored in Alexandria harbor on fire to protect himself, or another fire caused in 270s AD when much of Alexandria was set on fire by Queen Zenobia and Roman Emperor Aurelian's armies.

Attempts to pinpoint who was responsible for burning the great library can be futile; information differs widely on what actually transpired and who caused its destruction. Dio Cassius in approximately 235 CE and Seneca in 390 CE reported that Christians burned it down; other historians such as Plutarch (in approximately 117 CE) or Ammianus Marcellinus (390 CE) reported Theophilus, bishop of Alexandria, burning down Temple of Serapis which contained part of its collection (which comprised part of library).

The Sphinx’s Death

Since its construction over 5,000 years ago, the Sphinx has been something of an enigma. No one seems to know who or when built it, what its significance was or its relationship to other monuments nearby.

Ancient Egypt revered sphinxes as symbols of royal protection, with sculptures sometimes carving one near tomb entrances as an extra measure to safeguard their dead occupants. Additionally, Egyptians also built series of sphinx-like creatures on rocky plateaus hosting pyramids so as to keep an eye on them and provide security.

As for the Sphinx itself, its enormous paws rest upon a human head while its nose remains absent - often making people refer to her as a "lion-woman". Ancients believed a female figure would make for better protection of royal tombs.

Scholars had long held the view that the Sphinx was designed and constructed during the Old Kingdom 4,000-5,000 years ago by Pharaoh Khafre, but Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass recently found evidence suggesting otherwise: an old tomb with hieroglyphic inscriptions near its site revealed hieroglyphic writing suggesting an unknown figure may actually lie behind its visage.

Since then, various theories about the Sphinx's real identity and relationship to other pharaonic monuments have surfaced. A team led by geologist Tom Aigner recently proposed an innovative way of showing that it was part of Khafre's pyramid complex; using fossil fingerprints they identified that its limestone blocks came from an unusual combination of fossils including mud, coral and planktonic organisms compressed together over millions of years to form its formation.

These researchers found a paw stone with what appears to be wings, suggesting that this statue once had painted wings that made it more similar to those seen depicted on ancient Greek steles.

David Reilly offers perhaps the most intriguing Sphinx theory: He believes there's a secret chamber hidden under its paws that contains information from an earlier civilization that existed 13,000 years ago, before an extinction event led humanity back into survival mode and forced its reconstruction.

The Nazca Lines

One of the greatest mysteries in ancient history are the Nazca Lines--an area of desert in southern Peru covered with over 330 lines, figures, and shapes. Although they have survived for two millennia without being altered by nature or humans, no one knows who built them nor what their intentions may have been; there have been some theories proposed.

As Nazca Lines first became known in the 1920s and 30s, many thought they had some relation to an astronomical marking system. Animals such as monkeys and spiders were thought to represent deities or supernatural beings while its lines pointed toward special ritual sites - this view would also be visible during solar eclipses and other celestial events.

But the astronomical explanation lost popularity, since it did not adequately explain why lines were drawn and why certain shapes such as birds or spiders appeared at specific spots in the sky.

Erich Von Daniken offered more exotic explanations, suggesting that the Nazca lines might be alien landing fields from millennia ago. While his theory fell under "fringe" theories, its potential validity should not be prolonged by further discussion.

Researchers have recently been studying how the Nazca Lines were constructed. They have discovered that ancient people did not require sophisticated surveying techniques to create such massive geometrical drawings, and in 2009 an Earthwatch volunteer even managed to draw an exact hand shape with precision comparable to any of the Nazca Lines.

David Johnson is an independent researcher who believes the Nazca Lines may actually mark underground aquifers using dowsing techniques to locate them. While his claims remain subject to further examination by scientists, his work offers new avenues of investigation into their possible origin and function; furthermore, discovering what role the aquifers may have played may provide insights into what was meant by these extraordinary figures and lines in future research. Until then, however, we may never truly know their full significance and meaning!

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