The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni in Malta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is believed to be the oldest prehistoric underground temple in the world. The subterranean structure is shrouded in mystery, from the discovery of elongated skulls to stories of paranormal phenomena. But the characteristic that has been attracting experts from around the globe is the unique acoustic properties found within the underground chambers of the Hypogeum. Although not known for certain, it is believed that the hypogeum was originally used as a sanctuary, possibly for an oracle. It is for this reason that a unique chamber carved out of solid limestone and demonstrating incredible acoustic properties has been called ‘the Oracle Chamber’. According to William Arthur Griffiths, who wrote ‘Malta and its Recently Discovered Prehistoric Temples’, a word spoken in the Oracle room is “magnified a hundredfold and is audible throughout the entire structure.” It is said that standing in the Hypogeum is like being inside a giant bell. At certain pitches, one feels the sound vibrating in bone and tissue as much as hearing it in the ear. The questions remain – was it intentional? Was the Hypogeum actually designed to enhance amplification? If so, why? Is it possible that the designers of these spaces knew something that modern scientists are just rediscovering?
Around the world, we can find numerous examples of ancient stone-cutting so precise that they rival creations of the modern day produced with advanced machinery. But one of the most impressive examples can be found at Puma Punku, an ancient archaeological site in Bolivia – dated by some historians to be 17,000-years-old – that contains such incredible stonework that it looks as if the stones were cut using a diamond tool. Enormous blocks weighing up to 800 tons, consist of perfectly straight edges that lock perfectly into each other and contain no chisel marks. Attempts to replicate the precision of the stonework have failed and archaeologists, as well as stone masons, are at a loss to explain how they accomplished such precise cuts without advanced technology.
The Plain of Jars in the Xieng Khouang plain of Laos is one of the most enigmatic sights on Earth. The unusual site of thousands of megalithic stone jars scattered across nearly one hundred sites deep in the mountains of northern Laos has fascinated archaeologists and scientists ever since their discovery in the 1930s. The unusual site known as the Plain of Jars is dated to the Iron Age (500 BC to 500 AD) and is made up of at least 3,000 giant stone jars up to 3 metres tall and weighing several tonnes. Most are made of sandstone but there are others made of much harder granite and limestone. The jars appear to have been manufactured with a degree of knowledge of what materials and techniques were suitable. It is assumed that Plain of Jars’ people used iron chisels to manufacture them although no conclusive evidence for this exists. Little is known of the people who carved the huge containers and the jars themselves give little clue as to their origins or purpose.
Many will be familiar with the opening scene of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” where a giant stone sphere nearly crushes Indiana Jones to death. While everyone recognises the movie as a work of fiction, the giant ancient stone spheres are not. While clearing the jungle for banana plantations in 1940 in Costa Rica's Diquis Delta region, employees of the United Fruit Company uncovered numerous large stone spheres partly buried in the forest floor. Around 300 spheres are known to exist, with the largest weighing 16 tonnes and measuring eight feet in diameter, and the smallest being no bigger than a basketball. Almost all of them are made of granodiorite, a hard, igneous stone. Since their discovery the true purpose of the spheres, which still eludes experts, has been the subject of speculation ranging from theories about the balls being navigational aids, to relics related to Stonehenge, the product of an unknown ancient civilization or visits from extraterrestrials. Part of the mystery surrounds the way in which they were created as the near-perfect spheres appear to have come from a quarry that was more than 50 miles away and they were created in a time in which metal tools had apparently not been invented yet. However, the biggest mystery remains what they were used for. The people who made them didn't leave any written record and there no myths or legends or other stories that are told by the indigenous people of Costa Rica about why the spheres were made.
The Venus figurines is a term given to a collection of prehistoric statuettes of women made during the Paleolithic Period, mostly found in Europe, but with finds as far as Siberia. To date, more than 200 of the figurines have been found, all of whom are portrayed with similar physical attributes, including curvaceous bodies with large breasts, bottoms, abdomen, hips, and thighs, and usually tapered at the top and bottom. The heads are often of relatively small size and devoid of detail, and most are missing hands and feet. Some appear to represent pregnant women, while others show no such signs. There have been many different interpretations of the figurines, but none based on any kind of solid evidence.
The term ‘Venus figurines’ is controversial in itself. Inspired by Venus, the ancient Greek goddess of love, it assumes that the figures represent a goddess. Of course, this is one possible explanation, but it is just one of many interpretations that have been proposed. A considerable diversity of opinion exists in the archeological and paleoanthropological literature regarding the possible functions and significance of these objects. Some of the different theories put forward include: fertility symbols, self-portraits, Stone Age dolls, realistic depictions of actual women, ideal representations of female beauty, religious icons, representations of a mother goddess, or even the equivalent of pornographic imagery. Like many prehistoric artifacts, the cultural meaning may never be known.
Article first posted on: https://www.ancient-origins.net/history/ten-unsolved-ancient-archaeological-mysteries-006418
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