Most of our writing here on this blog has centered around historical mysteries of the fictional kind — as in, whodunits set in ancient times. But every now and then, being the curious cats we are, we can’t help but be intrigued by historical mysteries of the kind that stump archaeologists, historians and scientists.
Like the disappearance of Nefertiti, or the baffling collapse of Indus valley civilization, or the Voynich manuscript, written in a language that has stymied the world’s best cryptographers. What makes some of these mysteries even more interesting is the occasional thin line between a genuine historical anomaly and manufactured hoax (the aforementioned Voynich manuscript being a possible candidate for the latter category, along with the famous case of the Donation of Constantine).
The decline and fall of the Mayan empire, on the other hand, is a genuine historical enigma. Once a vast, rich and powerful civilization with towering pyramid cities spread across present-day Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, the Mayans went into a sudden and inexplicable decline in a relatively short period of less than two hundred years. Considering how advanced they were as a society, with their grasp of mathematics, astronomy and the civil engineering that gave rise to their iconic pyramid structures, their collapse has been the subject of intense study among historians and archaeologists.
Recently, some new discoveries have made some headway in shedding some light on what the BBC calls “an enduring paradox.” Read all about it here, and share with us your own favorite historical mysteries of the real kind!