10 Forgotten Advanced Civilizations

Prehistory literally means the time “before we had written records” (roughly the time before the 4th Century BC) and ancient history is the time since our recorded history. Our concept of ancient history was originally firmly determined by the bible. Written from an insular point of view, the histories of some ancient cultures were distorted, badly neglected or even omitted. The existence of inexplicable monuments, certain man-made marvels and archaeological finds pertaining to our ancient- and prehistory, are leading more and more archaeologists to believe long forgotten advanced civilizations existed. As most of our ancient records were lost during the destruction of the great libraries, the following genuine mysteries are the only remnants of their existence.

10. Ancient Devices

Ancient knowledge was a lot more refined and developed than we have been taught hitherto. From batteries to planispheres, an assortment of gadgets have been excavated and found. Two notable finds were the Nimrud lens and the famous Antikythera Mechanism. The 3,000 year old Nimrud lens was discovered at the palace of Nimrud, in Iraq. Some experts believe the lens was part of an ancient telescope the Babylonians used, hence their advanced knowledge of astronomy. And the famous Antikythera Mechanism (200 BC.) was created to calculate the movements of the sun, moon and planets to predict celestial events. Unfortunately, we can only speculate on the ways many of these devices were created, used and why the ancient knowledge pertaining to them disappeared for millennia afterwards.

9. The Rama Empire

Despite wars and several invasions, India’s ancient history was largely preserved. Long believed to date from about 500 BC.; discoveries in the past century have pushed back the origins of Indian civilization thousands of years. In the Indus Valley, the cities of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro were discovered. The cities were so sophisticated and well-planned, that archaeologists believe they were conceived as a whole before construction on them begun. The Harappa culture also remains an enigma. Its origins and deterioration is hidden, its dialect is unknown and the writing is completely indecipherable. At the site no differences in social class can be discerned and there are no temples or religious buildings. No other culture, including those of Egypt and Mesopotamia, has revealed the same degree of planning and development.

8. The Longyou Caves

Considered by the Chinese to be the “Ninth Wonder of the Ancient World”, the origin of the 24 caves thus far uncovered is an unfathomable mystery. Discovered in 1992, no historical record or evidence of the work involved to excavate the almost million cubic meters of stone exists. The chiseling was done in such a way that it left a consistent pattern throughout the caves which some experts believe to be symbolic. The patterns are similar to those found on pottery that has been dated between 500 and 800 BC. Stone carvings and pillars can be viewed in the cave that has been opened up for public viewing. There is also a rumor that seven of the caves have a distribution pattern that matches the seven stars of the Big Dipper.

7. Nan Madol

Off the island of Pohnpei in Micronesia, lies the ancient city of Nan Madol. Built on a coral reef exclusively from colossal basalt rocks (some weighing up to 50 tons), the city is intercrossed by a multitude of canals and connected via submerged tunnels. Its scale has been compared to the Great Wall of China and the Great Pyramid, even though the Pyramid-stones only weigh about 3 tons each. No records exist as to who built the city, when it was built or for what reason. Radiocarbon dating has placed its construction in 200 BCE. The origin of the basalt rocks that make up the city is unknown, as is the methods used to transport them there and stack them as high as 50 feet, and as thick as 17 feet. Human bones uncovered by archaeologists are remarkably larger than the local Micronesians of the area today.

6. The Stone Age Tunnels

From Scotland to Turkey, underneath hundreds of Neolithic settlements, archaeologists have uncovered evidence an extensive network of underground tunnels. From almost 2, 300 feet (700 m) in Bavaria Germany to 1, 200 feet (350m) in Austria, the fact that these tunnels survived for 12, 000 years is a testimony to the skill of the builders and of the sheer size the original network must have been. Even though they do not all link up, experts believe people used these tunnels to travel safely regardless of which danger they were facing. Throughout the system there also appears to be storage rooms and seating.

5. Pumapunku and Tiwanaku

Puma Punku is one of four structural arrangements in the ancient Pre-Inca city of Tiwanaku in South America. The age of the megalithic ruins is extremely controversial as they have been prodded, excavated, and looted since they were discovered and as such, experts say they have been contaminated in every way possible. The consensus is that they are older than the pyramids, with claims of up to 15, 000 years. Even the Incas didn’t know its history. The massive stones used in the construction bear no chisel marks and were finely cut to interlock with the others. A lot of the stones were cut so precisely that the builders clearly had an extremely sophisticated knowledge of stone-cutting, engineering and geometry. The city also had a functioning irrigation system, waterproof sewage lines and hydraulic mechanisms. With no record of its inhabitants or their methods, the technologies and processes used during its construction remains an enigma to experts.

4. Metal Cramps/Clamps

Continuing the mystery of Pumapunku; at this site as well as those of Koricancha, Ollantaytambo, Yuroc Rumi and in ancient Egypt, metal clamps were used in their largest structures. Evidence of the grooves and holes in which they were used can still be observed. At first archaeologists believed that clamps were brought to these grooves to be placed, but recent scans have revealed that metal was poured into these indentations, which means the builders had portable smelters. It is said that the metals used could only be melted at very high temperatures; temperatures the ancients (to our knowledge) were not capable of. One has to wonder why this technology as well as the incredible methods used to build these megalithic ruins became lost in the immediate centuries afterwards. A technology developed continues to fan out, but a less advanced civilization will lose the technology in time if they have not acquired the essentials.

3. The Baalbek Enigma

The archaeological site of Baalbek in Lebanon has some of the most well-preserved Roman ruins in the world. Called Heliopolis in ancient times, the temple ruins are truly amazing to behold. What makes this site mysterious though, is the massive megalithic ruin mound upon which the Romans built. Making the their ruins look pale in comparison, these monoliths that can weigh up to 1, 200 tons each are the largest worked slabs of stone in the world. Some archaeologists believe that the history at the site goes back about 9000 years, as excavations have revealed Middle Bronze Age (1900-1600BC) and Early Bronze Age (2900-2300 BC) evidence on top of each other. Apart from the mystery as to how these stones were brought to the site from where they were quarried; given the site’s location and the space available to maneuver, architects and engineers claim that we have no known lifting technologies available to us today, that can lift and position these stones. They are simply beyond the construction capabilities of any accepted ancient or modern-day builders.

2. The Giza Plateau

Volumes have been written on the mysteries of ancient Egypt. We now know that the Great Pyramid’s construction was so accurate and beyond comprehension that it was probably never meant to house a king’s remains. Furthermore, as it has been proven that the Sphinx’s erosion came mainly from rainfall before the area became a desert, it is at least 7, 000 – 9, 000 years old with some believing it could even be older than that. The sudden rise of the Egyptian civilization in the 3rd millennium BC has lead many experts to believe that theirs were a legacy of an earlier, forgotten civilization. Apart from the Sphinx, further pre-dynastic construction is evident in Khafre’s Mortuary and Valley Temples, and Menkaure’s Mortuary Temple as they were built from limestone blocks excavated during the Sphinx’s construction and has the same evident erosion.

1. Gobleki Tepe

Dating back to the end of the last ice age (12, 000 years ago), the recently discovered temple complex in south-eastern Turkey has been called the most important archaeological discovery of modern times. Predating pottery, writing, the wheel and metallurgy; its construction implies a level of sophistication and complexity thus far not associated with Palaeolithic civilizations. With a construction date thousands of years earlier than Stonehenge, the site consists of 20 round structures (4 have been excavated so far) and elaborately carved pillars up to 18 feet tall and weighing up to 15 tons each. Nobody can say with any certainty who created the site, or why, but one has to wonder how these supposed hunter-gatherers had advanced knowledge of masonry and stonework if they were the first civilization…


Bhiswa Ijtema - Second Largest Gathering of Muslims in the World

Every year more than 3 million Muslims converge at Tongi on the banks of the river Turag, on the outskirts of Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, to attend Bishwa Ijtema or World Congregation - an annual Islamic congregation, and the second largest gathering of Muslims in the world after the Haj. Biswa Ijtema is a spiritual gathering where religious sermons and prayers are preached by Islamic scholars. Devotees arrive for the three-day event from all over the country, and even abroad, by whatever means possible. And that includes, mostly, piling on top of already overcrowded trains and loading onto ferries that could tip at any moment. During the days leading up to the event, additional trains and buses are pressed into service, but apparently these are not enough to transport 3 million people in a safe way.

As hundreds of thousands of devotees pour into the town of 350,000, authorities employ paramilitary forces and volunteers to overcome massive logistical challenges. A 160-acre plot is prepared for the event with basic services like electricity, telephones, gas connectors and toilets. The devotees eat, sleep and pray on the premise. Medicals camps are setup and doctors on leave are recalled for their services. 30 million liters of water is consumed each day by those attending the massive gathering, and 4,000 toilets are shared among them.

Despite the large number of devotees living within a confined space, generally there is very few problems of sanitation, cooking, and internal movements. It is believed to be possible because of the minimalist approach adopted by the devotees. Devotees have reduced their own requirements and developed a respect for others' requirements.

Biswa Ijtema is organized by Tablighi Jamaat, a Bangladeshi non-political group whose goal is Islamic spiritual reformation. The tradition of Ijtema was initiated by an Indian savant named Muhammad Ilyas al-Kandhlawi and began as a small group of religious-minded individuals gathering at a local mosque. Biswa Ijtema is being held in Tongi continuously for the last four decades.


Cat with the World’s Most Interesting Face

Meet Venus the fascinating feline with the world’s most interesting face. The five-year old tortoiseshell not only has two different colored eyes (known as heterochromia), but she also has two starkly different fur colors split exactly down the middle of her face. Venus’ rare appearance has earned her the nickname Chimera cat (a single organism composed of genetically distinct cells), although the validity of the claim has yet to be proven.

Not surprisingly, Venus has amassed a large following online and her Facebook page alone has over 175,000 fans. Venus lives in a loving home with two other feline siblings plus two canine siblings. For more pictures and info check out Venus on Facebook.


Desert Rain Frog - World's Cutest Amphibian

Mother Nature shows a quirky sense of humor with the desert rain frog. It’s possible you’ve seen the desert rain frog before; a video of the ridiculously endearing, squeaky-toy of a frog made the rounds last year and has garnered nearly 10 million views thus far. But for those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of beholding this sand-dwelling ball of cuteness, allow us to introduce you.

The desert rain frog (Breviceps macrops) is remarkable for several things, aside from seeming to have been plucked directly out of central casting for Pokémon.

Native to the Namaqualand coast of South Africa and coastal south-western Namibia, the nocturnal frogs spend most of the day buried in sand dunes. They have flanges on their back feet that act as little diggers to more easily navigate their coastal terrain. The small strip of the world that they inhabit is prone to sea fog, which keeps the sand moist in an otherwise arid region. They have a patch on their bellies that is not only transparent, but has numerous blood vessels and capillaries through which they can absorb water from the sand.

Yet for all its animated cuteness, it’s the desert rain frog’s ferocious roar that really sets it apart. While every frog species has a unique call, B. macrops goes all out in defending its turf, as wildlife photographer Dean Boshoff bravely discovered when shooting at the dunes along Port Nolloth in the Northern Cape province.

Watch 29 seconds of the desert rain frog and his fierce defensive cry in Boshoff’s video below.

And yes, it occurs to us that this guy is squeaking so enthusiastically because he is probably not too happy about the giant Homo sapiens and his mysterious camera-weapon leering so closely. But given that the sweet creatures are currently listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species – the main threat being habitat loss – it’s our hope that by spreading the cuteness, more fans and advocates will step up to the plate and help save the world’s cutest amphibian.


Great Kobuk Sand Dunes in Alaska

The Kobuk Valley National Park, in Alaska, is one of the most remotely located national parks in the world. Situated on the edge of the arctic circle, this park has no roads that lead to it. The only way to reach it is by foot or sled, or by chartered air taxis. No wonder, it is one of the least visited in the National Park System. Enclosed within the 1.7-million-acres park, lies the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, one of Alaska's true oddities, and a vestige of the immense continental glaciers that once covered much of North America.

The Kobuk Valley National Park contains, not one but three active sand dunes: the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, the Little Kobuk Sand Dunes and the Hunt River Dunes, that together cover 20,000 acres of land, but at one time covered as many as 200,000 acres immediately after the retreat of Pleistocene glaciation. The dunes were believed to have formed by the grinding action of glaciers and subsequent deposition of sand by glacial-outwash streams emptying into what was once a large lake in the Kobuk valley, some 150,000 years ago. The 25-square-km Great Kobuk Sand Dunes constitute the largest active sand dunes found in the Arctic.

Wind have sculpted the sand into dunes that rise as high as 100 feet and are stabilized by the area's vegetation. Although the dunes are located close to the Arctic Circle, summer temperatures there can soar to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

The rest of the park is wetlands formed by the Kobuk River that runs through the park. A great variety of wildlife is found in the Kobuk Valley, including grizzly and black bears, moose, foxes and other small fur-bearing mammals, wolves, and numerous waterfowl. The Western Arctic caribou herd, the largest in Alaska at 490,000 animals, travels through the park during its migration from its calving grounds on the northern slopes of the Brooks Range to where the herd winters south of the range.