Top 10 Remarkable Moments Involving Mummies

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Top 10 Remarkable Moments Involving Mummies


Mummies aren’t just for museum viewing and freaking out sensitive moviegoers. Sometimes, these time capsules return lost information capable of answering mysteries—or, just as easily, starting some fresh ones. As silent as these people and animals are, they convey information invaluable to experts trying to understand the rituals, illnesses, and even scandals of the past.


10The Tebtunis Portraits


As the first man-made pigment, Egyptian blue was sought after by ancient painters. When researchers studied 11 mummy portraits, they were stunned to find the precious tint hidden instead of flaunted.

Mummy portraits were paintings of the deceased placed over the face. Found at Tebtunis, Egypt, between 1899 and 1900, the portraits reflected a popular second-century trend—using only the four colors favored by the masterful Greeks. Closer inspection of the white, black, yellow, and red revealed something surprising. The Tebtunis painters stayed true to the vogue color scheme but worked blue into the art in a way never before seen in the ancient world.

Normally, Egyptian blue received a place of honor in paintings and sculptures throughout the Mediterranean, but here, it was used as underdrawings, enriching the four Greek colors with more hues and shading. Even today, researchers aren’t certain that all the ways in which Egyptian blue was used is known.

9Sacred Scandal


Today, the scandal merely lifted a few academic eyebrows, but during ancient Egypt, it would have been epic.

When scientists at the Manchester Museum scanned 800 animal mummies, one-third proved to be empty of skeletal remains. When worshipers wanted to connect with a certain animal god, they bought a related mummified creature as an offering. The faithful fully expected a wrapped cat to contain a dead kitty. As it turned out, the fervently religious nation’s demand couldn’t be met.

Perhaps the profit-minded sellers didn’t want to let a good opportunity go, but the researchers believe the deception wasn’t so much forgery-orientated as it was to supply people with a religious experience. There just wasn’t enough time or animals to match the rapid sales. To speed things up, the beautifully crafted mummies were secretly filled with something linked to that animal, such as nest stuffing and egg shells for birds.


8The Sand Skull


A 3,200-year-old Egyptian mummy named Hatason sparked serious scientific interest after a scan. She died between 1700–1000 BC, a time when brains stayed intact during mummification. Adding material inside the skull cavity while it still contained gray matter is unheard of, but somebody forced a substance into her head. Strangely, the skull appears to be stuffed with dark sand.

The woman was likely a citizen experimented on by a mortician. It’s hard to tell, since few mummies remain from that era and not a lot is known about her—or if she’s even a woman. Pelvic bones can reveal sex, but Hatason’s is crushed. The skull appears to be female. The coffin depicts a woman wearing the clothing of a standard citizen but there’s no way to prove it was hers. The mummy, currently in San Francisco, was removed from Egypt in the 1800s when buyers switched coffins as the need arose.

7Sobek Surprise


At the Dutch National Museum is a wrapped “crocodile.” Measuring three meters long, a previous scan revealed it contained two of the fearsome reptiles shaped as one giant croc about 3,000 years ago. In 2016, the mummy was sent to an Amsterdam medical center to undergo a cutting edge 3-D CT scan. The images were extraordinary.

Egyptologists expected nothing new, but dozens of previously undetected bundles appeared to be tucked away between the wrappings. Closer examination proved that they were all individually bandaged baby crocodiles. While not unique, this type of mummy is extremely rare, and the Dutch one is also in superb condition. It would’ve made a great offering to the Egyptian crocodile god Sobek, which was probably what it was created for. The idea behind the strange arrangement is not clear. Experts suspect the different ages of the animals could be symbolic of rejuvenation after death.

6Practical Prosthetics


Looking at old personal items, it can be hard to discern which had a practical or cosmetic use. This holds true for ancient Egypt. Burial preparations often included false body parts, even when the deceased had no amputations. Recently, the University of Manchester strapped a special kind of replica on volunteers lacking a right big toe.

The recreations copied two Egyptian artifacts that may be the first known prosthetics. Respectively, the toe sets consist of cartonnage (before 600 BC) and wood and leather (950–710 BC). The second was found on a Luxor mummy’s foot. Signs of long-term use hinted at prosthetics in the truest sense and not burial props.

The volunteers went barefoot then wore the toes, with and without authentically remade Egyptian sandals. The study revealed that both devices were highly successful replacements for real toes and removed the crippling pressure traditional sandals would’ve caused.



5Rediscovery Of C1bi


Photo credit: Schobinger, J. et al

In 1985, hikers found a body on Argentina’s Aconcagua mountain. The child, dead for five centuries, turned out to be an Incan boy killed during a sacrifice. The height at which he died, 5,300 meters above sea level, provided extreme dryness, and the seven-year-old mummified naturally.

His good condition allowed geneticists to extract his entire mitochondrial genome. The DNA placed the boy in a genetic group called C1b, an ancient Paleoindian lineage older than 18,000 years. However, he didn’t match any of the plentiful subgroups dividing up the population. Researchers created a new one, called it C1bi, and scoured databases for more members of this lost line. Only four turned up. Three were from modern Peruvians and Bolivians. The last belonged to a person of the pre-Inca Wari Empire of Peru.

An estimated 90 percent of native South Americans perished during the Spanish conquest. This genetic annihilation is behind C1bi’s scarcity today and also why it remained unknown until the discovery of the Aconcagua boy.

4The Hathor Tattoos


Photo credit: Radio-Canada

Egyptologists once believed priestesses were painted with images, not tattooed. A well-preserved woman changed that.

Cedric Gobeil, a Canadian researcher working in Egypt since 2013, noticed dark shapes on the body and dismissed it as embalming residue. However, when the 3,300-year-old skin was extended with imaging software, the historic tattoos reappeared. They are the only depictions of recognizable things, not just shapes, ever found on a dynastic Egyptian. Lotus flowers, animals including cows and snakes, as well as symbols are part of 30 tattoos adorning the upper body and hips.

Nobody knows what the full collection looked like. Her head and legs have never been found. Gobeil believes the skin art marked her as a priestess of the goddess Hathor, since several of the images are linked to this deity. That alone makes it a unique case. She’s also the first proof that murals showing figures with recognizable objects as body decorations are depictions of tattooed Egyptians.

3The Age Of Smallpox


Photo credit: Kiril Cachovski

In the crypt of a Lithuanian church, the remains of a toddler yielded the oldest traces of the smallpox virus. The first human disease to be wiped out with vaccination, the origins of smallpox remains a mystery. For a long time, it was thought to be a millennia-old disease that even plagued the Egyptians, when the latter provided a few pockmarked mummies. The Lithuanian discovery challenged this when analysis concluded the virus was only a few hundred years old.

By comparing the 360-year-old strain from the child against all the known mutations, researchers determined they shared a single ancestor that first appeared sometime between 1588–1645. Had smallpox been thousands of years old, there would’ve been a significant increase in the number of strains, but the variety simply isn’t there. Some Egyptian mummies dating back thousands of years do have the trademark scarring, but measles and chickenpox could also have been responsible.

2The Cladh Hallan Burials


A decade ago, scientists were excavating a buried 3,000-year-old couple from the prehistoric village of Cladh Hallan, Scotland. Things didn’t get weird until one man noticed the female mummy’s jaw looked out of sorts, like it didn’t fit.

DNA tests told a macabre story. The pair had been pieced together from parts belonging to six unrelated people. Those assembling the woman date back to the same time period, but her male counterpart’s contributors died at different times, some hundreds of years apart. Even their burial took centuries to complete. First they were placed in a peat bog until they were mummified and were then reburied at the village, 300–600 years later. Interred in the fetal position, all soft tissue was destroyed by the soil of their new grave. It remains a riddle why the villagers went through all that trouble.

1Otzi Speaks

The superstar of the mummy world is undoubtedly Otzi. German tourists discovered him 25 years ago in South Tyrol, Italy. Researchers already determined his last meal, that he might have been murdered, looked at his DNA, tattoos, and health, then famously recreated his looks. In 2016, they finally returned Otzi’s voice.

The team faced several obstacles in the quest to hear him speak. One arm is flung across his throat, obstructing an examination. The tongue bone was also incomplete. An MRI scanner was preferred for its greater detail, but the body’s fragility meant it couldn’t be moved. After the scientists settled on a CT scan, Otzi’s vocal tract was inspected, and the tongue bone was recreated virtually. With the help of additional software and mathematical models, sound came to life.

It ranged between 100 and 150 Hz, normal for a human male. Since researchers don’t know how vocal cord tension and soft tissues affected his speech, his true speaking voice cannot be recreated. However, the tone of his vowels can, and it reveals a man sounding almost like a heavy smoker.

10 Fascinating Cave Finds That Will Blow Your Mind

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10 Fascinating Cave Finds That Will Blow Your Mind


Caves have served as homes, storage sites, and sacred spaces throughout history. This makes them rich and rewarding hunting grounds for archaeologists. Far from yielding just the occasional odd fossil, caves hold tough-to-crack ancient mysteries, reveal unknown behaviors from the hominid clan, and are sometimes home to the rarest and oldest artifacts. Even legends are found in them.


10The Rhino Cave Ritual

Rhino Cave Python

Photo credit: The Times

A cave in Botswana has yielded intriguing artifacts that could have been used in the world’s oldest ritual. First examined in the 1990s, Rhino Cave produced over 100 spearheads in bright colors. Also inside was a python carved from rock. The stone reptile measures 6 meters (20 ft) by 2 meters (6.5 ft) and rests on a crushed wall. Some of the cracks in the cavern were stuffed with quartz chips.

The site clearly held great importance for the San people who used it. The weapon points were delivered, often from a great distance away, and then burned during what researchers believe was python worship practiced around 70,000 years ago, smashing the previous oldest-known rites by 30,000 years. Other scientists feel that more research is needed and even argue that there was no ritual. Yet, throughout the Tsodilo Hills, home to Rhino Cave, rock art shows the San engaged in acts resembling the ceremony. The handling of the spearheads and quartz flakes is previously unknown behavior documented for the first time in Rhino Cave.

9The Liang Bua Teeth

Liang Bua

Photo credit: Rosino

A case of hobbit murder might be afoot. Ever since the diminutive hominidHomo floresiensis was documented in 2003, scientists have pondered why they swirled down the extinction drain. Now, a toothy find could clinch the case. Two human molars turned up in 2010 and 2011, respectively, in the Liang Bua cave on Flores. This is the same cave where the only known hobbit remains were excavated years before. The Homo sapiens snappers slightly postdate the hobbits’ final bow, which experts claim happened 50,000 years ago.

Humans already lived in Southeast Asia by then, making an overlap of the two species possible. They might even have interbred or competed for food—although the 1-meter-tall (3 ft) hobbits hardly qualified as opponents. Most likely, the humans obliterated their smaller cousins. There is additional evidence that the arrival of hunter-gatherers wiped out more than H. floresiensis. Several animal species also disappeared from the island around the same time.


8Earliest Winery

Areni Cave Winery

Photo credit: Gregory Areshian via National Geographic

The world’s oldest shoe is a perfectly preserved moccasin, despite its 5,500 years. It also led to the world’s earliest winery near the village of Areni. Returning in 2007 to the Armenian cave where the footwear was unearthed, archaeologists found equipment for producing ancient alcohol. There were dried vines, vats for trampling grapes by foot, storage containers for fermenting the juice, and tasting cups. The complete production line is over six millennia old.

The large-scale factory indicates that the grape was domesticated earlier than thought, which is not impossible, considering the location. DNA studies have traced the beginnings of winemaking back to Armenia and surrounding countries. The prehistoric winemakers left their shoes and equipment but no clue as to who they were. Apparently, they kept their dead involved. A cemetery surrounds the site, with drinking vessels around and even inside the graves.

7Witchcraft Island

Bla Jungfrun

Photo credit: Anchor2009

An island near Sweden is wrapped with legends of the dark arts. Removing a rock from Bla Jungfrun will guarantee lifelong bad luck, and the island is best avoided on Easter, because that’s when the witches arrive for some Devil worship.

These ancient beliefs may hold a grain of truth. You might not be cursed for life for stealing a stone or witness a holiday witch convention, but some people once took rituals seriously on Bla Jungfrun. Archaeologists visited the uninhabited island in 2014 and were astonished to find that 9,000 years ago, Stone Age ritualistic activity was rife.

People traveled there specifically to partake in these rituals, and two caves in particular were adapted for this purpose. One contains an altar-type construction to perhaps prepare religious offerings. A fireplace lies in the other, beneath a large hollow hacked from one of the walls. The entrance to this cave offers a theater view of below. Researchers speculate that, together, the blazing fire and the hollow being enlarged was an act viewed by audiences for some unknown reason.

6Cave Of Games

Promontory Gambling Canes

Photo credit: Ives and Yanicki via Western Digs

The Promontory culture, forerunner to the Apache and Navajo nations, settled in a cave near Utah’s Great Salt Lake. During excavations in the 1930s and 2010s, an aspect of this mysterious people came to life in magnificent numbers: They loved gambling. Hundreds of gambling aids showed that the Promontory competed with guessing, chance, and physical prowess.

Women’s games consisted mostly of what were essentially dice matches, using split canes marked with burns and playing for low-risk wagers between them. Even so, these were social times, avidly followed by the men, who placed bets. Male games ranged from domestic recreation (such as seeing who could shoot a dart first through a moving hoop) to interactively forging bonds with other tribes.

The Promontory flourished in the late 1200s, while their neighbors faced drought and famine. Gambling while sharing feasts with their neighbors likely created better relations and prevented raids. The rich variety of Promontory games is unmatched in Western North America and could have been the key to their success as a peaceful culture.


5Hellenistic Petra

Little Petra Cave Painting

Photo credit: The Courtauld Institute via The Guardian

The ancient capital of the Nabataeans has a canyon cave complex known as Little Petra, not far from the more well-known Petra. This second site served as a getaway for wealthier citizens. In the main chamber and a connecting compartment awaited a discovery that still shocks scholars since its find in 2007. Wall paintings may not sound like much, but the quality and rarity of these 2,000-year-old Hellenistic scenes shook everyone.

There are no complete artworks bearing this style, leaving almost nothing of the color and composition of the great masterpieces to study. Little Petra’s paintings could change that. Restoration took three years, but what emerged was an exceptional slice of this lost style. Exquisite realism allowed the identification of plants, birds, and insects. Children play flutes, collect fruit, and shoo birds away. The extensive range of colors were made even more luxurious with the addition of gold leaf and glazes. The wall paintings are now considered the best examples of Nabataean art and are the only figurative paintings that survive at Petra.

4The Lupercal


Photo credit: AP/Italian Culture Ministry, HO via National Geographic

The Lupercal (or Lupercale) is part of Rome’s intricate past, where legend and history often overlap. It is the city’s most sacred site, since it involves the twin brothers Romulus and Remus. Said to be the founders of Rome, the children were supposedly raised by a she-wolf in a cave known as the Lupercal. In 2007, an Italian team of archaeologists located a cavern 16 meters (52 ft) under the Palatine Hill. Part of it had already collapsed, and the fragility of the site prevented a full-scale excavation, but endoscopes and scanners revealed details about the inside of the grotto.

Decorated with marble and seashells, a round space measures 8 meters (26 ft) high, with a diameter of 7.5 meters (24 ft). The best evidence that this is the Lupercal comes from its location as well as a white eagle insignia within the vault. Emperor Augustus, who died in AD 14, is said to have restored the holy site, situated near his palace, and added such an eagle. Indeed, this grotto lies beneath the ruins of where Augustus once lived.

3Neanderthal Builders

Neanderthal Wall Cave

Photo credit: Michel Soulier/SSAC via The Guardian

Neanderthal achievements aren’t bad for a hominid still viewed by many as brainless animals. They produced stone tools, glue, clothing, and jewelry, They used fire and shelters, and there’s evidence that their dead were buried with ritual. Their greatest and most mysterious act came to light in the 1990s. Cave explorers were 300 meters (984 ft) into the Bruniquel cave in France when they stumbled upon strange formations. Almost 400 stalagmites had been used as building material to construct walls. The most extraordinary are two ring-shaped walls, the biggest running 7 meters (23 ft) across and 40 centimters (16 in) high in places.

Building occurred 175,000 years ago, and Neanderthals were the only human branch that lived in Europe during that time. This unique display proves once again that they were more intelligent than is generally accepted. The walls were erected in a place of total darkness, which might explain scorch marks found on the inside, as if hearths burned within. Researchers still don’t know the exact purpose of the stalagmite structures or if building underground was something that Neanderthals normally did.

2Buddha’s Life

Buddha Cave Painting

Photo via Meta Religion

In 2007, an international team archaeologists was restoring murals at a Nepalese monastery and asked the locals about ancient art in the area. The kingdom of Mustang, once a part of Tibet, has managed to keep its Tibetan and Buddhist heritage unscathed throughout history. This interested the team very much. A shepherd recalled something he’d seen as a child and led them to a cave. After scaling a 3,400-meter (11,200 ft) height to reach the site, the researchers received the treat of a lifetime.

Inside the cavern were 55 untouched paintings showing the life of Buddha. The scenes were full of color and were done by skilled artisans showing a strong Indian influence, rather than Tibetan. At the same time that the 12th- to 14th-century works were discovered, another religious treasure, ancient Tibetan manuscripts, were found in nearby caves. It’s possible that the area was a Buddhist school or retreat. The exact location of the paintings is being kept secret to prevent looters from making off with the rare collection.

1Egypt’s Lost Fleet

Ancient Egypt Boats

Photo credit: Stephane Begoin via Discover

Wall carvings discovered at an Egyptian temple in the 19th century showed cargo ships returning from a legendary land called Punt. In 2004, archaeologists found the missing fleet. Eight caves near the Red Sea held the remains of equipment, ships, and a harbor community. Incredibly, the vessels were built to be assembled like puzzles, something nobody had ever done before. From the harbor oasis, Mersa Gawasis, great sea voyages were launched.

When a 20-meter (66 ft) replica was made, the dubious-looking ship was essentially a giant hull without a frame and made from immensely thick wood. Sailing on the Red Sea for weeks, it performed with agility, surfed out a storm, and reached 16 kilometers per hour (10 mph). Perhaps more tantalizing than proving that ancient Egypt was a phenomenal maritime nation is the link between Mersa Gawasis and the mythical Punt. Among the artifacts were stones inscribed with factual-sounding accounts of sailing to Punt.

The harbor was abandoned after four centuries, and everything was sealed up in caves. After 4,000 years, the historic rediscovery includes some of the oldest seafaring ships.

10 Incredible Mysteries Of Ancient Ireland

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10 Incredible Mysteries Of Ancient Ireland


Hidden away on Europe’s Atlantic fringe, Ireland has long been thought to be a “fly in amber”—a backwater frozen in time. However, the island not just a window into Europe’s pre-Roman past. This cosmopolitan land has witnessed waves of immigration from around the ancient world and enjoyed cultural contact with civilizations as far away as India. From the hidden tombs to magical tree-based alphabets, there are countless mysteries to explore in the Emerald Isle’s mist.


10Indian Musical Connection


Photo credit: Stuart Hay

In 2016, a student of Iron Age Irish music was shocked to discover the tradition alive in southern India. Long thought to be extinct, this ancient Irish music and its modern Indian analog revealed a 2,000-year link between the cultures.

The breakthrough came when Australia National University’s Billy O’Foghlu discovered that modern Indian horns in Kerala were nearly identical to prehistoric European versions. O’Foghlu reveals: “The musical traditions of south India, with horns such as Kompu, are a great insight into music cultures in Europe’s prehistory.”

Horns similar to Kompu have been discovered in Europe for decades. Oftentimes, they were sacrificed. Initially, musicologists thought their discordant nature reflected poor craftsmanship. However, O’Foghlu points out that this dissonance is considered “deliberate and beautiful” in Indian music. Traditionally, Indian horns are used as a rhythm instrument—rather than playing melodies. Experts have long suspected interconnectivity between European and Indian musical cultures.

9Irish Tree Alphabet


Photo credit: Wikimedia

Ogham (pronounced “owam”) is an ancient Irish tree alphabet. The markings emanate from a central line known as the “stem.” Crosses—or “twigs”—emerge from the reference line to differentiate letters. There are 20 letters in ogham, most of which are named after trees. To date, 400 ogham inscriptions have been found—360 of them are in Ireland. The oldest dates to the fourth century. However, linguists believe it was used on perishable items like wood as early as the first century.

Most ogham inscriptions are names and places and likely served as property boundaries. Why ogham emerged remains a mystery. Latin and Greek script were both in common usage on the island at the time. Some theorize it was invented to prevent the British from deciphering the Irish messages. Others insist early Christian missionaries developed ogham due to Latin’s inefficiency in capturing the Celtic tongue.


8Cave Of Excarnation


Photo credit: Irish Mirror

In 2014, archaeologists discovered evidence of ancient excarnation in Knocknarea Cave. This is the practice in which bodies are allowed to decompose in one area, before being buried elsewhere. Dr. Marion Dowd’s team found 13 small bones and skeletal fragments in an inaccessible reach of the cave. They belonged to one man, who died about 5,500 years ago, and a child who perished about 300 years later. Dowd revealed that the number of small bone fragments suggests this was a place where bodies were allowed to skeletonize before burial elsewhere.

Where the bodies ultimately were interred remains a mystery. However, it is likely they were not taken far. Knocknarea is the highest mountain in County Sligo. It contains Queen Maeve’s cairn, one of Ireland’s most famous Neolithic sites, and five other stone memorials. The mountain is visible from any of the Neolithic sites yet discovered in the county.

7Niall’s Offspring


Photo credit: Curious Ireland

Reigning between 379 and 405, Niall of the Nine Hostages was a mythic Irish high king, who according to legend was one of the most fruitful men in history. Recent DNA analysis has revealed that there may be truth behind these claims. Trinity College’s Professor Dan Bradley discovered that three million men descended from one Irish man—perhaps Niall.

One in 12 Irish men carry R1b1c7 Y-chromosomes. In northwestern Ireland, which corresponds with the U Neill dynasty’s holdings, the number rises to one in five. It also occurs in great concentration in Scotland and New York. Some speculate that 1 in 50 New Yorkers with European roots are descended from Niall. Irish names are derived from one’s paternal line and thus correlate with Y-chromosomes. The common surname “O’Neill,” means “descendants of Niall.”

6Pagan Christianity Fusion


Photo credit:

In 2014, excavations around County Clare revealed that Ireland’s early Christians hedged their spiritual bets with pagan practices. Archaeologists at Caherconnell unearthed a tomb belonging to a woman and two infants. One of the infants was between one and two years old, and the other died shortly after birth. The woman was about 45 years old and suffered from joint disease.

Radiocarbon dating revealed the burial dates between 535 and 645—well within the “Early Christian” period. However, the tomb contains many pagan elements. They were not buried within consecrated ground. Instead, they were placed in cists beneath a stony mound. Between the 10th and 11th century, a high-status Caher—or enclosure—was built over the tomb. This practice was common in pre-Christian Ireland. The enclosure’s drystone wall passed directly over the ancient grave. It may have been a form of ancestor worship, or a way to legitimize rule.



5Ireland’s Oldest Human Burial


Photo credit: University of York

Archaeologists studying the oldest human burial in Ireland have made startling discoveries into the lives of the island’s early Mesolithic hunter gathers. Dated between 7530 and 7320 BC, the burial was located on the banks of the River Shannon in County Limerick. The tomb is unique, because its inhabitant had been cremated prior to burial. The site also contains evidence of post, which would have served as a grave marker.

Researchers discovered a highly polished stone axe—or adze—along with the cremated remains. It is believed to be the earliest known adze in Europe. Microscopic analysis revealed that the tool was little used and intentionally blunted, suggesting it was commissioned as a grave offering. The blunting may have been a symbolic gesture representing the individual’s death. The adze shocked researchers, who associated these tools with the arrival of agriculture in Europe 3,000 years after the burial.

4Celtic Curse


Photo credit: Wikimedia

Hemochromatosis is a genetic disorder resulting in excessive iron retention. “Iron overload” is so common in Ireland it is known as the “Celtic Curse.” Genetic analysis reveals that this mutation was brought to the island by Bronze Age men with DNA originally from the Pontic steppe. Researchers compared the genetics of a 5,200-year-old Irish Neolithic farmer and Bronze Age men from 1,200 years later. The brown-haired, dark-eyed female had some hunter-gather ancestry but “possessed a genome of predominately Near Eastern origin.”

The Bronze Age men all had genes for blue eyes (carried the most common Y chromosome in modern Ireland), lactose tolerance, and the mutation of the C282Y gene leading to the “Celtic curse.” Some theorize that the ability to retain extra iron provided a survival advantage with Ireland’s grain-rich diet—or perhaps aided against parasites. The massive difference in genetics suggests Ireland witnessed a “profound migratory episode.”

3Sea God Offering


Photo credit: Wikimedia

In February 1896, Thomas Nicholl and James Morrow unearthed the Broighter Hoard while plowing fields in Limavady, Northern Ireland. They took the treasure home and washed it—but had no idea they were holding gold from the first century BC. J.L. Gibson, who had hired Nicholl and Morrow, sold half the haul to a local antiquarian. Morrow’s sister sold another portion to a jeweler.

The most renowned piece in the hoard was a golden boat. The 7.5″ by 3″ boat contains two rows of nine oars, oarlocks, a paddle rudder, and benches. Initially, it did not receive much attention. However, archaeologists now believe it is the key to understanding the hoard. Some believe the gold was an offering to Manannan mac Lir—god of the sea. The presence of non-Irish loop-in-loop torcs—or necklaces—suggests that merchants with foreign interests likely made this offering to the “son of the sea.”

2Hellfire Club’s Hidden Tomb


Photo credit: Wikimedia

In October 2016, archaeologists discovered an ancient passage tomb beneath Dublin’s Hellfire Club. Jonathan Swift referred to the Hellfire Club as “a brace of monsters, blasphemers, and bacchanalians.” Designed for depravity and debauchery, the shooting lodge was built in 1725 for politician William Connolly. Researchers believe the tomb was destroyed during construction. Connolly died soon after the lodge’s completion and never lived there.

Symbols carved into dark rock revealed the burial’s entrance. The same motif appears on the entrance to Neolithic passage tombs throughout the country. It is typical of Neolithic burials, with a large circular mound with a stone passageway. The team suspects that lower levels remain intact. Researchers have discovered 5,000-year-old tools and bits of cremated remains. Radiocarbon dating will determine the tomb’s age. Researchers suspect that the tomb below the Hellfire Club may be part of an extended tomb complex throughout Dublin and Wicklow.

1Mysterious Milesians


Photo credit: Wikimedia

The mystery of the Milesians will never be solved. According to the medieval Christian text Lebor Gabala Erenn, these Spanish Celts from Galicia conquered Ireland. They derived their name from the legendary Mil Espaine—or “Soldier of Spain.” The ninth-century Historia Brittonum also mentions the Milesians, claiming that Mil Espaine became the father of the Irish Gaels. Despite no archaeological evidence of Spain invasions in Ireland, the legend persists.

More than 84 percent of Irish men carry the R1b haplogroup marker. Alastair Moffit of the genetic testing firm IrelandsDNA indicates that first farmers carrying the “G” marker arrived in Ireland around 4350 BC. However, around 2,500 years ago, this line was virtually obliterated—reduced to 1 percent of Irish men. R1b is very common in northern Spain and southwestern France. It is likely the Y chromosome was introduced from the south—lending some credence to the Milesian myth.

Dubbed the “Indiana Jones of folk music” by, Geordie McElroy has hunted spell songs, incantations, and arcane melodies for the Smithsonian, Sony Music Group, and private collectors. A leading authority on occult music, he is also a singer of LA-based band Blackwater Jukebox.