Although many of life's great mysteries remain unsolved, there are some lesser known ones that also have stumped researchers for centuries. Here's a look at some of the most intriguing historical mysteries, from the mysterious, and blonde, Tarim mummies from China to the undecipherable Voynich manuscript to lost city of Helike.
With a culture that stretched from western India to Afghanistan and a population numbering over 5 million, the ancient Indus Valley people — India's oldest known civilization — were an impressive and apparently sanitary Bronze-age bunch. The scale of their baffling and abrupt collapse rivals that of the great Mayan decline.
But it wasn't until 1922 that excavations revealed a hygienically-advanced culture that maintained a sophisticated sewage drainage system and immaculate bathrooms. Strangely, there is no archaeological evidence of armies, slaves, social conflicts or other vices prevalent in ancient societies. Even to the very end, it seems, they kept it clean.
During an excavation beneath the Tarim Basin in western China, archaeologists were surprised to discover more than 100 mummified corpses that dated back 2,000 years. But a college professor named Victor Mair was downright stupefied when he came skull-to-skull with some of the blonde-haired and long-nosed Tarim mummies after they were dug up and put on display at a museum. So in 1993, Mair returned to collect DNA samples from the mummies. Test results ultimately validated his hunch that the bodies were of European genetic stock.
While Ancient Chinese texts from as early as the first millennium B.C. describe groups of far-East dwelling Caucasian people, there is no mention of how or why they ended up there.
The Voynich manuscript just might be the most unreadable book in the world. The 500-year-old relic was discovered in 1912 at a library in Rome and consists of 240 pages of illustrations and writing in a language not known to anyone.
Deciphering the text has eluded even the best cryptographers, leading some to dismiss the book as an entertaining but lengthy hoax. But a statistical analysis of the writing shows the manuscript does seem to follow the basic structure and laws of a working language.
After the Parthians of Persia defeated an underachieving Roman army led by General Crassus, legend has it a small band of POWs wandered through the desert and eventually were rounded up by the Han military. First-century Chinese historian Ban Gu wrote an account of a confrontation with a strange army that fought in a "fish-scale formation" unique to Roman forces. An Oxford historian who compared ancient records claimed that the lost roman legion founded a small town near the Gobi desert named Liqian, which in Chinese translates to Rome.
DNA tests are being conducted to settle that claim and hopefully explain some of the residents' green eyes, blond hair and fondness of bullfighting.
The real-life existence of a forest-dwelling altruistic bandit definitely seems more plausible then a legendary king with a magical sword. However, the historical manhunt for the real-life Robin Hood has turned up entire scrolls of possibilities. Candidates include a fugitive in Yorkshire by the name of Robert Hod, who went by Hobbehod as well as a Robert Hood of Wakefield. The list of suspects was also complicated by the name "Robin Hood" eventually becoming synonymous with being an outlaw. His identity would later get murkier as the tales' authors wove more characters such as Prince John and Richard the Lionheart into the story.