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IntroductionPuzzling ancient finds have a way of captivating the public, perhaps because it's just too easy to dream up interesting explanations for how and why things exist.
These 25 archaeological discoveries have left people in awe — and left scientists scratching their heads — year after year.
Stone spheres in Costa RicaSlide 2 of 51
Stone spheres in Costa Rica
Giant stone spheres — some dating as far back as A.D. 600 — pepper the Diquis Delta of southern Costa Rica. Known locally as Las Bolas ("The Balls"), these monuments were the works of a Pre-Colombian civilization, and most are made from gabbro, a rock that forms from molten magma. The people who carved the stones into their perfectly spherical shapes likely did so using other small stones, according to archaeologists who study the ancient rocks.
Many non-experts have speculated that the so-called Diquis Spheres were used for astronomical purposes, while others think they may have pointed the way to significant places. The truth is that no one knows for sure. The Chibchan people who once populated Costa Rica and other parts of Central America vanished in the wake of the Spanish conquest, and the purpose of the spheres vanished with them, John W. Hoopes, an anthropologist at the University of Kansas, told JSTOR Daily in January 2016.Slide 3 of 51
Antikythera mechanismSlide 4 of 51
Like something from a fantastical treasure movie, the discovery of the Antikythera Mechanism remains a major archaeological head-scratcher.
Found in the sunken wreckage of a Greek cargo ship that is at least 2,000 years old, the circular bronze artifact contains a maze of interlocking gears and mysterious characters etched all over its exposed faces. Originally thought to be a kind of navigational astrolabe, archaeologists continue to uncover its uses and now know that it was, at the very least, a highly intricate astronomical calendar.
It is still the most sophisticated device ever found from that period, preceding the next appearance of similar devices by 1,000 years.Slide 5 of 51
Cleopatra's tombSlide 6 of 51
Cleopatra VII was the last of a series of rulers called the Ptolemies who ruled Egypt between 305 and 30 B.C. Much is known about her intelligence, beauty and romantic relationships (she had children with both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony), but one fact about Cleopatra is still shrouded in mystery — her burial place.
Cleopatra and Antony both committed suicide after their former ally, Octavian, defeated them at the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C. The two were buried together at a site that the writer Plutarch (A.D. 45-120) described as a "lofty and beautiful" monument, located near a temple of the Egyptian goddess Isis. But exactly where this tomb is located remains a mystery. If anyone ever finds the lovers' tomb, there's a chance it might be empty, as grave robbery was not uncommon in ancient times, according to archaeologists.Slide 7 of 51
Qin Shi Huang's tombSlide 8 of 51