Ancient myths continue to inspire us. We tend to take what history calls a myth at face value. And while there are many who firmly believe that every myth is based on reality, not enough effort has been made to prove the truth or falsity of this statement. However, sometimes we come across evidence that ancient stories were not just a flight of someone’s fantasy.
One of the most popular Greek myths is about the Amazons. According to legends, these are female warriors who lived in Asia Minor, or in the territory of modern Turkey. They fought with such strength and ferocity that they could withstand any man. For many years it was considered fiction, and the idea of the existence of a whole society of female warriors seemed absurd. How did they survive without men? How did they fight other armies? Well, that is now the task of anthropologists, as it turns out that the Amazons did exist.
Archaeological evidence found in Russia indicates that these warriors were probably Scythian nomads. Researchers uncovered the grave of four female warriors, buried with weapons, in 2020. Their age ranges from 40 to 50 years.
Many historians believe that before the real bodies were discovered, the Amazons were more metaphorical than real creatures. They helped embellish the stories of the Greek warriors. However, some believed that they were invented as a way to demonize women who did not follow the social norms of the time.
Real Amazons roamed the territory from the Black Sea to Mongolia. Perhaps they belonged to those tribes to repel which the Great Wall of China was built. Homer wrote the first myths about them in the Iliad, and it is likely that there were men in their tribes. Perhaps many of the myths were exaggerated, but they were clearly based on some kind of facts.
Troy is one of the most famous cities in Greek mythology. Everyone knows the story of the Trojan Horse and how the great warrior Achilles fought with Hector and was fatally injured. This story contains all the characteristic elements of myth, so it seemed to us that it could not be true.
While the Trojan Horse idea is definitely suspicious, like the immortality of any great warrior, Troy was a real place.
In the 19th century, German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann discovered the ruins of what he identified as the ancient city of Troy, in Hisarlik (Turkey). His methods were anti-scientific, as he decided to use dynamite to excavate, which probably damaged many historically significant artifacts.
One of the difficulties was that the city of Hisarlik was regularly destroyed and then rebuilt. There is evidence that at least ten cities were built on the same site; they could all be called Troy, but they were not necessarily the ones that Homer wrote about in the Iliad.
8. Giant squids
Myths that are not taken seriously are usually associated with monsters and giant beasts. Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, and Chupacabra – all these creatures are firmly entrenched in the realm of fantasy. However, there is one creature that has long been considered a bizarre figment of the imagination of sailors until it turned out to be real. We are talking about a giant squid.
The giant squid can be over 10 meters long and weigh over 180 kilograms. The largest specimen found weighed almost a ton and reached a length of 18 meters. Although stories about this species have existed for many centuries, the first evidence (in the form of photographs) confirming that they were real did not appear until 2004.
Because of the depth at which they live, they are rarely seen, and since they are the largest invertebrates on Earth, all stories about them were considered nonsense until evidence was discovered. Sailors who claimed to have seen a giant squid were not believed, believing that they were telling tales.
Two years after Japanese researchers first photographed one of these creatures, a living specimen was caught and brought to the surface. It was relatively small: only 7 meters long.
7. City of Shadow
If you are interested in stories and myths about Troy, then you have probably heard about the city of Shadow. It is rumored that the Shadow, built by the POWs, was the place that King Agamemnon allowed to be independent. Obviously, if Troy was a legend, then the city built by the people she captivated was also. But archaeological evidence suggests that this place was real.
Greek archaeologist Eleni Korka discovered a city that was mentioned in the history of Oedipus and others in the Peloponnese (Greece). Located between Corinth and Mycenae, it was a large and prosperous city that seemed to disappear without a trace.
Archaeologists have hunted the site since 1984. Locals found a sarcophagus unlike any previously found, and the search continued. In 2010, Corka contacted the police to stop smugglers who were looting treasures in the area, since by that time she had not yet received permission to excavate. Since 2013, many sarcophagi, coins, roads, relics, and more have been discovered.
6. Bag of the bread of St. Francis of Assisi
The monastery in Folloni in Italy contains a curious relic that no other church can claim. According to legend, in 1224 Saint Francis of Assisi sent a sack of bread from France to the monks. It was delivered by an angel. The bag lay in the monastery for 700 years, turning into fragile scraps of fabric. History has survived with him.
The monks allowed the researchers to analyze the fragments. Science has confirmed that the fragments were dated between 1220 and 1295. The fragments also showed traces of ergosterol. Ergosterol is a type of fungus that is known to appear on bread. This suggests that the bag once contained bread.
Obviously, there is no way to determine if the angel actually brought the bag to the monastery. However, this is more a matter of faith than science.
5. Seven temples of Mahabalipuram
According to the myth of Mahabalipuram, seven magnificent temples were located on the banks of a large city, one of which existed a long time ago and was recognized as a World Heritage Site. They were so beautiful that the gods were jealous and caused a flood to destroy them. This story certainly sounds like fiction. This was until the tsunami changed the situation.
In 2004, an earthquake and the ensuing tsunami in the Indian Ocean laid bare the ruins of the legendary city. Whether it was a seaport or a temple is controversial, but the most important find immediately after the tsunami was a large stone lion dating from the 7th century. Ironically, it is believed that Mahabalipuram was destroyed by a tsunami.
4. Fart / Haast’s eagle
If you’ve never heard of farts, then you are not alone. This New Zealand cryptid was said to be a giant bird that devoured humans. Hardly anyone wants this to be a reality. Unfortunately for our ancestors, the fart-like creature was real.
Fossils of a creature called the Haasta eagle, found in 2009, pointed to a bird that weighed about 18 kilograms and had a wingspan of three meters. It is believed to have hunted large flightless birds such as moa about 500 years ago and was probably able to lift a small child into the air and fly away with it.
Females of this species were twice the size of the largest eagles in existence today, and the giant claws were sharp and strong enough to pierce not only flesh and muscle but also dig into bones to lift prey from the ground.
Since there are no land mammals in New Zealand, this bird appears to have been at the top of the food chain and the locals’ worst nightmare.
The Old Testament often refers to the Hittites and their conflicts with the Israelites. For many years, their kingdom was one of the most powerful in the entire Middle East. They are said to have been a military force to be reckoned with. They also had relatively progressive laws and rights, and their lands stretched more than 900 kilometers from the Black Sea to Damascus.
Despite its power, this nation has disappeared from history. By the 19th century, most scholars considered its existence to be nothing more than a myth due to the lack of historical and archaeological evidence.
In 1812, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, while traveling in Syria, discovered unique writing. Over the next several decades, other explorers visited the area on numerous occasions, and in 1880 someone finally officially declared that it was the land of the Biblical Hittites.
2. Viking sunstones can really be used for navigation
Of the many amazing legends about the Vikings that have survived to this day, the most incredible is the one that tells how they steered their boats. The Vikings had a magic stone known as the “sunstone”; it could be used for navigation even in the most inclement weather when the sun was not visible. The rock showed where the sun was, allowing you to sail in the right direction. It sounds strange, but maybe it was.
In 2013, the stone was found among the wreckage of a British ship that sank in 1592. Of course, it was not a Viking ship, but the find confirms the legend of the sunstone. The stone was Icelandic spar, which has the curious characteristics of rhombohedral calcite crystals. If this sounds like gibberish, then you need to know that if the crystal is aligned from east to west, the refraction of light will create one clear image inside. If you place it in the other direction, you get a split image. This works even in low light, allowing the Vikings to determine the direction of movement even in the absence of the sun.
1. Strengthening the action of weapons with the help of the spirits of the dead
There is a lot of misinformation and bragging around Viking history. However, it’s safe to say that they were formidable warriors that the enemies truly feared. The way that helped them achieve this reputation is much more interesting than many people think.
The Vikings are said to have infused their weapons with the spirits of the dead to make them stronger and more deadly in battle. At first glance, this sounds like complete nonsense.
Throughout the region, there is evidence of ancient forges that the Vikings used to make weapons using human and animal bones. And while at first glance it might be said that creating a weapon from the body of one of your victims was a way to put a spirit in the blade, in reality, the practice was to saturate the iron with carbon while it was being forged. In fact, this was the creation of one of the very first forms of steel.
Archaeological evidence suggests that blacksmiths may have taken bones from burial mounds to add ancestral power to their blades. Their understanding of the process was inaccurate, but the end result was a much more durable weapon.