WARNING: Some of the above pictures could be considered disturbing. Proceed with caution if you’re squeamish.
Archaeology isn’t just about fighting Nazis and looking like Harrison Ford — digging for ancient bones and artifacts is an important part of the job too.
While archaeological digs aren’t always exciting affairs, every now and then archaeologists will discover a relic of the past. And, as we all know, all of history was pretty much terrifying, so naturally, some of the finds have been genuinely unsettling.
Since we love scaring ourselves, we’ve collected some photos and brief summaries from the creepiest archaeological digs of all time. The photos are in the slideshow above, and more info on each slide is printed below. Enjoy.
The Venetian Vampire
Back in the days of ancient Italy, a stake through the heart wasn’t always enough to dispose of a vicious so-called vampire. Often, they had to opt to driving a brick through the mouth — as evidenced by this skull found near Venice.
Petrified People Parts
Giralamo Segato was a medical genius far ahead of his time, living in the early nineteenth century, but he was also a bit, ahem, unorthodox. He remains the only man who ever petrified human body parts, and scientists still aren’t quite sure how he did it. Inspired by mummies he’d seen in Egypt, Segato figured out how to turn dead body parts to stone by injecting bodies with some unknown chemical mixture, when they were still freshly dead. He destroyed his notes, and the source of his sorcery will likely remain unknown forever, which is fine with us.
Oh, and one more thing — Segato had a particular affinity for petrifying nipples. Google that at your own risk.
Mount Owen Moa Claw
This giant claw was found at Mount Owen in New Zealand. Scientists were able to determine it came from an Upland Moa, a large prehistoric bird with a mighty pair of talons. Strangely, the claw was so well preserved, it looked as if the creature had died only recently.
Some mummies just look like they’re screaming, since the ancient Egyptians didn’t realize that the jaw would separate in such a way if not taped to the skull, as we do today. Others, however, actually seem to have been screaming horribly at the time of their death/mummification, as they were likely enduring some kind of torture.
Severed Hands, Sans Bodies
While mining four pits near Avaris, Egypt, a group of archaeologists found the pits full of severed right hands, most of them belonging to adult males. The reason, it turns out, is represented well in Egyptian hieroglyphics — soldiers would often cut off the hands of their enemies as a way to rob them of their power, and present them to their leaders, who would put the hands in a pit to be buried for centuries until they could creep out future civilizations.
Alien Skulls of Mexico
Twenty-five of these alien-like skulls were unearthed in a mass grave discovered by Mexican villagers. Some claim they actually are from aliens, while many scientists hold their skulls were intentionally reshaped during life. Apparently, children in ancient Central American cultures had their skulls forced into strange shapes during childhood, usually using flat boards bound to their heads with enormous pressure.
The Nazca Lines
This is a bit of a cheat, as it wasn’t found during a dig. Instead, these massive illustrations were always right under archaeologists’ noses, but weren’t discovered until the early 1900s, thanks to the advent of flight. Explanations range from UFOs to the Nazcas being extremely technologically advanced, but the most plausible is that they were simply skilled surveyors. Why, however, they would construct such giant artwork is still an unsettling mystery.
The Headless Viking Corpses
A road crew in Dorset, UK found a mass grave of vikings with a total of 51 bodies. The vikings had all suffered a brutal execution, and were buried in two piles — one with their heads and another with their headless bodies.
The Tomb of Speared Skulls
Archaeologists came across these skulls during a dig Motala, Sweden. Several of the skulls they found had stakes driven down through the cranium, and, worse still, had other pieces of skull embedded inside them.
Skeletons Pieced Together from Other Skeletons
Scientists found two well-preserved skeletons beneath a 3,000 year old Bronze age settlement in the Scottish Highlands, and it took professor of biomedical archaeology Terry Brown a decade to figure out what was so strange about them — the skeletons were actually pieced together from six different corpses. Whoever these poor souls were, they were the victims of a sort of ancient Jigsaw.
The bodies were submerged in peat bog, which mummifies humans while turning them into unsettling abominations like this:
Whoever was responsible for submerging the bodies in the bog apparently kept them there to simmer for a year before returning to fish out the bones and assemble his or her Franken-skeletons.