Top 10 Historical Mysteries That Have Been Solved

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Top 10 Historical Mysteries That Have Been Solved

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Savannah Sher
After all this time, these historical cases are closed. For this list, we'll be looking at some decades (or even centuries) old questions that have finally been answered. Our countdown includes King Richard III's Death, How the Pyramids Were Built, The Bermuda Triangle, and more!
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Top 10 Historical Mysteries That Have Been Solved


After all this time, these cases are closed. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Historical Mysteries That Have Been Solved.

For this list, we’ll be looking at some decades (or even centuries) old questions that have finally been answered.

#10: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition

Captain Sir John Franklin’s Arctic exploration expedition was lost after leaving England in 1845. Over the years, many other ships set out to see if they could find out what happened to the doomed crew. While some clues were found, including gravesites of some of the men who had been aboard, it was only at the end of the 20th century that we began to get answers about what had caused Franklin and his team so much trouble. Unfortunately, we discovered that many of the crew members did not die quickly but rather succumbed to diseases like scurvy and even lead poisoning after becoming icebound. And sadly, the rumors of cannibalism were also proved to be true...

#9: Mysterious Notes in “The Odyssey”

Homer’s epic Greek poem “The Odyssey” has become known as one of the most important pieces in the history of literature. While there are many things that we still don’t know about the story’s creation, an extra layer of mystery was added when a copy was found with unintelligible notes in the margins. The copy belonged to the University of Chicago Library and was a Venetian edition from 1504. The library created a contest to see if anyone could crack the code, and Italian computer engineer Daniele Metilli figured it out with help from colleague Giulia Accetta. It turns out the notes were written in a French shorthand and dated from the 19th century.

#8: King Richard III’s Death

While his legacy has lived on through Shakespeare, King Richard III of England was the final English king to perish in battle. In fact, his death during the Battle of Bosworth Field is often used to mark the end of the Middle Ages. But his remains were lost, and only uncovered in 2012 during an archaeological excavation in Leicester. The following year, the body was identified as belonging to Richard III. He had suffered 11 wounds, most of which were on his skull, which suggests that he lost his helmet in battle, leading to his demise.

#7: The Sailing Stones

Known as sailing stones or moving rocks, observers have long noticed the enigmatic phenomenon of these objects that seemingly move on their own, leaving trails in their wake. The most famous example is found in Racetrack Playa in California’s Death Valley National Park. Many experiments have been undertaken in an attempt to understand how these large objects move, and we now seem to have an answer. On cold nights, thin sheets of ice develop under them and then float and are able to be moved by the wind, which propels the rocks as fast as five meters per minute.

#6: The Face on Mars

Between the Arandas Crater and Bamberg Crater in the Cydonia region of Mars, spacecraft Viking 1 captured an image in 1976 that has fueled speculation for decades. That’s because it looked, for all intents and purposes, like there was a face on the Red Planet. While people wanted to use this as evidence of an alien civilization, the actual explanation is a banal one. Scientists have agreed that the face is essentially an optical illusion, and that it’s only present based on the angle from which you view it and how well-lit it is.

#5: The Location of the USS Indianapolis

The sinking of the USS Indianapolis is amongst the greatest tragedies that the American Navy has ever experienced. Torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in 1945 during a mission to deliver parts of the nuclear weapon Little Boy, there were only 316 survivors from a crew of 1,195. The wreck remained unfound, despite several expeditions to locate it. But in 2016, new information was revealed that gave us a better clue of where it might be, and in 2017 a team funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen finally found the well-preserved remains of the ship.

#4: How the Pyramids Were Built

The Egyptian pyramids are one of Earth’s most widely recognizable landmarks. But for many years, people wondered how they were possibly built without modern technology. Was it aliens? Well, probably not. It had already been known that the Egyptians likely used wooden sleds to drag large objects across the sand, but researchers at the University of Amsterdam added a probable solution to make this even easier. They established that by wetting sand, only slightly, it would create the perfect amount of friction to carry very heavy objects easily. Another ancient Egyptian mystery that has a more clear-cut answer is the hieroglyphs that seemingly depict modern helicopters. It turns out that these are a product of the stone being reused for more than one image.

#3: What Caused the Tunguska Event

In a remote area of Russia in 1908, a massive explosion took place that flattened tens of millions of trees and produced an estimated 185 times more energy than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It inevitably left many wondering what had caused it. For decades, people have speculated that it might have been an asteroid, a comet, a clash of matter and antimatter, or even an alien spaceship landing. But in 2013, it was essentially confirmed that it was in fact a meteor when a team from the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine analyzed rock samples of meteoric origin from the site.

#2: The Bermuda Triangle

While some of the other mysteries on our list may not be commonly known to the general public, nearly everyone has heard of the Bermuda Triangle. For many years, people have wondered about the evils at work here that seemingly make boats sink and planes fall from the sky. But the explanation is simple and unexciting. While some may imagine the Triangle as a small and specific area, it’s actually a huge (and not well defined) region that is heavily trafficked by sea and by air. In fact, your cruise ship may have sailed right through it without you noticing. Yes, plenty of accidents have occurred there, but they largely have logical explanations.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

The Starchild Skull
Likely Belonged to a Child Who Died of Congenital Hydrocephalus

Blood Falls
The Red Color Comes from Iron Oxides

Cambyses II’s Lost Army
Archaeological Evidence of the Army's Existence Has Been Found

Easter Island Heads
They Actually Have Torsos Buried Underground

#1: Anastasia’s Escape

In 1918, the Russian Imperial Romanov family was executed by communist revolutionaries, but for years rumors persisted that Tsar Nicholas II’s youngest daughter, Anastasia, somehow survived and escaped. It didn’t help that several women throughout history have impersonated the supposedly missing princess. These speculations were fueled when the Romanovs grave was found in 1991 and two bodies were seemingly missing. But by 2007, another gravesite had been found nearby, and DNA evidence conclusively proved that all members of the family are accounted for. It’s a sad ending to the tale for those who preferred to hold out hope of her survival.
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