A desert, no matter how barren, serves up a picturesque view to the eyes. When we think of a desert, all we could picture is a vast isolated plain filled with sand. What if these areas have mysterious objects and structures buried underneath? Several expeditions have been initiated in order to discover the unknown secrets that have been concealed by the deserts for centuries. Sounds like a plot of an adventure movie, right? Let us take a look at 10 of the strangest things that were found in the desert.
1. Video game cartridges under a desert
Almost 1,700,000 Atari video game cartridges have been found by video-game archeologists under the New Mexico desert. Theories suggest that the video game, E.T, which is regarded as the worst game in the history of mankind, was buried by its makers “out of shame” in 1983.
The video game ET: The Extra-Terrestrial by Atari is considered to be the worst game in history. It was developed from scratch in a short period of five weeks for the Atari Console 2600. Atari had invested a large sum of money even before the game was finished, thus, a million copies of the game were manufactured.
The game was described as having poor quality of graphics and complicated gameplay. It made the company undergo huge losses from an innumerable unsold inventory. A number of copies of the game were buried by Atari in the New Mexico desert.
Video game archaeologists conducted effective research after hearing the rumors of the burial to track its location. Finally, the location was detected and the digging area was surrounded by red tape. After permission was granted, the digging was initiated on 26 April. However, only a minimal amount of cartridges could be retrieved since the permit ordered them to refill the site by 27th April. (1, 2)
2. A whale graveyard in mid-desert
A graveyard of fossilized whales was discovered in Chile’s Atacama Desert in 2011. The result of four separate mass strandings, these animals came to be preserved in this particular location more than five million years ago.
A mass graveyard of baleen whales, also called “toothless whales,” was unearthed from the Atacama Desert in Chile. Scientists believe that it was created by four different events over a period of 10,000 years. The skeletons of the whales were discovered under ancient sandstones near the Pan-American Highway in North Chile.
It is believed that the whales had consumed poisonous algae before being washed into the estuary and eventually were carried to the desert. Cerro Ballena, popularly known as “Whale Hill,” The site was popular for being a graveyard for a number of ancient skeletons, but with the latest discovery of these fossils, it has turned out to be one of the richest fossil sites around the globe.
The sudden discovery was made during construction work on the busy Pan-American Highway. Scientists and paleontologists believe that there might be other fossils of rare species buried underneath. (source)
3. A shipwreck with gold under a desert
A 500-year-old shipwreck was discovered in the infamous Namibian Desert. The ship was identified as Bom Jesus and was found loaded with precious metals like gold and copper. The discovery was made on April 1st, 2008.
A shipwreck was discovered in the Namibian Desert, an area renowned for being a hub of diamonds. This particular site was referred to as forbidden territory. However, a worker who was searching for diamonds discovered gold which was missing for nearly five hundred years. The workers dug up other elements like metals and pipes. Finally, archaeologists were called in, and the site was excavated.
Although there was no definite evidence, scientists believe that the ship was called Bom Jesus which translates to “The Good Jesus.” Portuguese in origin, the ship disappeared on its way to India and never made it past the Atlantic Ocean.
The ship is believed to have hit a rock before it began to fall apart. Its cargo consisted of precious jewels and other items like swords and muskets. The artifacts are now being preserved since they are from the sixteenth century and most of the area, including the ship, remains open to public access. (1, 2)
4. The missing pieces of the Dead Sea Scrolls
The 2000-year-old texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the Qumran Caves in the Judaean Desert next to the Dead Sea in 2001. The scrolls contained manuscripts that offered great historical and religious significance since they included the second oldest manuscript in the Hebrew Bible.
The 2000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls which had been missing were finally discovered in the Qumran Caves in the Judaean Desert next to the Dead Sea along with ancient artifacts like pottery and linen. The archaeologists have been trying to work on artifacts and other materials in the cave that were given by the excavators to the collectors when these texts were found.
The technique of radiocarbon dating was used to analyze the scrolls. After effective research, the scrolls revealed the Hebrew alphabets. Several fragments were put together which gave shape to the lost manuscripts. The scrolls covered a variety of subjects including pieces of the Hebrew Bible.
Later on, upon the conduction of careful surveys and analysis, these fragments were revealed to be a part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The discovery dates back to 1947 and had undergone several investigations since. However, it is believed that some fragments which came into light post-2002, were fake. (1, 2)
5. The mummified animals.
Archaeologists found almost eight million mummies of animals, mostly dogs, in the catacombs of Saqqara in Egypt in 2009. These animals were killed so that they could carry the messages of the worshippers to God. Other animals included bulls, baboons, and many more.
The catacomb ceiling at Saqqara in Egypt was found to be a necropolis of a large number of dogs and puppies who were killed and mummified. The Egyptians worshipped Anubis, the jackal-headed God of Death. Near his temple, the catacomb consisted of mummies of animals and the ceiling consisted of the fossils of an ancient sea monster, a marine vertebrate that dates back to 48 million years ago.
Ancient Egyptians built the catacomb to honor Anubis in the capital city of Memphis. It was a common practice among the animal breeders to raise animals, like dogs, just to sell them to people who would like to sacrifice them. These animals were believed to have carried messages and prayers to Anubis, once mummified.
Animal cults like those in Saqqara were popular from 747 BCE to 30 BCE until the Romans came to power. These cults gained support mostly because they depicted national identity.