As we pointed out in our previous article about the mysteries that can be found in the Arctic, the Earth contains so much that remains a mystery to some of the world’s leading experts. This is especially so in the world’s desert lands, which cover one-third of the Earth’s surface.
In the same way that the Arctic is revealing some of its secrets to the world, scientists believe that climate change is likely responsible for the vast wastelands of the desert continuing to unveil many secrets of our past, as well as a lot of unexplained phenomena of the present.
It is estimated that the desert is expanding by at least 46,000 square miles a year in the Arabian lands alone. So it seems that while much of the world’s history is being revealed, some of it is being buried and lost in the sands of time. As quickly as archaeologists are uncovering ancient cities and relics, some of the world’s greatest and most historically relevant locations are slowly being lost to the desert lands.
So whether they are ancient relics, man-made structures or unexplainable anomalies that have confused scientists for years, here are 15 of the most mysterious discoveries found in the desert.
15 The Taklamakan Mummies
During the early 1900s Swedish explorer Sven Hedin discovered the 4000-year-old ancient city of Loulan, which was buried under the sands of the Taklamakan Desert, otherwise known as the Great Desert of Asia. Nearly eighty years later, explorers and scientists found a very well-preserved mummy that would be named the “The Beauty of Loulan.”
The discovery of the Beauty and other mummies in the location was of great significance because they are of Caucasian origin, which is something the Chinese government was reluctant to confirm. The mummies had distinctively red and blonde hair. One mummy known as the Yingpan Man was six-foot-six inches tall. Their discovery proves that an ancient people that weren’t of Chinese origin likely traded with and settled alongside ancient Asian cultures.
14 The Shell Cover-Up Buried Under The Sand
During 2003, the owners of the Texas-New Mexico Pipeline Company Shell found itself in a great deal of trouble over an oil spill that they tried to cover up, which leaked from one of their pipelines during the 1990s.
Shell had sold the pipeline to Houston-based EOTT Energy, which was, in turn, being sued by local residents for the environmental damage caused by the oil spill. In turn, EOTT counter-sued Shell, claiming that they weren’t responsible for pipes when the damage occurred.
To avoid being sued, Shell took 190 boxes full of environmental data, financial ledgers and maps and buried them 40 feet deep in the desert near the company’s own pipeline 25 miles southeast of Las Vegas. The documents were only found because a former employee told lawyers of their existence and their exact location.
13 Eerie Fairy Circles Of The Namib Desert
The grasslands of the Namib Desert there are strange and mysterious circular patches of land called “fairy circle.” The circles have baffled scientists for decades and have prompted many local legends of divine intervention, underground dragons, spirits, and UFO conspiracy theories.
The circles can measure between 6 and 40 feet across and can remain in place for up to 75 years. Scientists have several theories about what causes them, such as sand termites, evaporation of water from plants, and patterns of rainfall causing competition between plants and grasses sucking nutrients from the soil.
While experts can’t even fully understand the phenomena of the fairy rings, their origins will continue to peak the imaginations of many.
12 The Strange And Inexplicable Purple Spheres
In 2013, a couple taking a walk and taking photos in the Arizona Desert southeast of Tucson discovered thousands of mysterious watery translucent and purple spheres sparkling in the sun.
Although experts don’t have a definitive answer for what these strangle purple orbs might be, most seem to think that they could be some kind of fungus or a slime mold, or even hydro bubbles, which can be purchased at most supermarkets.
However, the lack of any real explanation has opened the door for those who believe they could be extraterrestrial in origin. Others believe it could be the same Manna that the Israelites came across in the Old Testament.
11 The Chilling Giant Alien Hand
The Institute Inkari-Cusco, a group of self-proclaimed paranormal researchers, has claimed to have found a large alien claw while excavating the Cusco caves in 2016. Additionally, the group has supposedly found an elongated skull with some skin tissue still intact.
The French explorer Thierry Jamin claims that his colleague and fellow researcher Edson Salazar Vivanco performed an X-ray on the giant hand and tests revealed that it had no more than three fingers, and was connected by some kind of metallic implants.
No further independent tests have been performed, but if the hand is indeed real, then it would have belonged to an individual of giant proportions, standing between 2.7 and 3 meters tall.
10 The Eerie Marfa Lights
The Marfa Lights can be seen the Trans-Pecos high desert town of Marfa, and they have been appearing there for generations.
According to reports, eye-witnesses have described the mysterious orbs of light as roughly the size of basketballs and are of varying colors like white, blue, red, and yellow. They hover, split and merge and dart across the desert lands and are impossible to predict.
Native Americans believe they are fallen stars, while paranormal investigators believe they could be the wandering ghosts of Spanish conquistadors. Alien theorists, however, believe they could be of otherworldly origin.
Experts believe they could be caused by methane, producing a similar effect to swamp gas, or some kind of electrical charges produced by solid matter like crystals, minerals, and ceramics. However, to this day, all of these ideas remain speculation as there is still no definitive answer.
9 The Sudden Mysterious Appearance Of A Lake
In 2014, about twenty-five kilometers from Gafsa in Tunisia, a lake spanning about 2.6 acres, seemingly appeared out of nowhere. It wasn’t a mirage but an 18-meter deep pool of water that that was discovered by a local Shepard.
There isn’t a definitive explanation but officials with the Regional Directorate of Civil Protection believe that it was likely a spring caused by a fractured layer of rock, caused by seismic activity due to phosphate mining in the area.
If true, then that could mean the water is full of carcinogens and radioactive materials. Despite the warning, locals continued to use the lake in an area that’s suffered severe drought conditions for years and took refuge from the scorching desert heat.
8 The Mystery Of The Dead Sea Scrolls Treasure Map
One of the most remarkable archaeological finds in the 20th century was that of the Dead Sea Scrolls between 1946 and 1956. However, it is the Copper Scroll – one of 981 texts – that has baffled experts for years, because it purports to be treasure map intricately detailing 64 locations containing several tons of gold and silver.
The map is inscribed with a form of Hebrew that is different to the ancient Hebrew that is found in the rest of the texts. The Copper Scroll is written in a dialect more commonly used hundreds of years later.
There have been several expeditions trying to find the location of the treasures, but unfortunately, nothing has been found yet. Whether this means that the treasure has already been found years earlier or if it’s still out there, explorers will continue to look.
7 The Lost Libraries Of The Chinguetti
The Sahara Desert is likely to be the last place on earth you would expect to find an ancient library. Yet at the end of a desert road in Mauritania, West Africa there is a near-abandoned town that is slowly becoming swallowed by the sands of the Sahara called Chinguetti.
Chinguetti was once a medieval metropolis that was home to 20,000 residents that included scholars of law, religion, science, medicine, mathematics, and even astronomy. It also served as a holy city and a gathering place for pilgrims making the journey to Mecca.
It came to be known as the Seventh holy city of Islam and the “City of Libraries." Today, while most are gone, there are still a handful of libraries that contain around 6000 priceless books that are still intact since the 9th century. Sadly, because of climate change, experts believe that the city will be lost to the elements in as little as 30 years.
6 Mysterious Chinese Desert Patterns
Google Earth users have found and seen some incredible and unexplainable things, and in 2011 its users have found strange designs carved into the Gobi Desert in China’s provinces of Xinjiang and Gansu.
The patterns, which could measure up to over a mile, were compared to crop circles by alien conspiracy theorists or landing zones for UFOs. However, the real explanation for the patterns wasn't alien in origin. The markings were actually used by satellite operators working for the Chinese government to work out the distances and angles from space.
There have been similar patterns found in the Arizona desert used for the same purpose, but that hasn’t prevented the conspiracy theorists from claiming a government cover-up and believing the patterns are something more interesting.
5 Ancient Royal Boat Found In A Commoners Grave
In January 2016, a 60-foot wooden boat fit for a king was found in the Egyptian necropolis of Abusir preserved in the Sahara sands for over 4,500 years. The expensive boat, which was made from imported materials, wasn’t buried with a royal but a commoner.
The practice of burying ancient royals with their boast originated in Early Dynastic Period and was intended to carry their owner into the afterlife. This is why the discovery is considered so unique. The man in the tomb wasn’t any of status or royal and it remains a mystery why someone who would be considered a peasant would be allowed such a sacred burial.
4 A Graveyard Of Sea Creatures
In 2010, during a highway-widening project in Chile’s Atacama Desert, the workers stumbled upon an amazing discovery: the skeletons of 75 whales. The prehistoric whales were found to be around five-million-years old, and were uncovered laying next to one another and are some of the most well-preserved ever found.
The Royal Society reported in their journal that the fossilized graveyard was likely the result of the animals ingesting fatal amounts of toxic algae along with their prey. As a result, the dying creatures were washed into an estuary and onto more flat terrain where they would become buried over time.
3 Mysterious Geoglyphs Of Jordan
In 1927, World War I pilots discovered circular geoglyphs at the Wadi Wisad, in the Black Desert of Jordan. One of the pilots, Lieutenant Percy Maitland, published an account of their discovery in the journal Antiquity.
In a recent study, the geoglyphs are revealed to occur throughout Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. They are 8,500 years-old, meaning they predate Peru’s Nazca lines by 6,000 years. Other designs have been discovered in the shape of kites, meandering walls, and pendants in various sizes ranging from 50 meters to over a 1000 meters wide.
To this day, experts can’t seem to figure out why people from these regions designed monuments and geoglyphs that can only be seen from the sky.
2 The Mysterious Attacama Mummy
In 2003, a tiny six-inch alien-looking humanoid was discovered in the Atacama Desert. Upon its discovery, the little creature, which became known as Ata, led to the release of a documentary a decade later called Sirius.
Sirius was hyped to finally reveal the truth about ancient aliens with DNA testing done on a sample of Ata’s bone marrow. However, the tests revealed that Ata was actually 91 percent human and is thought to have lived until he was between 6 to 8-years-old. Interestingly, the remaining 9 percent are of unknown properties that still have experts baffled.
Incredibly, 70 years earlier, a similar discovery of a humanoid standing just six and a half inches tall was made in a different region of the Atacama Desert and was named Atta Boy by Robert Ripley of Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
1 The Horned Kangaroo
In 2002, an excavation in Australia’s Nullarbor Desert uncovered a collection of megafauna fossils, the first complete skeleton of the giant marsupial lion known as the Thylacoleo. However, they discovered the mysterious skull of a horned kangaroo.
Unlike other fossilized or living kangaroos, the horned Kangaroo – which dates back sometime between 200,000 and 500,000 years-old – has a strange bulbous snout and the bony projections that stick out above their eyes. The horn-like features could have been to protect the animal’s eyes when they fed on spiky and thorned plants. In addition, the partial skeletons that were found had digging claws, which are usually found on much smaller burrowing animals.