ISOLP’s most inexplicable cryptic ruins

One of the things I like most about travelling is coming across little-heard-of, out-of-the-way, barely-understood, largely-inexplicable cryptic ruins.

Here are a few of the most inexplicable cryptic ruins I’ve come across.

Inexplicable cryptic ruins: Asia

Chilpik, Qaraqalpaqstan – Zoroastrian Tower of the Dead

The story of Chilpik sounds made up; it sounds like it is a fabrication, a children’s bedtime tale. A Zoroastrian tower of the dead? Where recently deceased family members and loved ones were brought, and laid out, for their bodies to be picked clean by vultures and other carrion, till nought is left behind but bleached-white bones?

Chilpik from afar, Uzbekistan

Chilpik, Qaraqalpaqstan. Photo credit: Benjamin White

The Plain of Jars, Laos

Thousands of enormous stone jars, arranged in clusters, scattered higgledy-piggledy throughout the grassy, undulating hills of the Xieng Khouang Plateau: that’s the Plain of Jars archaeological site in northern Laos.

Plain of Jars, Laos

The Plain of Jars, Laos. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

The ziggurat of Vrang, Tajikistan

A five-tiered pyramid sits at the edge of the ridge. It’s a stumpy structure; not all that large, and made of the same rock material as the mountains themselves. What is this thing?

Ziggurat, Vrang, Tajikistan

The ziggurat at Vrang, Tajikistan. Photo credit: Benjamin White

Inexplicable cryptic ruins: Middle-east

The archaeological sites of al-Khutm, Bat, and al-Ayn, Oman

Go for a wander around the dry, sandy, mountainous deserts of northern Oman and sooner or later you’ll stumble across a mysterious pile of carefully placed stones. These are the archaeological sites of al-Khutm, Bat, and al-Ayn. There are hundreds of these sites in northern Oman; all were built sometime between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago.

Al-Khutm, Bat, Al-Ayn, Oman

The ‘beehive’ tombs of al-Ayn, Oman. Photo credit: Benjamin White

Chogha Zanbil, Iran – the original ziggurat

Know what a ziggurat is? It’s a stepped pyramid, right? They’re found all over the world. Well, Chogha Zanbil, in Khuzestan Province of southwest Iran, is one of the original ziggurats.

Chogha Zanbil, Iran

Chogha Zanbil, Iran. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Inexplicable cryptic ruins: Europe

Stone Henge, United Kingdom

A ring of standing stones, each 4.1 metres high, 2.1 metres wide, and weighing 25 tonnes. Stonehenge was built in stages, and continually modified and worked and rebuilt over the millennia. The standing stones, which date to around 2000 BCE, are positioned in a cryptic but clearly deliberate circular pattern; the function of which no one is entirely clear on.

Stonehenge, United Kingdom

Stonehenge, United Kingdom. Photo credit: Benjamin White

Zorats Karer, Armenia

Everyone has heard of Stonehenge in the United Kingdom, but how many people have heard of Zorats Karer in Armenia. Not many, I expect.

Zorats Karer, Armenia

Zorats Karer, Armenia. Photo credit: Benjamin White

Inexplicable cryptic ruins: South America

San Agustín, Colombia – cartoonish statues that protect the dead?

You’re an artist, a sculptor. You spend hundreds of hours working on a single statue; finally you have it just right. Then what do you do? You bury it in the ground. Sound crazy? Well, that’s what the people of San Agustín in southern Colombia did with their statues.

San Agustín, Colombia

One of the 600 statues found buried in the ground in San Agustín, Colombia. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

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