100 Archeological, Spiritual, & Historical Mysteries & Artifacts

Looking for a slew of real world pulp adventure story seeds or quest objects? We’ve collected 100 possibilities for your consideration. Most focus on the classic pulp era (1900s to the 1950s) but many originated further back before they went missing (but could be items sought in any later era) and a handful are more recent. They concentrate on stolen archeological artifacts, mysteries of history, religious relics, or missing works of art with a few infamous crimes sprinkled in. They are categorized, but many could fit two categories so peruse each list.

Even if they don’t exactly fit your campaign’s timeframe, your characters might have discovered them earlier or the mysteries can still play a role in a campaign set at a later time.

These short descriptions should give you just enough detail to decide which are good candidates to research further for inclusion in your campaign or story.

Religious/Spiritual Mysteries & Artifacts

The Devil page in the Codex Gigas. Kungl. biblioteket, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons

The Devil page in the Codex Gigas. Kungl. biblioteket, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons

  1. 1st Century Gospels: The oldest copies of the canonical Christian gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John) date to the 2nd century CE. Many scholars believe some of these texts were written in the second half of the 1st century. Can older copies be found? In 2015 a 1st century fragment of Mark was found in a mummy mask, but the text hasn’t been published.
  2. Ark of the Covenant: The ark that contained the 10 commandments was either carried to Babylon during a conquest of Jerusalem in 587 BCE or hidden or destroyed in the battle. Other legends also exist.
  3. Catherine Labouré’s Body: A very religious Catholic nun, Catherine lived in France from 1806 to 1876. When her body was exhumed over 50 years later, it showed very little evidence of decomposition.  The Vatican claims this happens to people favored by God.
  4. Devil’s Bible (aka Codex Gigas): A 13th century medieval tome, written by a monk said to have made a deal with the devil to finish it. The monk had been sentenced to be walled up alive, but promised the monastery if they let him live he’d write a book of all human knowledge within a day. Experts say it does seem to be written by one person in a short time. Made of 160 animal skins, it requires two people to lift it.  12 pages are missing–rumors say these contain secret Satanic texts.
  5. Devil’s Footprints: In the town of Devon on the morning of February 9th, 1855, folk awoke to hoof-like prints in the deep snow which looked as if they were from a hot iron.
  6. Enoch, Book of: 1st person account of Enoch from 300-200 BCE (some parts 100 BCE) that describes the fall of the Watchers (angels), Enoch’s visits to heaven via travels, visions, and dreams including seeing a star sucked into a black hole and even traveling through time and seeing humans traveling the skies in metal chariots. After his 7 days he arrived 300 years later.
  7. Holy Grail/Chalice: The cup Jesus used at the Last Supper according to the Christian Bible, it is steeped in legend.
  8. The Just Judges: A panel from the Ghent Altarpiece, a 15th century work of art by Hubert & Jan van Eyck in Saint Bavo Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium. It was stolen in 1934 and never found, but tips have continued to be reported.
  9. Loretto Chapel Helix Staircase: An unknown man builds a perfect staircase without nails or a central support by himself with only basic tools.
  10. Menorah from the Second Temple: Menorah taken from Jerusalem when the Roman army captured Jerusalem in 70 CE. It was taken to Rome, but has not been seen since.
  11. Navaho Skinwalkers: Native American medicine men who turn evil. They are inducted into a secret cult in a ceremony after killing a family member. They are said to have powers such as the ability to read minds, run faster than a car, control thoughts, cause disease and even death.
  12. Noah’s Ark: The Hebrew Bible says the boat Noah built to survive the flood of 40 days came to rest on the “mountains of Ararat”. A Mount Ararat exists in eastern Turkey, but it isn’t known if this is the same location. Explorers have never found it, and scholars regard the story as mythical.
  13. Q Source: This is a hypothetical biblical text of many sayings attributed to Jesus. Because passages in Matthew and Luke are nearly identical, scholars believe these are borrowed from one common source. This “Q Source” is not known to have existed other than this scholarly theory.
  14. Shroud of Turin: Linen cloth many Christians believe hold the image of Jesus. One radio carbon dating process puts it at only 700-800 years old. But another process dates it to 300 BCE to 400 CE.
  15. Spear of Destiny/Holy Lance: When Jesus was on the cross, Roman soldiers were about to break his legs to speed up his death.  But they realized he was already dead. To confirm he was they stabbed him with this lance. There are a few holy relics that are claimed to be the lance or parts of it in Rome, Vienna, Vagharshapat, and Antioch.
  16. Sudarium of Oviedo: Fabric said to have been wrapped around Jesus’s head after he died, it is kept in the Cathedral of San Salvador in Odiedo Spain.

Archeological Artifacts

Roman Dodecahedron. Hunt Museum, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Roman Dodecahedron. Hunt Museum, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

  1. Aluminum Wedge of Aiud: Aluminum axe head that dates back 11,000+ years.  But aluminum was discovered in 1808.  Is it a hoax?
  2. Antikythera Mechanism: An ancient mechanical computer used to track astronomical events attributed to the Greeks of 150-100 BCE.
  3. Baghdad Battery: Archeologists digging in Baghdad found a ceramic pot with a copper tube and iron rod. It dates back to 250 BCE.
  4. Copper Scroll: Unusual Dead Sea Scroll of text engraved on a sheet of copper that discusses the location of a vast hidden treasure. The Copper Scroll is now in a museum in Jordan.
  5. Giant Spheres of Costa Rica: Discovered in 1940 while clearing jungle for banana plantations, around 300 spheres were found weighing as much as 16 tons (8 feet in diameter) and over 50 miles from the quarry.
  6. Honjo Masamune Sword: Made by Masamune (lived 1264 to 1343 CE) and named after one of its 16th century owners, Honjo Shigenaga, it was taken by the Americans in occupied Japan after WWII then lost, destroyed, or stolen.
  7. Phaistos Disc: A clay disc from the Bronze Age engraved with symbols no one can read. Theories suggest it is a board game or prayer.
  8. Piri Reis Map: Made in 1513 but based on sources as far back as Alexander the great, it shows western Africa, eastern South America, and northern Antarctica (thought to be discovered 300 years later) without its glacier covering.
  9. Roman Dodecahedrons: About 100 of these 12 sided objects exist. Each side has a small circle on each and pegs sticking out from the corners. Their purpose is the mystery.  Were they used to sow winter grains, calibrate water pips, hold candles, or do they have some religious purpose?
  10. Sibiu Manuscript: Discovered in 1961, the document is 450 pages and dates to the 1500s CE. It details a multi-stage rocket launch witnessed by thousands in the city of Sibiu.

Archeological Mysteries

Yonaguni Monument Main Terrace Stair. Melkov, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Yonaguni Monument Main Terrace Stair. Melkov, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

  1. Atlantis: City mentioned by Plato said to have sunk into the Atlantic Ocean. There is also a record of a battle between the Atlanteans and the Egyptians.
  2. Bimini Road: A one kilometer long highway under the seabed off the coast of Bimini Island in the Bahamas discovered in 1968. Some believe this is evidence on an ancient civilization, others say it is a natural phenomenon.  Supposedly a prophet in 1938 said “Part of the ruins of Lost Atlantis will be discovered in the sea around the islands of Bimini… in 1968 or 1969.”
  3. Bog Bodies: Dating as far back as 800 BCE, 100s of well-preserved human cadavers have been found in peat bogs of northern Europe since the 18th century.  The corpses span all ages, sex, and social standing, but they do all seem to be executed and placed in the bogs, with no reason for this disposal location.
  4. Carnac Stones: 3,000 megalithic stones placed in perfect lines over a 12 kilometer area in northwest France.
  5. Cleopatra’s Tomb: Said to be near Alexandria and buried next to Marc Antony, it has been lost to history. Was it already plundered and unidentifiable?
  6. Dubai/UAE’s Lost Desert Cities: From the 10th to the 14th century, the city of Julfar was a major trading hub & port, but it had been lost to history until the 1960s. Other older lost cities such as Mleiha, Tell Abraq, and Ad-Durremain have also been located.
  7. El Dorado: The lost city of gold, its existence is debated. Supposedly built at the tops of the Andes mountains, it is rumored to be made of pure gold with encrusted jewels.
  8. Gedi Ruins: 13th century Kenyan town (with technology rivalling other civilizations of the time) abandoned in the 17th century for no easily explainable reason.
  9. Genghis Khan’s Tomb: His cause of death in 1227 is one mystery.  A second in the location of his tomb which was protected by extraordinary means.
  10. Helike: Thought of as the “real” Atlantis, this capital of the Achaean League was destroyed by an earthquake & tsunami. Unmentioned except for ancient Greek writings until some loot was found in 1861, ruins were found in 2001.
  11. Lovelock Cave’s Red Haired Giants: First discovered in Nevada in 1913, the cave was a massive source of bat guano. But miners also found artifacts and remains of red-haired giants called Si-Te-Cah according to Paiute legend. An archeological group looked into it in 1924. One skeleton is 8.5′ tall.
  12. Lost Library of the Moscow Tsars:  Vast collection of ancient Greek texts and a variety written in other languages. The rulers of the Grand Duchy of Moscow build a large library. Ivan the Terrible is said to have hidden the library’s texts.
  13. Mound of the Sea: A circular stone structure under the Sea of Galilea in its shallowed section.  Was it a construction site by an ancient group?  A communal burial ground?
  14. Paititi, Incan City: Fabled city, perhaps synonymous with El Dorado, that the Incans fled to with their treasure when run off by conquistadors.
  15. Peru, Giants of: Described by Pedro Cieza De Leon, wrote that the natives told him of rampaging giants who arrived on enormous crude rafts. They were so big that a normal man would scarcely reach the giants’ knees. Supposedly they were driven away by a bright shining angel in the sky. In 1928, researcher Brian Foerster found bizarre elongated “alien” skulls. In 2013 anthropologist Russell Dement found massive skeletons measuring up to 3 meters.
  16. Pyramids: Why are there pyramids created independently in completely different parts of the world by different cultures?
  17. Quin Shi Huang’s Tomb: The first emperor of a unified China in the third century BCE, he was entombed in an underground city surrounded by thousands of terracotta soldiers unearthed in 1974. His body has yet to be recovered, and the process is moving slowly due to underground rivers.
  18. Red Queen’s Tomb: Who was this woman who was buried next to Pakal the Great in southern Mexico.
  19. Rongorongo: System of glyphs found on Easter Island that may tie into the famous statues there.
  20. Sea Peoples: An ancient group in the Mediterranean between 1276-1178 BCE, they are considered one of the major factors in the Bronze Age collapse. Their nationality is a mystery.  Egyptian sources describe “They came from the sea in their war ships and none could stand against them.”
  21. Stonehenge: The famous standing stones in the United Kingdom track the seasons and time.  But how were they moved to their current location and placed so perfectly?
  22. Yonaguni Monument: Ruins found near the Japanese Island of Yonaguni by a diver in 1987. They are 15 meters underwater and resemble those of Machu Pichu.

Stolen/Missing Art & Treasures

Cockerel (Fabergé egg), Guy Fawkes, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Cockerel (Fabergé egg), Guy Fawkes, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

  1. Amber Room: Floor to ceiling wall panels of amber, semi-precious stones and gold taken from Russia by the Nazis.
  2. Blackbeard’s Treasure: Pirate Edward Teach’s ledger notes his real treasure “lay in a location known only to him and the devil.”
  3. Confederate Gold: In 1865 just before Richmond fell, President Jefferson Davis ordered the Confederate Treasury taken with Davis and his Cabinet under the command of Captain William H. Parker. First it went by train as far as that line went to Danville, VA. Then it was to go on horseback to Georgia. It had $450,000.  Along the way $250,000 was taken by bushwackers.  $111,000 was recovered, but gold coins are still occasionally found in Georgia near the intersection of GA 44 and GA 79.
  4. Fabergé Eggs: Ornately crafted bejeweled golden eggs lost in the 1917 Russian Revolution.
  5. Flor de la Mar, Treasure: A 400 ton frigate, the Flor de le Mar was loaded with treasure from Malacca and tributes from the King of Siam. On the 20th of November 1511 it hit the reefs of Sumatra in a violent storm that broke it in two.
  6. Florentine Diamond: At 133 carats, it was thought to be the largest pink gem of its kind in the world. In November 1918 the Habsburg royal family held it after losing WWI. They deposited it in a Swiss bank vault, entrusting it to an Austrian lawyer named Bruno Steiner. In 1924 Steiner was acquitted of fraud charges.
  7. Irish Crown Jewels: Stolen in 1907 from Dublin Castle, these were not a crown nor connected to any coronation. They has a jeweled star of the Order of St. Patrick, diamond brooch, and five gold collars
  8. Jules Rimet Cup: Stolen in 1983 from Rio De Janeiro, this was the original World Cup trophy. FIFA rules state the first team to win the tournament three tiles would gain permanent possession of the Cup. Brazil did so in 1970, was given the cup, and a new one was created.
  9. King John’s Crown Jewels: Fleeing enemies in 1216 across a muddy section of the River Nene, English King John’s baggage train was dragged away by rising waters and never seen again. It had his version of the Crown Jewels, including his crown.
  10. Knight’s Templar Treasure: On Friday the 13th of 1307, Phillip VI  King of France with permission of the Pope arrested key leaders of the Knight’s Templar. Established in 1119 to protect Christian pilgrims in the middle east their prestige was lost, but they had amassed a fortune. The leaders were tortured to confess to devil worship and heresy. However, many knights and much of their portable wealth disappeared. In fact, 18 Knights Templar ships in La Rochelle France left on the 12th of October under the cover of night.
  11. Lima Treasure: In 1820 when the area was in a period of unrest, the viceroy of Lima, Peru inventoried treasure gathered since the 16th century to send it to safety in Mexico.  It was commandeered by William Thompson who is said to have hidden it on an island near modern day Costa Rica.
  12. Mask of a Faun: Michelangelo’s marble mask of a half-human, half-goat creature was stolen in August 1944 from Castello di Poppi in Tuscany, Italy by German soldiers.
  13. Nazi Gold: $2 Billion of Nazi gold said to be at the bottom of a lake near Berlin.
  14. Oak Island, near Nova Scotia: Said to be the location of works of Shakespeare, gold, and even the Ark of the Covenant (Knights Templar were said to be in the area), it is supposedly home to a booby-trapped underground/underwater treasure vault.
  15. Oscar Best Supporting Actress 1937: When actress Alice Brady won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in Old Chicago, an ankle issue prevented her from accepting it.  An unknown man went on stage to accept it on her behalf and walked away never to be seen again.
  16. Peking Man Fossils: Fossils sent to the US from China in 1941 to keep them safe–but lost.
  17. Raphael Painting: “Portrait of a Young Man” on an oil canvas by Raphael, it was taken by the Nazi army in September 1939 from the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow Poland. It was last seen in Hans Frank’s chalet in Neuhaus Germany.
  18. Royal Casket: Collection of artifacts from the families that had ruled Poland created by Princess Izabela Czartoryska in 1800. It was seized by Nazi Germany in September 1939 and is now lost.
  19. Sappho’s Lost Poems: The seventh century BC Greek poet Sappho considered her to be one of the finest poets, but few of her poems survived. At one time, the poems were made to make cartonnage for Egyptian mummies.
  20. Sarcophagus of Menkaure: Taken from the pyramid of pharaoh Menkaure at Giza by Howard Vyse, it was aboard a ship to England that sunk in 1838.
  21. Victory, Altar of: Monument celebrating Octavion’s triumph over Antony & Cleopatra, it featured a golden statue of the goddess Victory (Nike). Removed and replaced by various emperors as Rome switched to and from Christianity, it was removed permanently in 380 and there is no official record for what happened to it.

Alien Conspiracy Related Mysteries

  1. Area 51: Nevada, US advanced aircraft base with a plethora of alien conspiracy theories attached to it.
  2. Dogu Figurines of Japan: Dating back to 14,000-400 BCE, these 10-30 cm high figurines are commonly thought to represent goddesses.  However, some look at them and see the costumes resembling a space suit with goggle-like eyes.
  3. Los Angeles Air Raid: In 1942, defense forces in Los Angeles fired anti-aircraft artillery.  Was it against a weather balloon mistaken for Japanese forces, or aliens?
  4. Men In Black: Most believe these people to be agents of a government agency attempting to conceal state secrets, especially if they are alien related.  But some theorize they are actually aliens in near human form. One Dr. Herbert Hopkins was visited by a man in black who had not quite human characteristics. The man in black then was able to make one of Hopkins’s coin disappear from Hopkins’s own hand. The man further mentioned Barney Hill, a UFO researcher who went missing, and implied Hill disappeared the same way.
  5. Nasca Lines: Over 100 massive glyphs created by the Nazca between 500 BCE and 500 CE in southern Peru. They depict simple lines as well as monkeys, humans, fish, jaguars and birds. Do they give incoming sailors directions or signal the stars?
  6. Rudloe Manner: The United Kingdom’s version of Area 51.

Strange Phenomena

  1. Natron, Lake: A salt or soda lake in Tanzania that petrify animals due to its caustic alkaline brine.
  2. Patomskiy Crater: A 130-160 meter wide crater found in southeast Siberia, it is a conical crater with a 80 meter high ball-like mound in the middle. Theories vary for an ancient alien landing site, a nuclear test site, to the modern geologists’ most common explanation: a gas volcano.
  3. Pokaini Forest: In Latvia, a forest with stones that are hot to the touch. The area near one particular old pine tree is said to be a gateway to parallel worlds.
  4. Sliding Rocks of Death Valley: Rocks that leave trails as they move on Racetrack Playa. The cause was unknown until recently: a rare mix of water, ice & wind.
  5. Spontaneous Human Combustion: Over the past 300 years, there have been 200+ worldwide cases of people who have burned without explanation.
  6. Taos Hum: Strange unexplained noise heard by many people in Taos, New Mexico since the 1990s.
  7. Tunguska Event: 770 square miles of forest in Siberia Russia were flattened on June 30th, 1908. But there were no witnesses, no other evidence, and no crater. It was classified as the largest “impact event” but again, there is no crater. Perhaps an asteroid exploded over the earth?
  8. Untersburg Mountain: This mountain in Germany is the focus of numerous reports of missing time where people lose track of time and end up at a different spot on the mountains.  One theory is the mountain is home to mystical portals. Another is that aliens abduct people here and return them after wiping their short term memory.
  9. Wow! Signal: 72 seconds long signal detected from the area of the constellation Sagittarius in 1977.

Historical Mysteries

Voynich manuscript pharmaceutical example

Voynich manuscript pharmaceutical example

  1. Black Dahlia: Remains of 22 year old actress Elizabeth Short found in Los Angeles in 1947. She was sliced in half and had three inch gashes cut into each corner of her mouth.
  2. Dancing Plague: In Strasbourg, Alsace in 1518 over 400 people were compelled to dance uncontrollably and even die from exhaustion or heart attacks.
  3. Flannan Isles Lighthouse Disappearances: In 1900, three lighthouse keepers on an island west of Scotland disappeared. On December 26th, a relief keeper arrived to find no one present and no sign that anything was wrong except an overturned chair in the kitchen. No bodies were ever found.
  4. Immortal Count, The: A person who has never dies and been seen many times in history, he is generally believed to be Count St. Germain. He disappeared in 1784, but sightings continued long after that.
  5. Jack the Ripper: The Victorian London murderer’s identity was never determined at the time. Varying theories and even some DNA evidence points to several candidates.
  6. Mary Celeste: An American merchant brigantine which was found in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean abandoned but with all lifeboats aboard in perfect condition. There was even food set on the table untouched.  None of the crew were ever seen again.  Diverse theories for the crew’s disappearance include the pirates, sea monsters, spirits, and even alien abduction.
  7. Mobster’s Hidden Treasures: Surely several mobsters have some money hidden away. One likely suspect is Dutch Shultz, a New York City area mobster in the 1920s and 30s. Just before he died he made rambling statements mentioning a buried treasure.  It is said to be somewhere in update New York near Phoenicia.
  8. San Bernardo Mummies: A 1957 flood caused grave workers to move bodies to a new area. The bodies showed no decay, and even some kept in a local museum haven’t decayed since.
  9. The San Miguel & Lost 1715 Treasure Fleet: A fleet of 11 ships loaded with treasure from Havana Cuba which ran into a storm seven days after leaving Cuba. The Spanish salvaged half of the treasure.  In recent years seven of the ships have been found, but not the faster San Miguel, which was a Carrack unlike the other Galleons and likely separated from the rest of the fleet.
  10. Skeleton Canyon Treasure: Loot from Monterey Mexico stolen in the late 1880s said to be hidden in caverns on the Arizona-New Mexico border.
  11. Sodder Children Disappearance: On Chirstmas Eve 1945, the Sodder home was destroyed in a fire. George and Jennie Sodder and 9 of their 10 children lived there. Five of the children didn’t get out, but also their remains were never found. George made an enemy of the mafia by criticizing Mussolini.
  12. Sun Dancing: On Oct 13, 1917 many watched in Portugal for a miracle from the Virgin Mary. Viewers say the sun danced for 10 minutes.
  13. Voynich Manuscript: Indecipherable handwritten medieval book. Perhaps a book of medicine from another culture or world, or maybe a complete fraud.
  14. William Shakespeare: Who was he really? About 230 years after his death, some academics began doubting the authorship of the works attributed to him but this is not the mainstream opinion.
  15. Winchester Mystery House: A mansion in San Jose, CA once the home of Sarah Winchester, she was convinced she was haunted by the souls of people killed by Winchester guns. She believed spirits told her that to avoid damnation she must continue building her home non-stop, every day.  So she hired workmen to continue building it at all hours every day. She held regular seances to determine what needed to be built and passed that on to her workmen. Many of the plans made no sense such as doors opening to nothing or stairs leading up to a wall.
  16. Zodiac Killer & Letters: Taunting letters from the 1960’s San Francisco bay area Zodiac Killer.  The crimes have never been officially solved.
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