The Enigma of the Lost Chinese Pyramids of Xi’an
One-hundred kilometers outside of Xi’an, an ancient city in central China, among green grasses, farms, and forests, rise a hundred pyramid-shaped mounds that have been shrouded in mystery for thousands of years.
Westerners first learned there were Chinese pyramids relatively recently, when Fred Meyer Schroder, an American travel agent and trader, first discovered them in 1912. At the time, he was traveling through the Shaanxi Province with a guide, where he recorded a thorough description in his diary, noting he’d seen one giant pyramid approximately 1,000 feet tall and nearly twice that size in length, surrounded by a number of smaller pyramids.
Schroder’s guide explained that the pyramids he happened upon were the subject of local legends and that their history could be found in ancient monastic documents. To put things into perspective, the great white pyramid of Xi’an is nearly twice as large as the Great Pyramid of Egypt.
Why Are the Pyramids in China Such a Mystery?
The Pyramids in China have remained largely an enigma to tourists and archaeologists alike — perhaps intentionally.
In the early 1990s, German investigator/travel agent Hartwig Hausdorf searched for the massive pyramid that appeared in Gaussman’s earlier photographs, but he was unsuccessful in finding it. Instead, he found the Chinese military meticulously patrolling the area.
The experience led him to write a book titled “The White Pyramid,” but which only discussed other structures in the area. Western archaeologists still have not been granted entry to these areas, but Hausdorf’s excitement over the pyramids was good for drumming up publicity.
In 2000, Chinese officials declared there were around 400 pyramids north of Xi’an, though that doesn’t include the White Pyramid. Excavation of many of the other sites revealed mausoleums shaped more like Mesoamerican pyramids, differing from those in Egypt, as they are flat topped and covered with vegetation.
In these burial mounds lay ancient members of China’s royal class, who intended to rest for eternity undisturbed. Most of the pyramids are extremely difficult to detect, camouflaged in lush mountains and hills and covered by tall grass and trees. Very few of the structures have been open to tourism.
The Chinese government has given simple explanations as to why no one is allowed to enter, namely that overzealous archaeologists and tourists could potentially damage the artifacts. Officials claim they are waiting until technology advances enough to properly excavate the pyramids and their precious contents. After all, some of the pyramids are believed to date as far back as 8,000 years.
Pyramids of Xi’an Hidden in The Stars
Through modern technology, researchers have been able to chart the locations of dozens of the Xi’an pyramids, and taken particular interest in their spatial relationships. They’ve been particularly struck by how these mausoleums are in precise astrological alignment. While most of the monuments are positioned according to cardinal directions, with about half of them aligned true North, it was found that a few of them were about 14 degrees off. The explanation for this is believed to be astronomical in nature. Computer analysis has revealed that the layout coincides with the Gemini constellation as it would’ve been positioned on the spring equinox in 10,500 B.C.
Suspicions and Theories Chinese Pyramids
Conspiracy theories inevitably erupt wherever there’s secrecy. Westerners have been endlessly guessing about the purpose and energy of the pyramids, as well as their astronomical significance. According to researchers, “to some rulers, the cardinal points of North, South, East, and West were all important. Lining up your tomb with the globe’s axis was a sign that you were still number one.”
The most popular conspiracy theory involves extraterrestrials — asserting that they were perhaps the original architects. Is it possible that the ancient astronaut theory espoused by Erich von Däniken and his ilk may also apply to the Chinese pyramids?
Restoration of the Pyramids
Slowly raised funding equates to sluggish restoration progress in Xi’an. However, the Maoling Mausoleum remains a tremendously popular tourist destination complete with a museum dedicated to the Western Han Dynasty period and featuring more than 4,000 excavated treasures and cultural relics.
Meanwhile, the mystery surrounding the Chinese pyramids and their real origins continues to stimulate the imagination as to who the true builders were — human or otherwise. But if funding isn’t forthcoming, the mystery may never be solved and the structures may collapse into ruins before archaeologists — let alone tourists — have the opportunity to experience the history buried within their walls.
Olmec Colossal Heads: What Are They?
Many ancient civilizations left behind intrigue even archaeologists still puzzle over today. In South America alone, we see cases of anomalous disappearances and unexplained history such as the Incas’ abandoned citadel, Machu Picchu, and the mysterious Mayans’ disappearance, which continue providing fodder for questions about what really happened to these societies.
When it comes to the Olmec people, one giant factor continues to be debated: their colossal heads.
Not of the people themselves, but the 8-ton sculptures of heads they buried underground. The Olmec heads have become yet another famous and mysterious element of ancient cultures we just haven’t solved yet.
Olmec People and Civilization
The Olmec people lived in Southeastern Mexico between 1,500 and 400 B.C., in the lowlands of what is today Tabasco and Veracruz. They are credited with being the first civilization to develop in Mesoamerica, with the Olmec heartland being one of the six cradles of civilization.
Olmecs were the first inhabitants of the Americas to settle in towns and cities with monumental architecture. Evidence has also been found for Olmec hieroglyphs around 650 B.C., as well as scripts on roller stamps and stone artifacts. The fine Olmec artwork survived in several ways, including figurines, sculptures, and of course, the colossal heads.
While the Olmecs seem to have been well-established tradesmen with routes, the civilization vanished around 300 B.C. , although its influence is obvious in the Mayan and Aztec civilizations that followed.
Olmec Colossal Heads
The Olmec colossal heads are aptly named — of the 17 uncovered in the region, the average weight is around 8 tons, standing three meters tall and four and a half meters circumference. Perhaps more than any other aspect of the Olmec heads, their size is cause for a great deal of analysis and speculation.
The heads were carved from a single basalt boulder retrieved from Cerro Cintepec in the Tuxtla Mountains. After their creation, the heads were then transported 100 kilometers to their final destination where they were buried. Most of the heads are wearing a protective helmet, which was worn by the Olmec during battle and the Mesoamerican ballgame, and it is likely they were originally painted with bright colors.
While the heads have been dated to either the Early Preclassic period (1500–1000 BC) and the Middle Preclassic (1000–400 BC) period, it is difficult to say for sure, given that many were removed from their prior contexts before archaeological excavation.