Almost all kids go through a phase when they’re fascinated by the legends and myths that have wound their way through the centuries. Whether Robin Hood, Arthur and Lancelot, the antics of the gods of old, or creatures like a unicorn or a vampire, it’s fun to imagine that the world might have once been more magical than it is today.
And these 5 legends, which are rooted in reality, suggest that just maybe…it was.
Greek philosopher Plato was the first to describe a beautiful, advanced civilization that once disappeared beneath the sea, never to be seen or heard from again – but he was far from the last to re-tell one of the most well-known myths in human history.
Now, many archaeologists think he was describing the collapse of the Minoan empire after a volcanic eruption rocked Thera (modern-day Santorini). The core of the island collapsed in the aftermath, creating a tsunami that flooded the island and left it completely under water, sending it to a grave from which it never arose.
4. The Ape-Men Army of Sri Lanka
Indian Sanskrit epic the Ramayana features a classic kidnapping plot, in which Sita, the wife of god Rama, is stolen away to the Demon Kingdom on Lanka. To rescue her, Rama banded with an army of ape-like men to build a floating bridge between India and Lanka that they used to defeat the demon king, Ravana.
The tale, of course, is just good storytelling, but the bridge still exists – aerial surveys show a 30-mile-long stretch of limestone shoals under the sea that reaches between India and Sri Lanka.
Experts believe it was above the water until a 15th-century cyclone brought a huge storm surge into the channel.
3. Thunderbird and the Whale
Native American lore tells of a benevolent, supernatural being called a Thunderbird, which once swooped over the sea to snatch a killer whale that was stealing resources from the Quileute tribe.
The bird prevailed, dropping the whale on dry land to die with a thud that shook the ground, and many natives died during the battle and ensuing chaos.
Back in the 1980s, geologists discovered that a powerful earthquake occurred in the area in 1700, one that would have been powerful enough to cause a tsunami. It would have hit the coast where the tribe lived, generating the tales to explain the giant shaking of the earth.
As far as the Thunderbird, many scientists believe it’s based on the Aiornis, a prehistoric giant bird that co-existed thousands of years ago with early North America settlers. The bird had a wingspan of up to 16 feet and used to feast on whales washed up on the beaches.
2. The Guest Star
In 1006, people looking at the sky all over the world described seeing a “guest star.” Persian scholar Ibn Sina was particularly intrigued, however, explaining how the star hung in the sky for months, changing color and eventually emitting sparks before fading away.
We now know that Sina was describing a supernova that took place 7200 years ago and whose dying remnants can still be detected by powerful NASA technology.
They believe the color changes he described were due to the merger of two white dwarfs, which astronomers say would create a supernova bursting with color. What Sina did, essentially, was provide details for modern scientists that would otherwise have been lost to time.
1. The Great Flood
There are stories from around the world that join the biblical account of a great flood that covered most of the earth, wiping out almost all of mankind in the process – so most think it makes sense to assume this event took place in our human past in some way, shape, or form.
Geological records show that around 11,500 years ago, glacier meltwater melted into the North Sea, causing the Black Sea to dry up while the Mediterranean Basin refilled with seawater from the Atlantic Ocean. Between them was dry land, but eventually the Mediterranean overflowed into the Black Sea, forcing the barrier between them to all but disappear.
The result would have been a waterfall 200x the volume of Niagara Falls and covering an area double the size of Manhattan in a single day.
That said, the worst flood of the last 10 millennia took place along the Yellow River in China at a date that coincides with ancient texts.
This is the next best thing to actually being a kid again!