Ruins of the Mayan City of Palenque.

Palenque-2Image: Jan Harenburg,
A fairly recently discovered ruined city lying in the protective embrace of the Mexican jungles, Palenque is one of the most breathtaking of all Mayan ruins. Known for its intricate carvings and as the resting place of Pakal the Great, the city was once a thriving metropolis between 500 and 700 AD and was home to somewhere around 6,000 people at its height.
The site was only uncovered in the 1950s, and since then it’s been opened to tourists. Now, visitors can get a look for themselves at the massive stone structures, decorated with beautiful carvings, that were once the stomping grounds for one of the Maya’s greatest kings.
So intricate – and so cryptic – are the carvings that some people look at them as proof that the builders had help from a rather questionable source – extraterrestrials.
Carvings depicting bizarre symbols have alternately been interpreted as astrological or religious symbols, or symbolism implying the use of a space ship by the deceased on his way to the next world.
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Image: Mexicanwave,
Now a World Heritage Site, only a portion of Palenque’s estimated 1,500 structures have been excavated. Among those that have been thoroughly explored include Pakal the Great’s tomb, and the Temple of the Red Queen.
The latter yielded the knowledge that the Maya painted the bodies of their deceased nobility a bright red – the same red that would have been used to paint many of the buildings. For the Maya, red was the color of blood and the color of life.
Palenque was abandoned by 1000, left to be enveloped by the jungle and preserved by the same wilds that were once cut back from it. There’s plenty of theories about why people left the city, from famine caused by drought to a shift in political power.
The last date that we know the city was occupied was November 17, 799 – the date carved on a vase.
via 10 Ancient Settlements That Were Abandoned for Mysterious Reasons – Urban Ghosts.

The Forgotten Chateau in the Ardennes.

castle-miranda-ardennes-belgiumAll images by Tom Blackwell – Lucid Dreams
This isn’t the first time Urban Ghosts has featured the forgotten Chateau de Noisy, venturing beyond the foreboding Gothic facade to scenes of dereliction and decay within.
castle-miranda-ardennes-belgium-5But this haunting series of photographs by urban explorer Tom Blackwell beautifully captures the atmosphere of the abandoned building in Belgium’s province de Namur.
Like many fine buildings that have fallen victim to decay, the 19th century neo-Gothic chateau also known as Miranda Castle has borne witness to a colourful and tumultuous history.
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See more Images via Urban Ghosts Miranda Castle: Foreboding Abandoned Mansion of the Ardennes – Urban Ghosts

The Shah Cheragh Mosque, Iran.

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Visiting the Shah Cheragh mosque in Shiraz, Iran can be a sombre and, for lack of a better word, religious experience, yet the interior of the central temple looks as though a disco ball exploded, covering nearly every surface with glittering shards of glass and mirror.
The site began as a funereal monument with a mythic past.
As the story goes, around 900 CE a wanderer caught site of a mysterious light shining off in the distance and went to investigate. He found a luminous grave that, when excavated, was found to hold the armored corpse of an important Muslim figure.
Thus the site became a popular pilgrimage site for Shia Muslims, and a domed tomb structure was created to house the grave.
The site was improved and expanded over the centuries with religious schools and other facilities being added to the complex.

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In the 14th century the site’s signature mirrorball decoration was ordered at the behest of Queen Tash Khātūn who wanted the mosque intensify any light a thousand times over, the name “Shah Cheragh” roughly translating to “King of the Light” in Persian.
Despite being damaged by human hands and natural disasters over the centuries, the mosque has been maintained and repaired and shines brightly even today.
The increasingly sprawling site is still an extremely important pilgrimage location for Shia Muslims, however visitors of any faith are likely to marvel at the sheer beauty of this glassy wonder.
via Shah Cheragh | Atlas Obscura.

Bristlecone Pine Forest.

bristlecone-pines-4[6]The Great Basin Bristlecone Pines, or Pinus longaeva, is a long-living species of tree found in the higher mountains of the southwest United States. Bristlecone pines grow in isolated groves in the arid mountain regions of six western states of America, but the oldest are found in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains of California.
These trees have a remarkable ability to survive in extremely harsh and challenging environment. In fact, they are believed to be the some of oldest living organisms in the world, with lifespans in excess of 5,000 years.
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Bristlecone pines grow just below the tree line, between 5,000 and 10,000 feet of elevation. At these great heights, the wind blows almost constantly and the temperatures can dip to well below zero.
The soil is dry receiving less than a foot of rainfall a year. Because of these extreme conditions, the trees grow very slowly, and in some years don’t even add a ring of growth. Even the tree’s needles, which grow in bunches of five, can remain green for forty years.
Images:
http://goo.gl/dnYbac
Read the full article via Bristlecone Pines – The Oldest Trees on Earth | Amusing Planet.

In the Cave of the Glow Worms.

Something quite special dwells beneath the surface of New Zealand and these images prove that the country is just as beautiful below ground as it is above!
The Waitomo area is famous for it’s limestone caves and within these caves are one of the most magical insects in the world, the glowworm.
Glow worms emit a phosphorescent glow that light up the cave and create a surreal environment.
Over the past year I have been back and forth to Waitomo’s Ruakuri Cave to master the art of photographing these magnificent little creatures – it’s been quite the experience!
When the headlamps are out and all you can see are the glowworms, you can’t help but feel like you’ve stepped into James Cameron’s Avatar Pandora, it’s just unreal!

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Photographing glow worms is very similar to shooting the night sky, however the exposure time can be much longer.
These images in particular range between 30 seconds and 6 minutes exposures.
To achieve the shots, it required me to submerge myself and my tripod in cold water for up to 6-8 hours a day – it was totally worth it!
More info: shaunjeffersphotography.com
Source: Glow Worms Turn New Zealand Cave Into Starry Night And I Spent Past Year Photographing It | Bored Panda

Cathedral Cove.

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Image Credit: Photograph by Chris Gin
Sunrise lights up Cathedral Cove, an iconic spot near Hahei, New Zealand.
The natural tunnel is part of the Te Whanganui-a-Hei Marine Reserve on the Coromandel Peninsula.
It also served as a portal to Narnia in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.
This photo and caption were submitted to the 2014 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest.
via Cathedral Cove Picture — New Zealand Photo — National Geographic Photo of the Day.

Greece’s Amphipolis Tomb.

tombTwo sphinxes stand above the tomb entrance, which was located in August. One of the heads was found in October. HCM/Polaris
Large stone sphinxes, women sculpted in marble, intricate mosaics and multicolored frescoes awaited archaeologists in August when they entered the largest tomb ever found in Greece.
The scale of the tomb, which dates to the fourth century B.C., suggests it may belong to Roxane, wife of Alexander the Great, or their son, also called Alexander.
Both were killed by political rivals after the death of the Macedonian conqueror in 323 B.C.
The burial complex, which doesn’t appear to be looted, was found outside the ancient Macedonian city of Amphipolis in 2012, but its entrance wasn’t located until August.
Throughout autumn, stunning new finds emerged almost daily, including a large floor mosaic depicting Pluto’s abduction of Persephone.
caryatid2Large stone sphinxes, women sculpted in marble, intricate mosaics and multicolored frescoes awaited archaeologists when they entered the largest tomb ever found in Greece.
The burial complex dates back to the fourth century B.C. and was found outside the ancient Macedonian city of Amphipolis in 2012, but its entrance wasn’t located until August 2014.
Since then, the tomb has provided stunning new finds seemingly on a daily basis.
Read further via Archaeologists Explore Largest-Ever Greek Tomb | DiscoverMagazine.com.

Fremantle Prison.

Fremantle_Prison_in_Western_AustraliaImage: Wikipedia.
With its foreboding 5m-high walls enclosing a nearly 6-hectare site, the old convict-era prison still dominates present-day Fremantle, Western Australia with its tales of adventure and hardship living on in the city’s imagination.
In 2010 its cultural status was recognised, along with that of 10 other penal buildings, as part of the Australian Convict Sites entry on the Unesco World Heritage list.
The first convicts were made to build their own prison, constructing it from beautiful pale limestone dug out of the hill on which it was built.
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From 1855 to 1991, 350,000 people were incarcerated here, although the highest numbers held at any one time were 1200 men and 58 women.
Of those, 43 men and one woman were executed on site, the last of which was serial killer Eric Edgar Cooke in 1964.
via Fremantle Prison – Lonely Planet.

The Paris Catacombs.

imageA spiral staircase in the Denfert-Rochereau section of the catacombs (all photographs by the author unless indicated)
Perhaps the most well-known “ruin” in Paris is the catacombs, a network of quarries that span around 200 miles under the city (in fact Parisians have been known to compare their city to a holey cheese there are so many tunnels dug out under the surface).
A small portion of the catacombs were renovated and turned into ossuaries when the original resting places for the bodies were no longer viable, giving it the reputation of being one of the world’s largest graves.
Since 1874, a section has been open on a regular basis for tourists. However, what a lot of tourists don’t realize is that this is only a small segment of the mass network of tunnels.
Upon entering the ossuaries, you are faced with this warning: “Arrête! C’est ici l’empire de la Mort” (“Stop! Here lies the Empire of Death”), whereupon you are met with the first of the remains of the six million people that are buried within the catacombs.
c1Le Carrefour des Morts (“The Crossroad of Death”), a part of the catacombs not open to the public (photograph by Adam Slater)
As a popular tourist attraction, the catacombs now often have an enormous queue snaking around the block, thus it is always advisable to be early and expect a wait, and dress in layers — it can be extremely cold or hot outside, but the catacombs maintain a fairly consistent temperature once you enter the quarry tunnels.
For the more daring, the museum is only the start of your potential journey. The tunnels extend far beyond what is available to see here, but nonetheless provides a fascinating visit. Though you might just find yourself bending the parameters of “easily accessible” and joining the cataphiles in order to seek out the rest.

Read on via The 10 Most Accessible Ruins in Paris | Atlas Obscura.

Abandoned St John’s Orphanage, Goulburn.

St John’s Orphanage was opened in 1905 by the Sisters of Mercy and the Catholic Church, and operated for 71 years until its closure in 1976.
For the first 7 years of operation St John’s housed both boys and girls (which it was one of the first to do so) and in 1912 St Joesph’s House of Prayer was opened and became the girls orphanage, and St John’s became an all boys orphanage.
At its peak St John’s housed 200 boys which was far above the suitable capacity of the building.
According to many records the orphanage wasn’t the happiest of places and the boys were often subjected to slave like conditions and barbaric punishment, the kind of treatment young boys should never face.
There’s an account from a boy who stayed at the orphanage where he claimed that when you first entered the orphanage you were stripped of all your clothes and then given just one set of clothes (not even any underwear) and this one outfit that you lived in day and night was only allowed to be washed once a week.
Having a pair shoes that fit or that even had laces only happened when you left the orphanage, they normally were given shoes too small or far too big. Beatings and other punishments were a common practice in the orphanage.
Such punishments as being locked in rooms, canings, beatings and floggings were given out freely and regularly. Cold showers (and if you know Goulburn that place is freezing in winter) and neglect of proper medical care even when injured or sick were just a couple of the health risks these boys faced in their time there.
Meals were sparse and not often appealing. Education was limited and based on religion and Latin. Only the more academically gifted boys were provided education past the 5th grade and these were done off premise.
So as you can see, St John’s wasn’t the happiest of places and it’s no surprise that its apparently now haunted, with all those tortured souls of the little boys its no wonder it has that stigma around it. Scribbled over many of the walls are phrases, quotes or sometimes just plain creepy things written on the wall referring to the grim past of the orphanage, some even sound like they are written from someone who spent time or had a loved one spend time here.
There was a local company running ghost tours here but I am not sure if these are still running or not, maybe knowing that this place is apparently haunted adds to its overall creepy factor.
After the orphanage shut its doors in 1976, it got a second life until the late 1990’s as Youth With A Mission Base Goulburn where people young and old came from all over the world to do discipleship training courses and to serve on staff in this Christian Interdenominational Organisation. Once this was over it started to fall into disrepair and was never used again and started down the slide of decay.
Read on via Source: Abandoned St John’s Orphanage | Abandoned Australia – Urban Exploration in Australia