Atlas Obscura

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The definitive guide to the world's hidden wonders:

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The Matenadaran

Throughout the Middle Ages, very active scriptoriums were found in towns near the shores of the Mediterranean, on Lake Van, in Jugha, Tatev, and many other spots. Tired of this, in 1959 the Soviet Armenian government decided to step in and build a massive fortress on a hill in the center of the capital, with storage deep in the earth, and gather as many manuscripts as it could there for safekeeping. With over 23,000 manuscripts and 500,000 additional documents, some of the most obscure and ancient texts from the early medieval age can be found at the Matenadaran. There is a 9th-century gospel, and the ivory-carved cover of a 6th-century gospel as well.

Ex-Monastery of Santiago Apóstol

Less than seven miles south of the historic Centro area of Oxaca de Juarez is an equally historic but often overlooked masterpiece of workmanship—though it was never really finished. Work on the site stopped by 1650 due to construction costs and a loss of local labor. Despite its incompletion, the site has been a convent, monastery, school, government office, prison, and cultural centerpiece of the Village of Cuilapam de Guerrero. Additionally, there are IANH offices throughout the complex, giving you a glimpse of ongoing archeological work from around the Central Valley.

Paradox Valley

Ringed by high sandstone walls, the paradox of Paradox Valley is that the Delores River takes a seemingly impossible path, flowing perpendicularly across the middle of the valley instead of the normal route down its length. The valley is 25 miles long from north to south, but the river runs about 3 to 5 miles across the basin from west to east, cutting through the thousand-foot-tall canyon walls on either side. Salt still exists under the valley floor and provides a significant contribution to the salinity of the Delores River and the Colorado River into which the Delores eventually flows. As part of a long term effort to reduce the overall salinity of the Colorado River system, wells have been drilled to about 40 feet of depth and the brine is pumped out and sent to an injection well on the other side of the valley.

W. J. Beal Botanical Garden

Originally founded in 1855 as an agricultural college, Michigan State University was, in its early decades, focused on the scientific study of plants and their benefits to humanity. To enhance the school’s botany classes, Professor William James Beal established an arboretum of clovers and forage grasses in 1873 in a small creekside valley on campus nicknamed “Sleepy Hollow. The sloping hills surrounding the botanical gardens are planted with floral communities from different regions of Michigan, along with ecosystems from North America, Asia, and Europe found at the same latitude as the state. Though Michigan State’s educational scope has expanded far beyond botany and agriculture, the W. J. Beal Gardens remain an important resource for students and researchers on campus and have been used in studies in the fields of botany, forestry, agriculture, pharmacology, veterinary medicine, and others.