Hoaxes Throughout History: Before 1700

Maybe it's historically inaccurate to talk about hoaxes before 1700. After all, the word 'hoax' only came into use during the 1700s. But if we take hoaxes to be any form of outrageous deception, then there was certainly plenty of that going on during the middle ages. The curious thing about hoaxes from this period is that they would often last for centuries before being exposed. The reason for this? It was often politically convenient to keep people believing the lies, and plus it was hardly like there were any investigative journalists lurking around trying to expose the truth. This was before the age of science, the mass media, the enlightenment, or anything like that.

750: The Donation of Constantine
A forgery that became the basis for 1200 years of Papal rule

853-855: Pope Joan
Was there once a female pope?

1298: Marco Polo's Description of the World
Did Marco Polo really go to China?

1355: The Shroud of Turin
A medieval painting or a true image of Christ?

1641: Mother Shipton's Prophecies
16th Century prophetess predicts trains, telegraphy, and end of world

1661: The Ghostly Drummer of Tedworth
An angry spirit bangs on beds

1665(?): The Voynich Manuscript
A manuscript that, to this day, has defied all attempts at translation

1602-1680: Athanasius Kircher
Famous linguist translates meaningless hieroglyphics, repeatedly

1646-1729: Jean Hardouin
Scholar reveals that Greek and Roman culture is a fraud

1674: The Lost Island of Hi-Brazil
The island of Hi-Brazil had long existed in European legends, represented as a kind of earthly paradise, until a merchant claimed that he had actually found the place.