Five different voices behind him bellowed, "REDUCTO!" Five curses flew in five different directions and the shelves opposite them exploded as they hit; the towering structure swayed as a hundred glass spheres burst apart, pearly-white figures unfurled into the air and floated there, their voices echoing from who knew what long-dead past amid the torrent of crashing glass and splintered wood now raining down upon the floor -
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
I don't quite get what "who knew what long-dead past" refers to in this context. Any ideas?