Since many important developments in human history occurred during the Paleolithic period, the absence of written records about our past has not stopped scientists from understanding more about our humble beginnings.
Archaeology is the branch of science that specializes in the study of human activity in the past. It seeks to gain a better understanding of past societies, by digging deeper into the material culture our ancestors have left behind. This ranges from the earliest form of crude stone tools to the most intricate of weapons.
In an effort to understand how we, humans, have come to be as intelligible as we are, experts from all over the world traverse across countries and continents to uncover items from lost civilizations. Over the years, they have discovered more and more items that give light to how our ancestors lived their lives.
While it may seem backward to be stuck in the past, there is great value in learning about how we’ve come to be how we are. Here is a list of the top ten most important discoveries unraveled in the 21st century.
10. Shaman Burial in Northern Israel
In 2008, archaeologists working in Northern Israel discovered the 12,000-year-old grave of a spiritual leader and healer called Natufian Shaman. While Shamans are popular in most hunter-gatherer societies of the period, this was the first Shaman burial ever uncovered in this region. Scientists conclude that she was about 45 years old when she died. She was buried with animal parts including the tail of a wild cow, the pelvis of a leopard and the wing tip of an eagle.
9. Wooden Henge in Salisbury Plain
In 2010, scientists stumbled upon a wooden henge, which was formed of 24 posts up to 10 feet high in Salisbury Plain, about 90 miles west of London. Rumors have it that this monument was built about 4,500 years ago but just like the Stonehenge, mystery remains as per why it was erected.
8. Inscribed Slate from Jamestown
Back in 2009, while archaeologists were sifting through a 400-year old well in the English settlement of Jamestown, they stumbled upon a roofing slate that gave them a greater understanding of life in the town’s early years. The inscriptions featured plants and animals, which were common in the New World, plus a man in a ruffed collar smoking a pipe. Since paper was expensive in the 17th century, it was very likely for people during this period to draw on slate tiles.
7. Family Burial in Germany
Scientists have discovered a nuclear family buried in the same grave in Germany last 2005. The DNA testing results have shown that the mother, father and two sons were killed in a massacre about 4,600 years ago. While burial rites have already been established in the Stone Age, men and women were usually buried facing different directions. However, in this family’s grave, the children were facing the adults, indicating a close-knit relationship. This remains to be a very important discovery, because it is the first communal grave uncovered in the world.
6. Pine Oar in Changnyeong
Back in 2005, archaeologists found fragments of two ancient pine canoes in Japan, each about 13 feet long, dating back around 8,000 years. In the summer of 2010, archaeologists dug from the mud a nearly six-foot long pine oar in a riverbed in Changnyeong, South Korea. Since the oar is believed to be from the same period, scientists have come to a conclusion that Korea and Japan were engaged in maritime trade during the Neolithic era.
5. Baby Shoes in China
Also known as East Asia’s oldest modern human, Tianyuan 1 was first discovered in China in the 1920’s. It was only back in 2009 when scientists discovered that the shape of his toe bones were much slimmer than that of the earlier species of human, thus they believe he wore some sort of protection for his feet about 40,000 years ago. They have come to a conclusion that he was the first person in the world to ever wear shoes.
4. The Henge in Tara Hill
Even before St. Patrick began preaching and converting native people to Christianity in the hills of Tara Hill, the site had always held significant meaning to the ancient Irish. In fact, in 2007, archeologists discovered a huge henge dating from the Iron Age, about 2000 BCE. It was rumored to be a ceremonial circle of some sorts.
3. Lost City in Egypt
As if the history of Egypt is not ancient enough, archeologists have recently discovered traces of an ancient city that lay along the Girga Road. Apart from discovering a huge commercial bakery on the site, they have also stumbled upon two inscribed pieces of ceramic about 3,800 years old. These were the earliest known examples of writing in phonetic alphabet.
2. Oldest Written Document from Jerusalem
In 2010, archaeologists claim that they had found the oldest written document in the city of Jerusalem. Rumored to have been a part of a larger tablet, the artifact was a clay fragment dating back to the 14th century B.C. While scientists say the content appears insignificant, it bore Akkadian words written in cuneiform.
1. The Hobbit in Indonesia
Back in 2003, scientists have found a diminutive skeleton on the Indonesian island of Flores. Since she is half the size of humans today, scientists are widely debating whether she is a homo sapien or a separate species altogether. Those who believe she is a separate species named the new species Homo floresiensis. They have also given it an apt nickname based on the small creatures in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, The Hobbit. Those who believe otherwise are standing by the premise that she has microcephaly in her brain. It is a condition that occurs when the brain could not develop in a normal manner. As of today, the debate is still ongoing.
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