As long as recorded life has existed on this planet, there’s been an abundance of mysteries in relation to our existence. Luckily for us, many of the answers to these mysteries and questions have been found right under our nose, or rather – our feet. Archaeology has paved the way for the human race to learn about where we come from, discovering artifacts, documents, and more. Archaeologists tirelessly dig through the earth to bring us new insights about our world via traces of the old that has been left behind.
Some of the most remarkable archaeological discoveries have changed the world. Take the Rosetta Stone, for example; it gave way to interpretations and translations of some of the world’s most ancient texts. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls was hugely significant in terms of history and religion, providing confirmation of text in the Hebrew canon. Other remarkable and world-changing discoveries include the tomb of King Tut and the discovery of Troy. The discovery of the City of Pompeii gave historians access to a perfectly preserved ancient civilization.
Even in the year of 2014 when it seems most scientists are looking forward, archaeologists are newly discovering ancient artefacts, leaving the history books vulnerable to a rewrite at anytime. Here we’ve listed ten almost paradigm-shifting archaeological discoveries that shook our world and changed the history books.
10. Hissarlik (1800’s)
Hissarlik is also known as Ilion, located in Turkey. It is, famously, the site of the ancient civilization of Troy. For centuries, the famous location in Homer’s “The Iliad” was nothing more than myth with no proof of existence. In the 1850’s through the 1870’s, test excavations were conducted to much success, prompting archaeologists to keep digging. There, they found evidence of the Troy from the late Bronze Age that Homer wrote about. Excavations continued through the 20th century, with a team taking over in the 1980’s.
9. Megalosaurus (1824)
Megalosaurus was the first dinosaur to be discovered and scientifically described. Of course, before the 1800’s dinosaur fossils were being found for centuries, but what these fossils were remained unknown. Some believe it was the discovery of these ancient bones, before we had scientific knowledge of dinosaurs, that led to the stories of mythological creatures we know today as dragons and giants. But the discovery of Megalosaurus led not only to scientifically naming these fossils, but also to a boom in popularity for the practice of archaeology and a fascination with dinosaurs – people from all over the world wanted to find fossils. Once found, the fossils were named and classified, and then put up in museums and amusement parks for the public to view.
8. Sutton Hoo (1939)
Sutton Hoo is considered to be one of Britain’s most prized treasures. Sutton Hoo is a burial chamber for a 7th century King, containing treasures, lyre, drinking horns, swords, helmets, masks, and more. The length of time that passed between the burial ceremony and the discovery in 1939 is nothing short of remarkable considering the active onslaught of grave robbery throughout the centuries. Surrounding the burial chamber are 19 mounds that also contain burials for others, and Sutton Hoo is still being excavated to this day
7. Dmanisi (2005)
Ancient man and the creatures that homosapiens have evolved from have been closely studied for hundreds of years. You would think by 2014, we would have it cemented in terms of the evolution of man. But the discovery of a 1.8 million year old skull found at the archaeological site in Dmanisi, Georgia has opened Pandora’s box and forced scientists and historians to reopen the books. The skull potentially represents the first species of homoerectus to migrate out of Africa, thus furthering the idea that the homoerectus stands alone in the evolutionary line.
6. Gobekli Tepe (2008)
For a long time, it was thought that Stonehenge was the oldest temple-like structure in the world. But in the 1960’s this mountaintop in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey was cited as potentially even older than Stonehenge, but it was immediately removed from the table as the site was chalked up to be a medieval cemetery. In 2008, Klaus Schmidt discovered large stones around 11,000 years old that were clearly carved by man and designed by prehistoric people who hadn’t developed pottery or metal tools yet.
5. Headless Vikings of Dorset (2009)
In 2009, road workers discovered remains while on the job, alerting authorities and archaeologists. It turns out they’d discovered a mass grave of about 51-54 bodies with decapitated heads nearby. Immediately, historians went to the history books and found that there was a mass slaying of Vikings in the area between the years of 960-1016. The skeletons belonged to men barely in their twenties, and the Anglo-Saxon people that they tried to invade certainly fought back with tenacity resulting in the mass execution of the group. It was believed that the group was stripped down and humiliated before the vikings were decapitated and tossed in a pit. This discovery is groundbreaking because it shed light on the historical battle and provided evidence of how the vikings fought back.
4. Cashel Man (2011)
The discovery of “bog bodies” in Europe is something that isn’t entirely new, but it doesn’t make them any less gruesome or fascinating. These perfectly mummified corpses have been able to tell historians a lot about the past. Recently, a bog body dating back 4,000 years (even older than King Tut) has been discovered in Ireland, and hints that the body suffered an extremely violent death. The body was discovered crushed and mangled having evidently suffered blows to the spine and the arm. Cashel Man is the oldest bog body to be discovered and gives scientists and historians a privileged look at the time period of his origin.
3. Richard III (2013)
In August of 2012, the University of Leicester collaborated with the Leicester City Council and the Richard III Society in an archaeological dig that would lead to the discovery of the lost remains of one of England’s most famous monarchs. The discovery was made through testing of the remains, combined with evidence that the spine had a familiar curvature that was well associated with Richard III. The remains were discovered underneath a modern car park, which was cited as the location of Greyfriar’s church. The University of Leicester has announced that they will be initiating a project to sequence the entire genome of Richard, making him the first ancient figure in history to have their genome sequenced.
2. Jamestown (2013)
Despite historical accounts of cannibalism during the earliest settlements in Jamestown, historians and archaeologists never had any leads that would provide evidence for this practice. Of course, history has told us that many of the early settlers, who were in search of the New World and riches, met a very grim and harsh end, especially in winter. Last year, William Kelso and his team discovered a butchered skull of a 14-year old girl found in a trash heap with the remains of horses and other animals that settlers consumed to avoid starvation. Consistent with cuts to access the soft tissue and brain matter, Kelso is convinced that the remains of the girl, named Jane, were consumed for survival.
1. Stonehenge (2013/2014)
For centuries, Stonehenge has remained a mystery to historians and archaeologists. With such a remote location, it has been difficult for experts to decipher exactly what these large stones were used for and how they even got into their position in the first place. From myths of the wizard Merlin using magic to move the stones to theories of a burial ground, Stonehenge was a puzzle that needed to be solved. In October, archaeologist David Jacques conducted a dig that led to the discovery of auroch bones (a source of food and a component in agriculture in ancient times). By using carbon dating, Jacques and his team discovered that the surrounding area of Stonehenge has been inhabited since 8820 BCE and that Stonehenge wasn’t intended to be a remote location. With this discovery, theories about the Neolithic Revolution now have to be revisited,