For over a century, archeologists around the world have explored the grave sites of people long since gone to gain possible insight into what their lives were like through the artifacts that they left behind. These efforts have led to many important discoveries that have changed our understanding of the course of human history. This valuable work often takes place in extreme conditions and remote locations that have been left undisturbed because of access difficulty. What once was believed to be lost to time can be put on display to give future generations a better understanding of the past.
In the course of these archeological excavations, there are often artifacts in the grave sites that defy simple explanation. Some artifacts can point to commonplace activities such as cooking and preparing food, tools and implements used for cultivating crops, and even weapons. Each of these has a logical reason for being included in a gravesite, but sometimes upon further inspection, these items can reveal something that was not previously anticipated.
Maybe these ancient peoples had contact with others that had not even previously been known or documented. Perhaps these interred individuals were members of ancient royal families, whose names have long since been forgotten. Other artifacts and evidence point to ancient struggles and conflict between warring tribes that were not previously known. Every year, new cemetery sites are discovered and explored, giving us a further understanding of what life was like in the ancient world.
10 Thor’s Hammer Jewelry
For hundreds of years, small hammer-shaped pendants have been found at various sites around Northern Europe. Over 1,000 of these ancient artifacts have been found, but it was still widely disputed as to what the small amulets actually represented. That changed in 2014, when one amulet was discovered in Kobelev, a town on the Danish island of Lolland. The tiny artifact was inscribed with runes, which read “Hmar x is”, which essentially means “this is a hammer.” This discovery proved once and for all that the tiny pendants represented the Hammer of Thor, the Norse god of thunder, lightning, and protector of mankind.
9 Brain Tissue
The Windover Archeological Site is a very important finding that was discovered in Brevard County, Florida. The site was uncovered in 1982, when local construction workers sought to build a road across a pond in a housing development. When a backhoe operator discovered several skulls in his bucket, he halted his progress and archeological teams were called in. In total, 129 bodies were found interred in the peat along the bottom of Windover Pond, which was a common practice in the Early Archaic Period 5,000-6,000 years ago. The bodies were so well preserved in the bog that scientists were able to harvest actual brain matter from almost 90% of the recovered ancient bodies. The preservation suggests that the water burials took place within 24-48 hours of death.
8 Dismembered Donkey
St. Augustine is the oldest permanent settlement in North America and holds important historical value. However, one case of the bizarre interment of a dismembered donkey has puzzled scientists for years. The adult donkey’s remains were uncovered in 2007 by archeologist Carl D. Halbirt, and the discovery has puzzled scientists since. The donkey was expertly dismembered, with the four limbs arranged neatly in a north-south position next to the body. Markings suggest that the limbs may have been defleshed before they were buried. The burial site was nearby a historic quarry, which explains the donkey’s presence, but not it’s strange arrangement within the grave.
7 Cotton on Tattooed Peruvian Mummy
Kit Nelson, an archeologist from Tulane University discovered a one thousand year old mummy at a dig site in Peru. As members of the team meticulously removed the layer of clothing around the mummy, known as “Kiko Rontoy”, they discovered that the body was tattooed, disemboweled, covered in red paint, and given metal eye plates. He was also found to be in possession of a small bag of cotton yarn, which has fueled speculations to his status as a weaver, but has baffled scientists. Peruvian archeologist Guillermo Cock had never previously seen a mummy buried with cotton although valuable resources such as corn were common.
6 51 Headless Vikings
In 2009, archeologists from Oxford University uncovered an early medieval gravesite near the Weymouth Relief Road in England. Within the burial pit, they discovered 54 bodies that were interred without any of their possessions. 51 of the bodies had the heads removed and placed next to the bodies prior to burial indicating that they were executed. Further investigations on the forensic evidence left behind by the men suggest that it was a Viking raiding party that had been executed in Anglo-Saxon territory. The site dates back to around the 10th or 11th century, and Dr. Britt Baillie has suggested they are from the St. Brice’s Day Massacre.
5 One Million Mummies
For over 30 years, officials from Brigham Young University have been excavating a site at Fag el-Gamous, Egypt also known as “way of the water buffalo”. The site is rich with artifacts, and in 2014, Kerry Muhlestein, the project director of the BYU team, suggested that the site may contain more than one million mummies. This site was not the burial place of kings like the Pyramids, but was the final resting place for lower class individuals. They were often buried alongside their limited possessions. The arid environment made for excellent preservation of many tissues, including tongues and fingernails.
4 Silver Carolingian Pot and Lid
In 2014, a staggering discovery was made by a metal detector enthusiast named Derek McLennan. McLennan is a retired businessman from Ayrshire, Scotland and made the discovery in Dumfriesshire. The total haul comprised over 100 artifacts that included a cross, armbands, and brooches, but the most mysterious artifact was the silver Carolingian pot discovered with its lid still on top. The pot was already over 100 years old when it was buried in the 9th or 10th centuries and the other artifacts were discovered to have origins from around Northern Europe. Inside the pot were four silver brooches, gold ingots, and ivory beads coated in gold.
3 Egyptian Beads in Denmark
The exploration of Bronze Age burial sites in Denmark has gone on for over a century, stretching back to an 1880 discovery in Olby. At that site, a women’s body was uncovered along with 23 beads. These beads were each investigated with particular attention paid to the blue beads. Upon further analysis through a process called plasma mass spectrometry, it was revealed that the blue beads contained cobalt that indicated that they came from Egypt. The glass is suspected to have originated from the very same workshops that created glass for Tutankhamen’s sarcophagus.
2 Ancient Alien?
16,000 years ago, groups of hunters and fisherman lived in the Magdalena Valley of Colombia. From 1200BC until the area’s discovery by Westerners, the valley was inhabited by small villages of farmers, goldsmiths, and potters. These goldsmiths produced hundreds of small gold figurines of animals and insects that have been found at many gravesites, but there are about a dozen small figurines that most closely resemble modern day fighter jets. The discovery of these artifacts has fueled “Ancient Alien” conspiracy theorists who believe this tribe had contact with super-advanced beings. However, it is most likely that these were simply artistic interpretations of fish.
1 Ubaid Lizard Men Figurines
6,000 to 7,000 years ago in Ancient Mesopotamia lived an ancient people that shared a common culture that we now know as Ubaid. In 1955, Leonard Woolley discovered a figurine of a mother and child in a poorly preserved cemetery at Ur. This figurine appeared to have a human body along with a lizard-like head. This lizardmen figurine has been a leading artifact that is often cited as proof of Ubaid contact with “ancient aliens”. Whatever possible explanation for these artifacts has been lost due to 7,000 years of weathering.
Sources: discovery.com, nbbd.com, pbs.org, nationalgeographic.com, ancient-origins.net, rt.com,livescience.com, bbc.com, ibtimes.co.uk, io9.com, archaeology.org, banrepcultural.org, ancientaliensdebunked.com, britishmuseum.org, news.nationalgeographic.com