10 of History's Most Fascinating Archaeological Finds
10 of History’s Most Fascinating Archaeological Finds

10 of History’s Most Fascinating Archaeological Finds

Khalid Elhassan - March 31, 2018

Archaeology, or the study of historic activity by recovering and analyzing the physical aspects of the past, is vital to our understanding of history. Most of the time, archaeology is not dramatic, and its contribution to our knowledge of the past is incremental, filling in a few details of what is already known. But every now and then, archaeological finds either open up a whole new field of study, or radically alter our understanding of what we thought we already knew.

Following are ten of history’s more fascinating archaeological discoveries and sites.

Cats Domesticated Themselves

Until recently, the earliest known evidence for the domestication of wild cats into the common household cat dated to Ancient Egypt, about 4000 years ago. However, new archaeological discoveries indicate that the first domestication of cats probably happened in China. Feline bones unearthed in the Chinese agricultural village of Quanhucun, in Shaanxi, reveal that cats lived there alongside humans, about 5300 years ago.

As scientists pieced together from the archaeological evidence unearthed in Quanhucun and surrounding villages, the farmers’ grains attracted rodents, resulting in an unwelcome pest infestation. Ceramic storage containers from the period, specially designed to keep rodents out of the farmers’ grain stocks, indicate that the infestation was serious. The rodents, in turn, attracted wild cats.

10 of History’s Most Fascinating Archaeological Finds
Feline fossils from Quanhucun in China. PNAS

Thus was born a three way relationship, that culminated in the domestication of wild cats. Farmers harvest and store grain in their villages. The stored grain attracts rodents to the village. The rodents in turn attract wild cats to the village. The farmers, observing the wild cats preying upon the rodents, tolerate the felines’ presence in their villages, and even encourage them. Eventually, the wild cats’ descendants become domestic cats.

A fascinating twist in the tale is that the wild cats lived alongside and amidst humans for thousands of years, before they were domesticated. DNA analysis shows that, during those millennia of coexistence preceding domestication, there was very little alteration in the wild cats’ genes. The only changes were minor and cosmetic alterations in the wild cats’ coats, to produce the dots and stripes of the tabby cat.

Another twist is that, unlike other domesticated animals, cat domestication did not come about because of deliberate human efforts. Instead, the process was initiated and driven by the wild cats themselves. Attracted by the relative abundance of rodents in and around human agricultural communities, they deliberately sought out those human communities, and the delicious rodents therein.

It was only after thousands of years of cats living alongside humans and preying upon the rodents infesting human crops, that the wild cats changed. Eventually, there was enough genetic variation between the wild cats living alongside humans and those still out in the wild, that we ended up with the common tabby. We did not bring that about, but simply tolerated and welcomed those wild cats, as they preyed on the rodents stealing our grains. So in that sense, humans did not domesticate cats. Instead, cats domesticated themselves.

10 of History’s Most Fascinating Archaeological Finds
Antikythera Mechanism. YouTube

Mysterious Artifact Recovered From Ancient Shipwreck Turns Out to be 2100 Year Old Analog Computer

The small island of Antikythera, between the Peloponnesus and Crete, lies roughly halfway along the sea lanes used by ships plying the waters between Asia Minor and Italy. In antiquity as well as now, Antikythera’s jagged coastline was a hazard to ships, that could easily be dashed to destruction on its unforgiving rocks. That was the fate of an unfortunate ship we now call the Antikythera Wreck, that sank off the island around 87 BC.

The wreck lay forgotten at the sea bottom until 1900, when fishermen diving for sponges spotted a bronze hand sticking out of the sediment. They told the Greek authorities, who then directed a search around the shipwreck. The following year, divers recovered over 200 amphorae, some of them intact, finely worked vases, other high end goods, and some of the era’s most prized works of art.

Among the objects recovered was an intriguing bronze object, about 20 cm high, that began disintegrating as soon as it was removed from the water. Scrupulously preserved in an Athenian museum, scientists figured out that it was an instrument for astronomical data. However, just how did the instrument, named the Antikythera Mechanism, work? Scientists could see its surface, but the object’s advanced corrosion prevented them from examining its interior and inner workings.

It was not until the twenty first century that modern scanning tools finally enabled scientists to penetrate the corrosion and take a look at the insides of the Antikythera Mechanism in 3D. Scanning revealed a set of interlocking gears, similar to those of a clock, as well inscriptions engraved on the inside of the machine, as a kind of instruction manual.

Turns out the Antikythera Artifact was an analog machine, or computer, that predated Jesus. It enabled users to tell how the skies would look for decades to come, including the positions of the sun and moon, lunar phases, the paths of planets such as Venus, and even eclipses. Several writers from Antiquity, including Cicero, had mentioned the existence of such devices, but the Antikythera Mechanism is the only one ever recovered. Unfortunately, the technology was lost during the Roman era, and the only known sample we know of ended up at the bottom of the sea, its secrets forgotten for over two millennia.

10 of History’s Most Fascinating Archaeological Finds
What Homo naledi would have looked like. National Geographic

Fossils in South African Cave Demonstrate That Early Hominids Buried Their Dead

In 2013, a treasure trove of fossilized hominid skeletons was discovered in a South African cave, 30 miles from Johannesburg. About 1550 skeletal pieces from 15 individuals were unearthed. The fossils combined anatomical features from an early hominid species known as Australopithecus, such as a small braincase volume, with the skull shape of the more advanced early Homo. That combination of features led scientists to assume that the fossils came from an early hominid species about 2 million years old.

It was a reasonable ballpark initial guess, since hominids with those types of anatomical features were known to have existed around that time. However, by 2017, the fossils had been more accurately dated to between 335,000 to 236,000 years ago. They were thus not part of the lineage leading to modern humans, but an extinct and more primitive hominid that coexisted with more modern Homos. The new species was dubbed Homo naledi.

The excitement about the newly discovered species was not limited to the sheer number of bones, however. The condition and placement of those bones also upended preexisting assumptions about the behavior of primitive hominids. The bones lacked gnaw marks indicating that they had been dragged into the cave by carnivores. Between that and their placement deep in a shaft that they were unlikely to have ended up in by accident, it became clear that the bones had been deliberately placed in the cave by other Homo naledi individuals. I.e.; they were buried.

It was not the earliest known burial, as 28 skeletons dating to about 430,000 had been discovered years earlier in a Spanish cave. However, the Spanish skeletons came from a big brained Homo species that looked and behaved much like modern humans. Homo naledi on the other hand had a brain half the size of ours, and could not have been mistaken for a modern human. However, its burial practices demonstrated that its individuals understood mortality and the concept of something after death. That squashed the hitherto prevailing notion that such understanding and behavior required big brains, and forced a reexamination of early hominids’ culture and intelligence.

10 of History’s Most Fascinating Archaeological Finds
Building the Great Pyramid. Ancient Code

Burial Tombs Disprove That the Great Pyramids Were Built by Slaves

Until early in the 20th century, Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza, built around 2530 BC for the Pharaoh Khufu, was the world’s biggest building. Raising it had been a massive endeavor, that involved moving and piling up six and a half million tons of stone, in blocks weighing as much as nine tons. All of that was accomplished via manual labor, using little more than ropes and wood.

The Old Testament’s portrayal of the Ancient Israelites’ forced labor for Pharaoh popularized the notion that widespread slave labor was common in Ancient Egypt. Ancient Greek writers such as Herodotus and subsequent historians, fiction, as well as film in the modern era, further cemented the perception that the Pharaohs used slave labor for their great building projects. As a result, the notion that slaves built the Egyptian pyramids became entrenched in the popular imagination.

However, graffiti from inside the Great Pyramids, made by the workers who built the monuments, had long suggested otherwise. Still, the idea that the pyramids were built by slaves remained widespread until Egyptologists discovered the city of the Great Pyramids’ builders in 1977. Archaeological digs at the site further demonstrated that the builders were not slaves.

Then, in 2010, archaeologists unearthed the tombs of the Great Pyramids’ builders, and their contents finally and conclusively debunked the notion that the edifices had been built by slave labor. The modest tombs, which held the perfectly preserved skeletons of about a dozen pyramid workers, showed that their occupants were paid laborers, not slaves.

The builders hailed from poor families from all over Egypt, and were not only paid for their work, but were so respected for that work that those who died during construction were honored by burial near the tombs of the sacred Pharaohs. That proximity to the sacred sites, and the care taken in preparing their bodies for their journeys to the afterlife, disproves the notion that the builders were slaves. Slaves would simply never have been extended such honors.

10 of History’s Most Fascinating Archaeological Finds
Goujian Sword. My Modern Met

A 2600 Year Old Sword Was Still Sharp After 2000 Years in Underground Water

In 1965, archaeologists working a tomb in in Hubei, China, discovered a 2600 year old bronze sword of a type known as the jian. Found sheathed in a wooden scabbard, the blade when unsheathed turned out to be wholly untarnished, and was remarkable for how well preserved and sharp it was, despite its age. A test conducted by archaeologists showed that the blade could effortlessly cut through a stack of twenty sheets of paper.

Inscribed on the blade were characters stating: “The king of Yue made this sword for his personal use“. As a result, it was named the Goujian Sword, after a historic king of Yue named Goujian, famous for his perseverance in the face of adversity. The sword’s excellent condition was astonishing. Not only because it was millennia old, but also because of the condition of the tomb in which it was found: the sword had lain immersed in underground water for about 2000 years.

Chinese jian swords are straight and double edged, and typically feature a guard in the shape of a stingray. Their grips are usually made of fluted wood or covered in rayskin, and their handles feature a pommel for balance, for trapping or striking an opponent, and to prevent slipping through the user’s hand. Jians have been in use for at least 2600 years, and the Goujian Sword is one of the earliest examples of the type.

The Goujian Sword features significant distal taper, or decreased thickness, with the edge being only half as thick as the base of the blade near the handle. That is combined with subtle profile taper, or decreasing width, from blade base to tip. Like other jian swords, its blade is comprised of three sections: the tip, middle, and root. Jian tips typically curve smoothly to a point, and they are used for thrusting, slashing, or quick cuts. The middle is for deflection, or for drawing and cleaving cuts. The root, closest to the handle, is utilized mainly for defense.

By the 6th century BC, Chinese bronze sword production techniques had reached an advanced stage, and laminated bronze jians with copper sulphide and chromium oxide coatings to resist correction became common. The Goujian Sword was a perfect example of the effectiveness of such anti corrosive techniques. Although tomb and sword had been soaked in underground water for over 2000 years, the Goujian Sword had resisted tarnish, without any trace of rust, and still retained its sharp edge.

Today, the Goujian Sword is regarded by China as one of the country’s greatest national treasures, and is as legendary to the Chinese public as King Arthur’s Excalibur is in western culture. With the difference being that the Goujian Sword is not mythical, but real. These days, visitors can view the sword on display at the Hubei Provincial Museum in Hubei, China.

10 of History’s Most Fascinating Archaeological Finds
Dmanisi Skull 5. National Geographic

Skulls Unearthed in Georgia Radically Simplify Homo Sapiens Lineage

In 1991, archaeologists unearthed traces of proto human habitation in a cave near Dmanisi, Georgia. In subsequent years, five early Homo erectus hominid skulls, whose owners lived about 1.75 million years ago, were dug up. The last of them, unearthed in 2005 and known as Skull 5, is the world’s most completely preserved skull of an adult hominid discovered to date. It is not just a well preserved fossil, however: Skull 5 and its companions from the Dmanisi cave might end up rewriting the evolutionary lineage of mankind.

Hominids have long been classified into a variety of species, such as Homo habilis, Homo erectus, and Homo rudolfensis, based on differences and variations in their features, as seen in their fossils. Those different species mean that the evolutionary lineage of modern humans is relatively complex, with a family tree containing various branches and sub branches. Some lead to us, while other branches went extinct.

However, what if those different species were not actually different species at all, but members of the same species? The five Dmanisi skulls are sufficiently different from one another that, if they had been discovered in different locations, they would have been classified as belonging to different species. However, scientists know from the context and surroundings in which they were discovered, that the five Dmanisi skulls belonged to members of the same species.

The conclusion drawn from those differences and variations, seen within members of the same hominid species, might radically upend our understanding of hominid lineages. The Dmanisi skulls demonstrate that early hominids had variations and differences in appearance between members of the same species, just like modern humans have variations and differences in appearance between each other.

That being so, it casts in doubt the grounds for classifying early hominids into different species, such as Homo erectus, Homo habilis, and Homo rudolfensis, based on the observed differences and variations in their fossils. What if those skulls do not belong to different species, but to a single species whose individuals, as with the Dmanisi skulls, or as with modern humans, simply have a variety of appearances?

10 of History’s Most Fascinating Archaeological Finds
The Great Library of Alexandria and Mouseion compound. io9

Budget Cuts, Not Fire, Destroyed the Great Library of Alexandria

The Great Library of Alexandria, founded by Ptolemy I Soter and maintained thereafter by his Ptolemaic Dynasty successors, was the ancient world’s greatest library. It was more than just a “library”, as the word is commonly understood today. It did contain the ancient world’s largest collection of books and tracts, to be sure – up to 400,000 scrolls by some estimates. However, it was more than a big building compound with a lot of a written material.

Part of a larger research institution known as the Mouseion of Alexandria, the Great Library was also the ancient world’s greatest educational and research center. The great thinkers of the age, philosophers, mathematicians, scientists, poets, and other academics, all flocked to Alexandria to study and exchange ideas. The Great Library’s lecture halls, meeting rooms, and gardens, teemed with an educational and intellectual fervor and ferment that would not be seen again for centuries.

Then, at some point, the Great Library of Alexandria was lost to history, along with its vast store of ancient knowledge. That loss, and its disappearance as a research and higher education institute, is one of the greatest tragedies in the history of science, the arts, and knowledge in general. However, how the Great Library’s demise came about has long been clouded by mystery and myths.

The most widespread popular perceptions revolve around the library burning down or otherwise getting destroyed in some cataclysmic event. One of the earliest accounts, by the Greek historian Plutarch (46 – 120 AD), holds that the library was accidentally destroyed by Julius Caesar during the siege of Alexandria in 48 BC. However, the geographer Strabo, writing 30 years after the siege of Alexandria about the Mouseion to which the Great Library was attached, makes no mention of such destruction.

Another culprit is Christian zealotry. According to these accounts, after the Emperor Theodosius banned pagan practices in 391, gangs of Christians celebrated with anti pagan riots, during which they torched the building. However, the accounts of the rioting actually refer to the Christians destroying the Serapium, or temple of Serapis, which is not the Great Library, or even a library at all.

Another culprit is the Muslim Caliph Omar. Supposedly, after Egypt fell to the Muslims in the 7th century, somebody asked the conquering general Amr for the books in the royal library. Amr wrote the Caliph for instructions, and Omar reportedly replied “If the books are in agreement with the Quran, we have no need of them, and if they are opposed to the Quran, destroy them“. However, there is nothing to support this story other than a single account by a Syrian Christian writer, who probably wanted to tarnish the Caliph’s image.

The fact of the matter, is that there is no archaeological evidence to support any account of a cataclysmic destruction of the Great Library. The likeliest culprit is something more prosaic and petty: budget cutbacks. The Ptolemaic Dynasty generously supported the Great Library, both out of belief in its mission, and because its presence lent their capital city of Alexandria significant prestige as the ancient world’s greatest educational center. That changed after the Romans conquered Egypt in 30 BC: the new rulers had no attachment to the Great Library, so they did not support it like the Ptolemaic rulers had.

Additionally, Alexandria in the Roman era was given to frequent rioting between its Greek, Jewish, and native Egyptian populations – not the most inviting environment for scholars. More significantly, the Emperor Marcus Aurelius suspended the Mouseion’s revenue, eliminated its members’ stipends, and expelled all foreign scholars from Alexandria. The Great Library’s significance in the ancient world was based not on its being a repository of scrolls, but on its scholarship. When Marcus Aurelius essentially fired the scholars and forbade new students from coming in, he effectively shut down the Great Library’s operations. It would be analogous to the fate of MIT or Harvard, if all their professors were fired, and out of state students were prohibited from setting foot in Boston.

10 of History’s Most Fascinating Archaeological Finds
Ahhotep I’s bust, awards, jewels, and weapons. Temple of Mut

The Coffin of Ahhotep I, Ancient Egyptian Warrior Queen

In the late 19th century, Egyptologists discovered coffins at archaeological digs in Deir al Bahri and Draa Abu al Naga, including the coffins of one of Ancient Egypt’s most remarkable women, Queen Ahhotep I (circa 1560 – 1530 BC). She was a Seventeenth Dynasty warrior queen, who led armies in combat against the Hyksos – Semitic invaders who had conquered Lower Egypt. When her husband was killed fighting the invaders, Ahhotep took control of Egypt’s throne and armies as regent during the minority of her son, Ahmose I. As regent, she kept up the pressure against the Hyksos until her son was old enough to take over the fight.

According to a stele recording her deeds during this period: “The king’s wife, the noble lady, who knew everything, assembled Egypt. She looked after what her Sovereign had established. She guarded it. She assembled her fugitives. She brought together her deserters. She pacified her Upper Egyptians. She subdued her rebels … She is the one who has accomplished the rites and taken care of Egypt… She has looked after her soldiers, she has guarded her, she has brought back her fugitives and collected together her deserters, she has pacified Upper Egypt and expelled her rebels.”

Eventually, Ahhotep’s son came of age, took the reins of power, chased out the Hyksos, and reunified Egypt. He then went on to found the Eighteenth Dynasty, Ancient Egypt’s most famous and successful. During that dynasty, the Egyptian Empire reached its zenith, stretching from Syria in the north to Nubia in the south, and from Mesopotamia in the west to the Libyan deserts in the west.

While her son was busy in the south warring with Nubians, a cabal of Hyksos-sympathizing rebels attempted to seize the throne. Ahhotep rallied loyal troops, fought them off, and foiled their attempt. For that, she was rewarded with the “Golden Flies of Valor” – Ancient Egypt’s highest military award for courage – which was discovered in her tomb, along with weapons and jewelry, thousands of years later.

10 of History’s Most Fascinating Archaeological Finds
Battle of Megiddo. Pintrest

Archaeology Supports Ancient Accounts of History’s First Well-Attested Battle

When exactly history’s first battle – defined as a sustained fight between large bodies of armed people – took place is unknown. However, it probably took place not long after the first two relatively large groups of humans had a conflict over a vital resource or territory that neither party could simply walk away from. While clashes and skirmishes were probably frequent between human bands since the dawn of history, battles probably would have been rare in humanity’s hunter gatherer days. Except in periods of dire want, it would be easier for one hunter gatherer group or the other to just move on, instead of both sides making a sustained do-or-die affair out of a dispute.

That almost certainly changed with the agricultural revolution, circa 10,000 BC, when humans settled down and began farming the land. Unlike hunter gatherers, farmers had strong ties to the specific territory containing their crops, so they could not just up stakes and move on. Aside from the significant investment of time and effort that went into farming, farmers counted on the crops in the ground for survival.

Thus, history’s first battles probably occurred tens of thousands of years ago, surely by about 10,000 BC, and for a certainty, battles were a regular feature accompanying the rise of history’s first civilizations by around 3500 BC. However, history’s first battle for which have sufficient details to understand what went on, when, where, who and how, was The Battle of Megiddo, in 1457 BC. It took place between an Egyptian army led by Pharaoh Thutmose III, and a coalition of rebellious Canaanite states. The rebellion was centered on the city of Megiddo, an important hub at the southern edge of the Jezreel Valley, astride the main trade route between Mesopotamia and Egypt.

Thutmose advanced from Egypt at the head of a strong army to Yaham. From Yaham, he had the choice of three routes to reach Megiddo: a southern one via Taanach, a northern route via Yoqneam, and a central one via Aruna that would take him straight to Megiddo. The southern and northern routes were longer, but safer. The central route was quicker but risky, entailing passage through narrow ravines in which an army would have to advance single file, vulnerable to being bottled up front and rear.

Thutmose realized that the central route was so obviously dangerous that no reasonable commander would risk his army in its ravines. He also guessed the rebels would leave it unguarded because they would not expect the Egyptians to be so foolhardy as to court disaster by running such an obvious risk. So Thutmose gambled on the central route, and as he had guessed, it was unguarded. The Egyptians arrived at Megiddo sooner than expected, caught the Canaanites flat footed, and won a decisive victory that secured Egyptian hegemony over the region for centuries.

Archaeologists and geographers have identified the approach routes to Megiddo that Thutmose chose from. In addition to Egyptian reports of the importance of Megiddo and the victory there, the Old Testament describes Megiddo as a powerful city. Archaeological digs at el Amarna in Egypt provided supporting evidence that Megiddo was one of Canaan’s greatest cities during this period. Specifically, the discovery of six letters, part of what came to be known as the “Amarna Tablets”, that were sent by a King Biridiya of Megiddo to the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten in the 14th century BC.

Additionally, the site of Megiddo itself has been discovered and excavated. The digs which are still ongoing as of 2018, reveal a well situated city atop a hill. Its fortifications are elaborate, with water systems that helped defenders withstand sieges. Palaces with storage facilities made Megiddo more formidable still, and archaeologists describe the site as containing some of the most elaborate Iron Age architectural remains in the Levant.

Interestingly, 3375 years after the ancient battle, General Allenby, an avid student of ancient history, was confronted with the same choice as Thutmose III during WWI. He led a British army advancing from the south against Ottomans and Germans entrenched in the Jezreel Valley. Allenby stole a march on them, and arrived unexpectedly in front of Megiddo by using Thutmose’s central route via Aruna.

10 of History’s Most Fascinating Archaeological Finds
Aerial view of the ruins of Masada. Wikimedia

The Ruins of Masada and the Sicarii, History’s First Terrorists

In his history of the Great Jewish Revolt, the Romanized Jewish historian Josephus describes a last stand by a band of Jewish fanatics known as the Sicarii, who holed up in a hilltop fortress known as the Masada. The Romans besieged the fortress, and their engineers began building a ramp that daily brought the legionaries closer to the rebels. When it became clear that the fortress was bound to fall, the defenders committed mass suicide, killing their wives and children, then each other. 960 people died, and when the Romans finally entered Masada, they discovered only two women and five children still alive.

The Sicarii were a militant faction of the Zealots, a 1st century AD Judean faction that sought to launch a rebellion to free Judea from the Roman yoke. Their efforts would lead to the Great Jewish Revolt of 66 – 73 AD. While the Zealots were radical, their Sicarii splinter went to extremes that qualify them as history’s earliest identifiable terrorists.

Sicarii, meaning “dagger men” in Latin, got their name from the knives known as sicae, which they used to kill their victims. They aimed to rid Judea of the Romans and their Jewish collaborators, and resorted to terrorism and assassination to accomplish their goal. They hid in crowds at public gatherings, waited for an opportune moment, then charged their targets, stabbed them, and escaped in the ensuing confusion and panic by blending into the crowd.

Their main victims were the pro-Roman Jewish aristocracy, whom they slaughtered, and whose estates they torched. Eventually, the Sicarii turned to kidnapping and hostage taking for ransom. Their prominent victims included a High Priest of the Jewish Temple, after whose killing they went on an assassination spree that terrorized Judea’s upper strata of Jews and Romans.

Sicarii victims, particularly Imperial officials, were often targeted in a deliberate attempt to provoke the Romans, who seldom needed much provocation before visiting massacre and collective punishment upon the Jewish population. That kept the embers of discontent smoldering, lit new flames of resentment, and ensured a steady stream of new recruits and sympathizers from the families and friends of the Romans’ victims.

Sicarii terrorism had many modern traits. They engaged in sabotage to worsen the populace’s living conditions and keep them disgruntled. Faced with an occupier prone to indiscriminate violence, the Sicarii deliberately provoked the Romans by committing atrocities that all but guaranteed massive Roman retaliation. That forced the hands of many fence sitters by presenting them with unenviable choices. They could do nothing, but it would not keep them from getting massacred or enslaved by angry Romans, in no mood to distinguish “good” Jews from bad. Or they could join the resistance in the hopes of gaining freedom, or at least the dignity of dying while fighting.

That strategy was evident during the run up to the Jewish Revolt, when the Roman governor responded to tax protests by arresting prominent Jews and looting Jerusalem’s Temple. The protests escalated into a full blown revolt that forced the Romans and their pet king to flee Judea. Early on, the Sicarii attacked and seized the fortress of Masada near the Dead Sea, then descended upon nearby Roman enclaves to massacre whomever they could find. They slaughtered over 700 Roman women and children. That ensured that there could be no turning back, and thus solidified their own ranks. It also confronted other Judeans with the prospect of massive retaliation and collective punishment of the innocent and guilty alike, if the Romans won.

The Sicarii then joined other rebels in attacking Jerusalem, which they liberated in 66 AD, then began killing known and suspected collaborators en masse. Sicarii victims included opponents, suspected opponents, and those who failed to display sufficient enthusiasm in supporting the Sicarii. Their extremism led to a backlash and uprising by the city’s population, and a falling out with the other rebels. It ended in Sicarii defeat, the capture, torture, and execution of their leader, and the group’s expulsion from Jerusalem. The survivors retreated to the fortress of Masada, and contented themselves with plundering the surrounding countryside.

In the meantime, the Zealots and other radicals managed to crush the popular backlash and retained control of Jerusalem until it was besieged, conquered, and razed by the Romans in 70 AD. The Romans then began mopping up operations, and eventually reached the final holdouts, the Sicarii in Masada. Considering all they had done, the prospects of leniency were slim if the Romans got a hold of the Sicarii. Rather than face what was bound to be an unenviable fate if they were captured alive, the Sicarii opted for mass suicide.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Sources & Further Reading

Ancient Origins – Goujian: The Ancient Chinese Sword That Defied Time

Ancient Origins – The Destruction of the Great Library of Alexandria

Encyclopedia – Ahhotep

Guardian, The, January 11th, 2010 – Great Pyramid Tombs Unearth Proof Workers Were Not Slaves

Harvard Magazine, July-August 2003 – Who Built the Pyramids?

Hellenic Republic Ministry of Culture and Tourism – The Antikythera Mechanism

io9 – The Great Library at Alexandria Was Destroyed by Budget Cuts, Not Fire

Megiddo Expedition, Google Sites – History of Megiddo

National Geographic, October 19th, 2013 – Beautiful Skull Spurs Debate on Human History

National Geographic, June 19th, 2017 – Cats Domesticated Themselves, Ancient DNA Shows

New Scientist, September 10th, 2015 – New Species of Extinct Human Found in Cave May Rewrite History

New York Time, October 18th, 2013 – Skull Fossil Suggests Simpler Human Lineage

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, January 7th, 2014 – Earliest Evidence For Commensal Processes of Cat Domestication

Wikipedia – Homo Naledi

Wikipedia – Sword of Goujian