20 Archaeological Finds That Rewrote History
20 Archaeological Finds That Rewrote History

20 Archaeological Finds That Rewrote History

Khalid Elhassan - July 19, 2019

20 Archaeological Finds That Rewrote History
Antikythera Mechanism reconstruction. Research Gate

3. A 2000 year old computer

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.

The device 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.

20 Archaeological Finds That Rewrote History
Howard Carter and King Tut. Famous Biographies

2. Egyptology’s most famous find

In November of 1922, after more than a decade searching, Egyptologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb of pharaoh Tutankhamen, in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. He sent a telegram to the chief financier of his archaeological expeditions, George Herbert, 5th Lord of Carnarvon, urging him to hurry to Egypt to witness the opening of the tomb in person. After his patron arrived later that month, Carter proceeded to carefully excavate the site, and on November 29th, 1922, the tomb was opened. After making his way through a tunnel, Carter reached the main burial chamber. There, he made a hole in a sealed door, then thrust a candle inside. After a pause, an eager Lord Carnarvon asked him “can you see anything?” He received the reply “Yes, wonderful things!

As Carter described it later: “as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold – everywhere the glint of gold“. The following day, the dramatic discovery was announced to the press, catapulting Carter and Tutankhamen to global fame. The burial chamber was dominated by four shrines, surrounding the pharaoh’s granite sarcophagus. Within were three coffins, nestled inside one another, with the outer two being made of gilded wood, while the innermost one was composed of about 250 pounds of solid gold. It contained the mummified body of Tutankhamen, adorned with a funerary gold mask that weighed about 25 pounds. That death mask, with features simultaneously so familiar and yet so exotic, became the best known symbol of Ancient Egypt.

20 Archaeological Finds That Rewrote History
King Tut’s gold mask. PBS

1. King Tut triggered and Egyptomania that continues to this day

All in all, Howard Carter found about 5400 items in Tutankhamen’s tomb. They included a throne, wine jars, statues of various gods and of the king, and even two fetuses that subsequent DNA examination revealed to have been the stillborn offspring of Tutankhamen. It would take Carter nearly a decade before he could finish cataloguing them them all. Amazingly, the rich haul was what was left over after ancient robbers had twice tunneled their way into the tomb. Both times, the robbery was discovered, and the tunnels filled in.

The find triggered a wave of Egyptomania. Tutankhamen came to be known as “King Tut” – a name that was soon appropriated by businesses to brand various products. Ancient Egyptian references made their way into popular culture, and musical hits such as “Old King Tut” became all the rage. Even US president Herbert Hoover caught the Tutankhamen bug, and named his pet dog King Tut.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

Ancient History Encyclopedia – Troy

Ancient Origins – Questioning the Mycenaean Death Mask of Agamemnon

Beyond Science, June 1st, 2017 – Goujian: The Ancient Sword That Defied Time

Discovering Ancient Egypt – Mystery of the Rosetta Stone

Encyclopedia Britannica – Pompeii

History Today, Volume 61, Issue 7, July, 2011 – The Discovery of Machu Picchu

List On Tap – Top 10 Greatest Archaeological Discoveries of All Time

National Geographic – Emperor Qin‘s Tomb

National Geographic History Magazine – Close Call: How Howard Carter Almost Missed King Tut‘s Tomb

Natural History Museum, London – Homo Naledi, Your Most Recently Discovered Human Relative

Natural History Museum, London – Piltdown Man

Smithsonian Magazine, February, 2015 – Decoding the Antikythera Mechanism, the First Computer

Wikipedia – Library of Ashurbanipal