The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the world’s oldest literary pieces, being at least 3600 years old — that’s how old this cuneiform tablet is. This tablet is known as the “Dream Tablet” because it contains the part of the story where Gilgamesh explains a dream he had to his mother. Like far too many artifacts, people illegally sold it several times, ultimately ending up with Hobby Lobby’s Museum of the Bible. Because the ancient treasure was illegal, Hobby Lobby had to relinquish it in 2019.
21. This Hill Has a 2000-Year-Old Drawing of a Cat
This enormous picture of a cat is not part of an internet fad. No, the creator was not trying to go viral on YouTube or Instagram. The Nazca Lines are a set of massive geoglyphs. The indigenous inhabitants of what is now Peru drew these pictures into the earth thousands of years ago. This cat is over 120 feet long. Natural effects of erosion and overall neglect were about to destroy it. Luckily, archeologists discovered it. It is now part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and experts still actively preserve it. Keep reading for the top 20 archeological finds in recent years.
With regard to wine, the longer it has been aged, the fancier it is, and the more that people will pay for the bottle, right? Maybe, but we would strongly advise against attempting to drink the wine in this bottle. This artifact dated as far back as 350 CE and was in Germany in 1867. When they found the bottle, it was still perfectly sealed with wax and olive oil and had dolphin-shaped handles on the sides. Other bottles found at the site had been broken, but nobody opened this one. Archeologists believe it contains wine made from grapes grown in the area.
Indigenous cultures in snowy Arctic regions have relied on snowshoes to help them get through several feet of snow without sinking. This snowshoe was found in Norway and dates to about the third or fourth century CE, meaning that it likely belonged to the people commonly known today as Vikings. However, this snowshoe wasn’t for a person; archeologists believe a horse actually used it. Plus, other artifacts found at the site also seem to have been used by horses. So yes, Vikings trekked horses through the snow. As if they couldn’t get any cooler.
Can you tell what this archeological find is? While Europe was languishing in the Medieval Period, the Muslim world, including Iran, was thriving. This picture is of a wallet. It reveals the intricate artistic patterns, probably created by stamps that could have produced these items en masse, used by Islamic artists during the Medieval era. The wallet is made of leather and shows a high quality of craftsmanship, including dying. Archeological evidence shows that they highly valued artwork and craftsmanship in the Medieval Muslim world, along with learning and other forms of culture.
Modern science has examined mummies and determined how the ancient Egyptians created them. However, how exactly were those processes transmitted between generations of Egyptian morticians thousands of years ago? This papyrus gives a clue because it contains the instructions for mummifying a body. This 3500-year-old text explains how to use herbal medicine during the process. It says, “The red linen is then applied to the dead person’s face in order to encase it in a protective cocoon of fragrant and antibacterial matter. This process was repeated at four-day intervals.”
The Napoleonic Wars were the generation after the French Revolution, and they upended Europe with conflict and turmoil as Napoleon sought to extend his empire across the continent. This breastplate belonged to a 23-year-old soldier who fought in the wars. However, a cannonball struck him, which pierced the armor and ended his life. While we can read about the large-scale, historical impacts of the wars, this artifact reveals the brutality and inhumanity that people faced due to the conquests. They preserve the breastplate as a reminder of the horrors that people can inflict on each other.
This picture looks like it could have been created by a child today. However, archeologists found it in the Novgorod region of Russia at a site that dates back to between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries CE. In the upper right-hand corner, the child may have been practicing the letters of the Old Slavic alphabet. He may have gotten bored and shown his artistic penchant for warriors and horses. The child drew the picture on birch bark, and the boy, known as Onfim, may have belonged to a wealthy family that had the means to educate him.
In 2018, workers were excavating in the Thames River, which has long been the lifeblood of London. They uncovered the skeleton of a man who seemed to have drowned while working in the sewers. The boots would likely not have been intentionally buried with someone because they would have been quite expensive and passed on to others. The skeleton dates back to about the fifteenth century, and the leather boots indicate that he may have worked in a notoriously dangerous profession that kept him close to the water.
Vikings may be best-remembered for the raids that upended European civilization during the Medieval Period, but they also knew how to relax and have a good time. They enjoyed playing board games, including one somewhat similar to chess. Archeologists discovered these chess-like pieces at a grave in Sweden. These pieces are glass or could be bone, and they have various shapes and sizes. Whether or not the Vikings, who were known to be prolific drinkers (just read the myths about Thor), were sober while playing the game is up for debate. Keep reading to learn about some of the best archeological finds in recent years.
Archeologists have discovered numerous sunken cities throughout the decades. Nevertheless, it is still something to talk about when they uncover another one. The Ancient Roman city of Baiae is now partially underwater, and excavation teams have been working for decades to understand it. Baiae was a favorite of the notorious Emperor Nero, and they labeled the site “Nero’s Sunken City.” The statue in this picture is just one example of the opulence and luxury of the emperor’s resort town; also found in abundance are mosaic floors that would have been part of people’s homes. Think of Baiae as the Las Vegas of Ancient Rome.
11. This Horn is From the One of Last Aurochs Bull
Aurochs were a kind of bull that lived in Europe until about 1627 when the last one is known to have died. People used their horns to make drinking vessels, and the drinking vessels reveal the genetic make-up of these now-extinct beasts. They had much in common with today’s cattle. The drinking vessel shown in this picture was made in 1620 and came from one of the last aurochs. The intricate artwork shows that people may have used it for ceremonial and religious purposes. Get ready for the top ten archeological discoveries within the past few years!
Many significant archeological finds tend to come up when construction crews are working on the foundations of buildings. This gold turned up in Bulgaria in 1972 when crews were working in a factory near the Black Sea. It dates from about 4600 BCE, during the Copper Age. Archeologists came to the site and decided to keep digging to see if they could find more. They uncovered hundreds of graves, alongside a full 13 pounds of gold that had been worked into the designs shown in this photograph.
9. These Gold Sandals Came With Gold Toe Coverings
As if one could not get more luxurious than having sandals made entirely of gold, the wives of the Ancient Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose III also had golden toe coverings to wear with the sandals. While that looks all well and good, imagine trying to walk around with those things stuck onto your toes. They would probably cause a fair share of bruising and bleeding! Thutmose III lived and reigned in the fifteenth century BCE over a territory that extended from Egypt through Palestine and Syria. His tomb, along with these sandals, was discovered in 1916.
8. This Medieval Village Rises and Falls with the Lake
Fabbriche di Careggine is a village built near Tuscany in the thirteenth century and remained occupied until modern times. In 1946, builders completed a dam on the local lake, and the village disappeared into an artificial reservoir. There were 150 residents of the town at that time, and the city relocated all of them. When they drain the reservoir for maintenance work, the village reappears. Whenever this happens, tourists flood the site to see for themselves the town that rises and falls. It last re-emerged in 2021.
If you think that Yahtzee was the first game that involved throwing dice, think again. This icosahedron, or 20-sided die, was used by ancient diviners who pitched it as part of their attempts to predict the future. Divination was a common practice in the ancient world, and like games that involved throwing dice, it has survived in various forms to the present. Fortune tellers still use tarot cards, astrology, tea leaves, and palm lines to try to predict the future and, like their ancient counterparts, are experts at swindling people out of all of their money.
6. This Archeological Find May Be the Real Sword in the Stone
The sword in the stone is a classic item from Arthurian legend. The story claims that there was a sword stuck in a rock that no one could retrieve except the true king, and the unassuming Arthur was able to recover it with minimal effort. Nevertheless, is there any historical basis to the story? Saint Galgano was once a knight in Italy, but he renounced his lifestyle for asceticism by plunging his sword into a stone to create a cross. The site of Galgano’s sword has allegedly seen 19 miracles, leading to the former knight’s beatification. Continue reading to learn the amazing five things archeologists discovered over the recent years.
The Cressoni Theatre in Como, Italy, opened in 1807 and closed in 1997. At that point, it was supposed to be razed to the ground. However, the Ministry of Culture determined that the site held a potential treasure trove of ancient artifacts, and in 2018, an archeological team discovered these gold coins. They were stacked neatly in rows, similarly to how banks roll coins nowadays. Archeologists who have studied the find believe that it belonged to a Roman bank rather than a private individual. Furthermore, the coins date from the fifth century — about the time Rome fell.
4. These Horses Were Buried with the Archeological Chariot
People commonly used chariots throughout the ancient world, from Asia to Africa to Europe. The chariot in this picture was found in Bulgaria, part of modern Europe, and it was made out of wood and bronze about 2000 years ago. Chariots were powerful tools of warfare used by those with power and authority. The horses buried with the chariot indicate that they died as part of a military campaign. Archeologists who have studied the site speculated that the people would have made offerings to ensure that the horses had safe passage to the afterlife. Continue reading for the top three things archeologists discovered recently.
Ancient Rome had boundaries that extended all the way to modern Scotland, known at the time as Caledonia. Italy today is full of ruins from the empire. The ditch dug in this picture reveals an exceptionally well-preserved tile floor that was part of a Roman villa during the third century CE. It was found under a vineyard in 2020 and is still under study by the Verona Fine Arts and Landscape teams. Technicians are busy working to discover how extensive the floor is so that they can excavate it and preserve it according to modern methods.
Okay, that actually shouldn’t be too terribly surprising. Helmets protect the head, and this person died while wearing his helmet, so his head was still inside when they found it. Not surprising, but still really interesting. Experts believe the Corinthian helmet is from the Battle of Marathon, which gave rise to the legend about the Greek warrior who ran 26.2 miles to warn of the approaching army. Today, marathons are 26.2 miles in his honor. They fought the battle as part of the struggle between Ancient Greece and Ancient Persia, both of which were empires aiming to achieve dominance.
Take a look at this beautiful archeological find. Astrological rings were reasonably standard in the Late Medieval Period and the Renaissance. As shown in the picture, they usually had two to eight bands that could be folded down into a ring or unfolded to make a globe. Though common, they were a sign of status. Why? Because the jewelry came in gold and were very expensive to make. This one dates from the sixteenth century and could reveal astrological signs that the wearer could interpret. These rings and other astrological artifacts tell us how people during that period understood and used astrology.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading