Human evolution is an ongoing process. From ancient times to date, human society has evolved with many civilizations, many changes and many historical events. But, how do we know today that, thousands of years ago, there was a civilization? And, some people witnessed these incidents. The primary sources of knowing the past are two – literature and archaeology. Today we explore the notable archaeological findings in the world.
On one hand, literature studies different written documents of the evidence that human civilization existed there. On the other hand, archaeology puts its expertise into finding the remains of past civilizations.
What is Archaeology?
Archaeology refers to the in-depth study of the ancient and recent human past by finding and examining material remains in archaeological findings. For example, the field of study of archaeology might include the first human ancestors on the African continent or a very recent event of historical significance.
The word archaeology originated from the Greek word ‘arkhaios’, which means ‘ancient’; from there, the term ‘arkhaiologia’ coinage, meaning ‘ancient history’. Finally, Modern Latin has modified the term ‘archaeologia’, from which the word ‘archaeology’ derives. Archaeology studies human history by analyzing the physical remains of the past with a comprehensive understanding of human culture.
Throughout the years of archaeological studies, equipped with technological advances, it has successfully found a lot of historical evidence of the past. Some of the archaeological findings have shaken the world, while some have changed the perspective of past events entirely.
Archaeology aims to explore and understand the changing patterns in human behavior over time. Expert archaeologists look for patterns in changes in the evolution of various cultural events. These may include the formation and development of cities and civilization, the development of farming, or any collapse of major civilizations. Archaeologists look for clues about why these significant events occurred.
The following are some of the most notable archaeological findings that led the world’s entire population to a jaw-dropping experience.
A significant archaeological finding of the entire history traces back to AD 79. A devastating volcanic eruption from Mt. Vesuvius, gulped the Roman city, Pompeii. It left everyone in the city dead under a cloud of volcanic gases and debris and a layer of pumice stone and ash around 6-7 metres deep.
The buried city of Pompeii remained undiscovered for quite an extended period, and it was the late 16th century when an architect named Dominico Fontana had found some traces of the walls of the Roman city. Finally, however, archaeological findings of the Herculaneum were found in the 18th century near Pompeii and faced the same fatality. Soon after this finding, the city of Pompeii was excavated by itself. It has remained a rich, informative archaeological site since then, as well as a hotspot for tourism.
Found in China, the Terracotta Warriors are one of the most significant archaeological explorations worldwide. The fascinating clay sculpture of 8000 soldiers, 130 chariots and 530 horses buried along with the dead body of the first Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huang, to protect him.
Located less than a mile under the ground at the pyramid-shaped mausoleum of the emperor in Xi’an city in China’s Shaanxi province, the Terracotta Army was excavated in 1974. It stands as one of the most enormous tombs in the entire history of archaeology, and many believe that the tomb is a replica of the city of Xi’an. However, scientists have not been able to enter the tomb due to health concerns. The description on the tomb reads that the faux rivers and streams once flowed toxic mercury. The Terracotta Army is a rich archaeological findings site, and for people who want to do an extensive study of the subject, it is the best place to come.
Rosetta Stone often associates with the great emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte. The British Museum claims that the emperor’s soldiers accidentally found the Rosetta Stone during their work on a fort in the Nile Delta.
The artefact contains an inscription from the times of Ptolemaic King Ptolemy V, and it is in three languages – Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic script and Ancient Greek. Thus, it became the first archaeological findings site with an Ancient Egyptian Bi-lingual text. Egyptologist Jean-François Champollion deciphered the message on the Rosetta Stone in 1822, which opened the doors for transcription of other texts.
The Tomb of Tutankhamun
Discovered by a team of expert archaeologists led by British Egyptologist Howard Carter in 1922, the Tomb of King Tut or Tutankhamun is one of history’s most mysterious archaeological findings. Moreover, it is one of the great pieces of evidence to know about the royal and lavish lifestyle of the ancient Egyptian Kings.
King Tutankhamun came to power in 1332 BC and died just after nine years. According to the archaeologists, King Tut met an unexpected death, buried in a hurry. As a result, the colour on the tomb walls was not dry when the tomb was sealed. However, the tomb was a symbol of sophistication and contained around 2000 pieces of valuable antiques. The Tomb of King Tut witnesses a great flow of archaeologists despite the myths circulating the tomb.
If an archaeological site has provided complete information about the earliest human ancestors and their evolution, the Olduvai Gorge of Tanzania is solely responsible. It is a steep ravine in the Great Rift Valley in Tanzania, and the fossil remains on it show the existence of a human species of 1.9 million years old.
The husband-wife duo, paleoanthropologists Louis and Mary Leakey- discovered this archaeological site in the 1930s. Later on, in 1959, Mary Leakey uncovered parts of a skull and upper teeth belonging to an early human ancestor, which lived about 1.75 million years ago.
Olduvai Gorge remains one of the most important archaeological findings site for academic purposes. It provided complete information about human evolution and confirmed the first human ancestor’s existence in Africa.
Dead Sea Scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls refers to a collection of 800-page manuscripts found by a young shepherd named Muhammed Edh-Dhib in the 11 caves near the Dead Sea. The shepherd is looking for his stray goat near an ancient site named Khirbet Qumran located on the West Bank of the Dead Sea and accidentally finds the manuscript in a ceramic jar.
Certain scroll copies lie in Jerusalem, and some lie in the Israel Museum for public display. There are various copies of Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Kings and Deuteronomy in the scroll. In addition, some of the copies contain hymns, calendars and psalms, whereas specific works portray the earliest known copies of the Hebrew Bible. According to the archaeological findings, the scrolls belong to the time between 250 BC and AD 68.
Cave of Altamira
The Spanish archaeological site, Cave of Altamira, has evidence of the prehistoric age. The Cave’s walls have paintings from the prehistoric age, and these paintings are of charcoal and natural earth pigments. These drawings are called Paleolithic drawings, and they depict horses, deer, bison and aurochs, an extinct species of cattle. There are also some outlines of human hands.
The Cave was discovered in the year 1879 by an archaeologist father-daughter duo. About the age of the artworks, it is believed that they are around 18000 years old. However, some find traces of it being around 35000 years old.
The Grave of Richard III
Finding the Grave of Richard III is an important discovery for archaeologists around the world. King Richard III was the last Plantagenet King of England, and he died in a battle in 1485. However, instead of a grand funeral, the King’s body was buried in the Church of the Grey Friars of Leicester.
This finding in 2012 is vital because the archaeologists had been researching the King’s burial site until that year, and it remained a mystery for years. Finally, however, archaeological findings by a few archaeologists from the University of Leicester portray on the historical record. Lately, in 2015, King Richard III was reburied in a marble tomb.
One of the most famous archaeological sites and a tourist destination, Machu Picchu of Peru, is the royal mirror of the Inca Empire. It is a 15th century Inca Royal Estate existing at a much higher altitude.
The remarkable archaeological findings site unearthed in modern time by Hiram Bingham III. Hiram was a professor at Yale University, and he rediscovered the site in 1911. One of the most beautiful historical places globally, the Inca Royal Estate covers around 326 square kilometres. The entire site has walls, houses, terraces, and many temples. Machu Picchu is a historically important place from the time of the Inca ruler Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui.
In ancient times, the incidents of volcanic eruption were more frequent and more devastating. The lava has destroyed many cities, and many changes have come to the geographical prospect. Very similar to the Roman city of Pompeii, Akrotiri was a city on the Thera Island of Greece. It had stone and ash coverings from the eruption of the Thera Volcano. However, what distinguishes it is that no trace of human bodies has been found in Akrotiri. The archaeologists believe that there might be some predictive thoughts about the eruption leading the people to evacuate the city.
The initial discovery and excavation of archaeological findings Akrotiri city happened in 1867. However, excavation on a mass scale took place in 1967 under the Greek archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos. The team found sophisticated private homes, paved streets, indoor toilets and richly painted frescoes.
Sutton Hoo is a famous discovery in the history of England. Its discovery leads to the ancient Anglo-Saxon period. It was first found in 1939 in Suffolk, England. A lady named Edith Pretty, the owner of the Sutton Hoo Estate, found a burial mound on her property. Later on, a proper investigation reveals the remains of a 27-metre-long ship from the Anglo-Saxon period, along with a skeleton of an Anglo-Saxon leader. The ship was loaded with treasures along with an iron helmet, silver and gold jewellery. The archaeological findings provide a lot of information about medieval England. Most of the artefacts found are on public display at the British Museum.
Another tremendous and dramatic archaeological discovery in England is the Staffordshire Hoard. Like Sutton Hoo, it also leads us to the Anglo-Saxon period. In 2009, Terry Herbert used a metal detector in his crop fields in the countryside of England when the largest hoard of the Anglo-Saxon period was unearthed. The treasure includes more than 3500 items made of gold, silver and other metals. The archaeologists believe that most of the jewellery pieces are for warfare and not like the typical metals that artists use for making ornaments.
Further research confirms that the archaeological findings excavated from the hoard belong to the 7th century AD. The items are on display for the public at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in the UK.
Found in Peru’s Nazca desert, these are some geoglyphs located on the coastal plateau. The Nazca Lines include some geometric designs as well as some animal and bird structures. This site covers around 450 square kilometres. One can see them from the cliffs and while flying over the desert.
The structures date back to 500 BC, the ancient Nazca people’s regime. The Nazca lines are well visible throughout the years, though there is no credit to anyone for their discovery. However, American historian Paul Kosok is the first researcher to study the Nazca Lines properly.
A 299.000-year-old Skull
The year 2020 saw the studies and judgements on a skull found 100 years earlier. An archaeological research team from Australia’s Griffith University and London’s Natural History Museum have conducted in-depth research and found that the skull was about 299,000 years old.
The skull was found in Zambia and was previously speculated to be 500000 years old. Therefore, this has to be one of the most significant archaeological findings of recent times. Further studies on the skull are going on, and in the coming times, we will be getting more information about human existence at a time we cannot imagine.
Easter Island Moai
On Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean, there has been a discovery of 887 massive statues. There is a belief that the statues a tribute to the Rapa Nui people between 1250 to 1500 AD.
The statues are popular as Moai, and they are one of the most impressive structures on the entire list. However, these statues were built with a lot of information. The Moai statues make the Chilean Polynesian Island an attractive place to visit.
Archaeology is an exciting subject in the world. It takes us back to when people were far away from technology, yet able to build scientifically robust structures, build streets and cities and live a worldly life. Moreover, the archaeological findings leave us with a sense of wonder and mystery about past incidents and events. It is pretty mesmerizing that one piece of ancient artefact or sculpture can contain and provide so much information. In addition, that is why these archaeological sites and findings make excellent places of interest from a tourist perspective.