The Most Groundbreaking Archaeological Discoveries of 2023
In the world of archaeology, the race against time continues this year, with an unceasing quest for the next great treasure and an eternal endeavor to make the past speak.
2023 has proven to be particularly fruitful, as exemplified by the Tibetan skull discovery. Its teeth and intricately decorated features were remarkably preserved, but the true origins of the skull remain a mystery.
The Breastplate Fragment
Napoleon Bonaparte led the French revolutionary forces until their defeat in the famous Battle of Waterloo. Antoine Fraveau was one of the many young men who followed the esteemed military leader into battle, wearing the standard metal breastplate armor.
The breastplate provided soldiers protection against blunt weapons, sword thrusts, gunshots, and other potentially deadly methods of warfare. However, no matter how thick the armor, it could not shield a man from a heavy cannonball heading straight toward him. Fraveau was hit in the chest during the renowned 1815 battle and, as you can imagine from the image, was undoubtedly killed on the spot.
Petra, the Famous Archaeological Site
It is hard to fathom that the entire wall of Petra was chiseled by hand into sandstone. This archaeological site is unparalleled and remains one of Jordan's main attractions for travelers. The area was inhabited as early as 7,000 BC, and the iconic landmark was likely constructed around 2,000 BC. It was home to the ancient settlers, the Nabataeans.
The Nabataeans built Petra with their masterful craftsmanship and construction skills, creating a city that epitomized architectural marvels. Historians still puzzle over their remarkable achievements. Unfortunately, much of the area was destroyed in an earthquake in the 6th century. Nevertheless, the most impressive architecture has survived and can still be admired today.
The Horses and Their Chariot
Archaeologists discovered the 2,500-year-old remains of two horses and their chariot, along with perfectly preserved wheels, a seat, and a boot. These are believed to have belonged to Thracian nobility. The discovery was made in a Thracian tomb, along with other valuable artifacts from the time, in the village of Sveshtari in northeastern Bulgaria.
These are the best-preserved remains of horses and a chariot, and it is unlikely that better-preserved ones will ever be found. The Thracians were a group of Indo-European tribes that spread across Eastern Europe, and the first Greek Thracian colonies are thought to have been established in 800 BC.
Shoes from Almost 2,000 Years Ago
A body was discovered in 1900 by a man originally from Damendorf. The body was appropriately named the Damendorf Man, although what was left of it can no longer be precisely classified as male. Almost everything was gone, except for the man's jewelry and clothing.
The shoes of the Damendorf Man were perfectly preserved, and they were clearly handmade from leather. These shoes offer us a glimpse of what sandals may have looked like back then, as they attempted to cover the feet while still leaving air holes for breathability. They have been studied by numerous researchers and even helped historians make a few new discoveries.
The Most Fascinating Archaeological Finds
The Prohibition was a remarkable era in American history. Following a period of alcoholism and family violence, the federal government introduced a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, import, transport, and sale of alcoholic beverages, lasting from 1920 to 1933. This led to an incredible cat-and-mouse game between criminals and the FBI.
The FBI was hot on the trail of moonshiners and constantly found new ways to catch them. One of these ways was using footprints as evidence, leading to the arrest and prosecution of many moonshiners. However, these crafty criminals found an ingenious solution by using cow hoof prints as false shoe soles, completely masking their footprints.
Allied Spies' Reversible Shoes
World War II was full of intelligence operations, assassination plans, and much more. Without the internet, wars were still fought under enemy lines with various tricks. One of the most impressive and creative tactics employed by the Allies to combat the Germans was the use of reversible shoes.
These shoes were absolutely brilliant as they essentially left tracks leading in the opposite direction. This was just one of many incredible tricks executed during World War II, showcasing the ingenuity of people in survival situations. Allied spies used these shoes to deceive the Germans and cover their tracks.
Gloves Worn by a Roman Emperor
You might notice that these gloves bear a striking resemblance to the ones Sauron wore in "Lord of the Rings" during the trilogy. However, these metal gloves were worn by Maximilian I, a Holy Roman Emperor. He received them in preparation for war and held onto them for over a decade.
Some speculate that the Holy Roman Emperor wore these gloves in battle, while others believe they were ceremonial. Gauntlets were an important piece of armory back then, as sword wielders needed them for defense. Blocking a strike would undoubtedly make a fight harder, which is why a pair of these gloves was so crucial.
Stone Head from the Oldest Civilization on Earth
The Olmec were a society of villagers living on the Gulf Coast of Mexico. They were mainly known for the distinctive stone statues they carved, each weighing around 20 tons. These stone heads were carved to commemorate their rulers and are remarkably well-preserved to this day.
The boulders were brought by the Olmec from the Sierra de Los Tuxtlas mountains in Veracruz. The heads they carved from them were arranged at important locations in Olmec. Like many archaeological mysteries, it is unknown how they managed to move these massive boulders from one place to another.
The Statue of Liberty
This iconic monument is one of the most important landmarks in American history, serving as a welcoming symbol for all new immigrants and inspiring values of freedom for all. It was originally constructed in Paris, designed by the French sculptor Frédéric Bartholdi, and sent as a gift to America in the late 19th century.
The statue is shown here in its final form when it was still in Paris. Lady Liberty was originally made of copper, as can be clearly seen in the image. Over the years, it has lost its luster and turned green due to oxidation. It took years to construct the structure and many more years to transport and assemble it on Ellis Island.
A 4.5 Billion-Year-Old Meteor
Some people occasionally stumble upon a $5 bill. However, what you don't expect to find on Earth is a 4.5 billion-year-old meteor made of pallasite. About two decades ago, an anonymous hitchhiker passed through Fukang in Xinjiang, China, when he suddenly came across this extraordinary celestial mass.
This beautiful rock is now known as the Fukang Meteorite. It is covered with pieces of olivine crystals embedded in an iron-nickel matrix. Scientists are not entirely sure where it comes from, but they know it is extremely valuable. The meteorite weighs just over a ton, and just a few grams of its crystals are worth over $500.
The Prague Astronomical Clock
Most historical monuments in Europe represent things that once were but now only remain preserved. However, one monument in Prague is still fully functional. The Prague Astronomical Clock, also known as "Orloj," is one of the most beautiful and immaculate sights in the entire Czech Republic. Originally built in 1410, it has withstood many difficult and turbulent times.
This medieval instrument was used to display astronomical information, such as the relative positions of the sun, moon, zodiac constellations, and major planets. It is located on the southern wall of the Old Town Hall in the Old Town Square. Fortunately, it has been perfectly preserved since its creation and will likely remain there for many decades to come.
The Elephant Gates in Copenhagen
No tour of Copenhagen is complete without a visit to the famous Carlsberg Brewery and its renowned Elephant Gates. It features four life-sized elephant statues, each adorned with a symbol representing the regime of the 1930s in Germany. The elephants were originally constructed in 1901 when the former German chancellor was still a young boy.
When the buildings were first sketched in 1882, their owner, Carl Jacobson, wanted to give his elephants a symbol of good luck and prosperity. Unfortunately, he chose this symbol years before it became a symbol of hatred. The brewery closed its doors several decades later in 1940, but the symbols remain to this day.
Admont Abbey - The Largest Library in the World
Admont Abbey houses the largest library in the world and is one of the most impressive creations in Europe. It was completed in 1776, the same year the United States Declaration of Independence was first signed. The library contains approximately 200,000 books, including 1,400 manuscripts and 530 incunabula.
Admont Abbey also served as the final resting place for Anastasia of Kyiv, the Queen of Hungary around the 11th century. You can also find various incredible ceiling paintings, most of which feature beautiful angels and the heavens. The abbey is open to visitors throughout the year, and you don't even need a guide to navigate through it.
The Waldsassen Abbey - A Hidden Gem in Bavaria
Waldsassen Abbey is neatly hidden away inside a house in Bavaria. Within this house lies one of the most beautiful and fantastical libraries in the world. The abbey was originally founded in 1147 and was renovated by a group of nuns in 1863. It features an incredible collection of books surrounded by breathtaking art and ornamented flooring by Karl Hofreiter.
Everything, from the sculptures to the magnificent ceiling paintings, has been masterfully executed and represents some of the finest works of art in human history. The books in this library are rare and unique, with many bound in pig and calfskin. You can visit the Waldsassen Abbey the next time you travel through Eastern Bavaria, as this church and library are open to visitors.
16th Century Golden Ring - A Fusion of Style and Navigation
In the 20th century, if you wanted to know your location, Google Maps was not an option. You had to use either a physical map or politely ask someone for directions. However, before the 20th century, navigation relied heavily on a sundial and compass.
Getting from place to place was quite complicated and dangerous before modern times. This 16th-century golden ring was created for both style and navigation. Made of gold, it features a sundial and compass. The ring has a latch that reveals both, and it was a brilliant invention when it was first crafted.
Ring from the 16th Century
Rings have been a popular form of jewelry for over 5,000 years. While they were mostly used as adornments symbolizing wealth, some also used them to conceal things.
This aesthetic ring from the 16th century can actually be folded into a series of smaller rings, forming an astronomical sphere. This is a remarkable feat considering it was crafted over five centuries ago. The identity of the ring maker is still unclear, but it is believed that the ring was originally made in Asia.
Marie Antoinette Clock
You may remember Marie Antoinette as the last queen of France, but she was also infamous for allegedly suggesting that her people eat cake when they had no bread. The queen was the subject of much fascination, and no expense was spared in trying to capture her attention.
One of Marie Antoinette's suitors gifted her a clock that was perhaps the most expensive and advanced ever built. It featured a complete calendar, 23 different settings, and almost 1,000 components. It is considered the fifth most complicated clock ever made. Unfortunately, our beautiful queen could not enjoy this clock as she was executed in 1793, and the clock arrived at her doorstep more than three decades later.
Victorian-era Elevator from 1890
Elevators may seem like a recent invention, but while today's modern elevators are indeed quite new, the concept of using a platform to move up and down has been around for decades. Elevators, in a very primitive form, essentially existed even in the Middle Ages.
The first "true" elevators were created sometime in the late 19th century during the Victorian era. They utilized steam and hydraulic systems to move up and down and featured beautiful architecture and designs from that time. The technology eventually progressed, and today's elevators are almost entirely electric, but they have lost some of their artistic features along the way.
The World's First Functional Toaster
If you're a bread lover like us, you probably start your day with a great piece of toast. One might think toasters are a relatively young invention, but this 1920s toaster proves that we are far from the first to invent them.
While the world's first electric toaster was invented in 1893 by Scottish inventor Alan MacMasters, it was a big flop due to lack of interest. The model shown above is one of the first commercially successful designs, showing how far we've come in a century. It can only toast one side of the bread at a time and needs to be manually flipped to finish the job. We're definitely grateful to be born in the present day!
1867 Sewing Machine
Sewing machines were originally invented in 1790 by American inventor Elias Howe Jr. They were one of the leading revolutionary pieces of machinery in the garment industry, providing countless men and women with the ability to produce clothing quickly.
This machine is a rare relic of the sewing machines used in the late 19th century. It utilizes the original mechanism made by Elias Howe less than eighty years prior. Sewing machines have come a long way since then, and with today's technologies, clothing costs just cents to manufacture. However, back then, this machine enabled the most significant reduction in clothing prices ever seen.
Classic Keaton Typewriter
The Keaton Music Mapewriter was one of the most significant inventions for annotating music sheets. This instrument was first invented and patented in 1936. It had 14 keys and was sold for about $2,500 in today's money. It received a major upgrade in 1953, with the number of keys significantly increasing from 14 to 33.
The design of the Keaton Music Mapewriter gave it a distinctive look, making it very unique. It was used by many publishers, educators, and musicians who produced music copies in quantity. Today, the device can be purchased online for $6,000 to $12,000. The Keaton Music Mapewriter is reportedly very convenient to use, although modern music writers would probably argue otherwise.
The Original Winnie the Pooh Plush Toys
A. A. Milne is primarily known for writing numerous children's books about the adventures of Winnie the Pooh and his friends. Milne found his inspiration in his son's various toy animals, which included almost the entire cast of Winnie the Pooh. The toys include Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, and Tigger. Only two characters, Owl and Rabbit, emerged from his imagination.
In the books, Milne's son was the main character, as Christopher Robin is based on his son's personality and name. Robin's toys are on display at the main branch of the New York Public Library in New York City. Despite being almost 100 years old, they are still in near-perfect condition.
1950s Children's Toys
The 1950s were full of nuclear ideas for many historical reasons. Parents spent their days worrying about a possible war, while their children were fascinated by technology. One of the most bizarre and unique children's toys of its time was Gilbert's "Atomic Energy Lab" for nuclear physics, which included three live uranium pieces and a Geiger counter.
The toy allowed children to engage with nuclear energy in a safe and controlled manner, or so claimed the toymaker. Everything about it screams "American '50s," from the cartoon art on the packaging to the complete disregard for safety standards. Unfortunately, we can't really imagine this type of toy working in today's more environmentally conscious climate.
1882 Diving Suit Prototype
This design was originally conceived during the Victorian era and built as a deep-sea diving prototype. The diving suit was entirely made of metal and weighed over 800 pounds, making movement impossible. Initial test dives were all unsuccessful, as the suit kept filling with water.
It is easy to look back now and point out how clumsy this invention was, but unfortunately, this was cutting-edge diving gear for the Victorians at that time. This design was built by the Carmagnole brothers from Marseille, France. It would take almost six more decades for Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Émile Gagnan to invent the world's first fully functional scuba gear.
Late 16th Century Axe
One of the most esteemed professions that has nearly disappeared from the earth is that of a blacksmith. Today's technological advancements make it nearly impossible to make a living as a blacksmith unless you are willing to learn how to monetize your work online. Blacksmiths of old were taught by apprenticeship and spent decades honing and mastering their craft.
If you're looking for an example of the skill of blacksmiths, you're in luck with this German axe from the 16th century. It's quite baffling how much time and talent went into a tool primarily used for chopping down trees. This short axe is filled with beautiful carvings along the blade and floral ornaments over its handle. It was most likely presented to a royal or noble family to use as a weapon in combat.
Stiefel, Perfectly Preserved for Over 2,300 Years
We can't even remember the last time a shoe lasted longer than a single winter. But imagine a boot that has been trekked through thousands of mountains in winter snow and remained nearly perfectly preserved for over 2,300 years.
The boot in the picture dates back to 300 BCE and was used by travelers in the Altai Mountains. Thanks to the icy cold conditions, it was preserved and remained in pristine condition, allowing researchers to marvel at it. The boot contains various materials such as tin, pyrite crystals, gold foil, and glass beads. Although it may not look like something we'd ever wear, one cannot help but appreciate its beautiful craftsmanship.
Ancient Egyptian Sandals
The ancient Egyptians wore sandals almost exclusively in the hot deserts of Egypt. Recently, sandals were discovered and attributed to the late King Tutankhamun, who ruled over Egypt many centuries ago.
King Tut's sandals were adorned with incredible carvings and decorations in every angle. If you're ever in search of new sandals, you can look for the same shoes King Tutankhamun wore on eBay today. In his time, crafting these pieces took weeks.
Skull of a Roman Warrior from 52 BCE
The Gallic Wars were a series of battles fought by the Romans under the command of Julius Caesar. Due to their overwhelming military superiority, the Romans secured an easy victory over the Celtic tribes. Over 30,000 Romans died during the wars, which may not sound like an astounding number when considering over a million Celts also perished.
These victories paved the way for Caesar to become the sole ruler of the Roman Republic. The skull shown in the picture belongs to one of the fallen Roman soldiers who fought in the Gallic Wars. He was impaled through the brain with a spear, which was undoubtedly the cause of his death. His skull remains perfectly preserved to this day, still bearing the same spear.
Earliest Evidence of Corn Being Utilized
You probably haven't spent too much time thinking about corn. Unless you're a fan of polenta or popcorn, that is. But maybe you should have given it a bit more thought, as this domesticated grain essentially rules our lives.
Recently, a new study revealed the earliest evidence of this grain being a staple in diets. Essentially, migrants from South America brought unique types of maize about 5,600 years ago, and these were in turn used to sustain the ancient Mayan civilization. How was this discovery actually made? By analyzing the dental remains of the new migrants! Pretty cool, right?
Origins of the Avars Warriors
Around 1,500 years ago, after the Western Roman Empire had collapsed, there existed a group of warriors called the Avars. Not to be confused with avatars, these people we're talking about neither hailed from another planet nor could they bend the elements to their will. This group was eventually overwhelmed in the 8th century, and while we always knew how they were defeated, their origins were unclear.
Recently, however, it was discovered that they most likely originated from Mongolia and migrated to Europe. This was confirmed using the DNA of the remains of an Avar warrior. It's amazing what we can learn and confirm with DNA.
Dolches from the Bronze Age
You may not have spent much time thinking about daggers, but researchers certainly have when it comes to investigating Copper-Alloy Daggers from the Bronze Age in Europe. While they knew these daggers were prevalent during that time, they were unsure of their actual use.
After developing a new method for extracting organic residues, the researchers finally got their answer. The daggers were used as butchering tools, assisting people in preparing delicious meals during the Bronze Age.
Baths Belonging to Herod the Great
Herod the Great needs no introduction, but just in case you're rushing to Wikipedia, here's a quick one. He was the King of Judea at the time of Jesus' birth. The king was well-known for his love of luxury, and honestly, we can't blame him. He even had Calcite-Alabaster baths, which were believed to have been brought to him from Egypt.
In 2022, it was discovered that the Calcite-Alabaster actually originated from the Te'omim Cave in Israel. This means that there was likely a booming Calcite-Alabaster industry in Judea during the first century BCE.
Maya Teeth with Gemstones
Gemstones in teeth? And here we thought dental grills were a modern invention! Who would have thought that the Mayan people had so much in common with today's rappers? We certainly didn't expect that. A new study sheds light on the fact that the Mayans would stick gemstones to their teeth.
They most likely used plant resins as adhesives for this ancient form of bling. And what were these adhesives made of? Samples taken from the teeth prove that they were made from pines, which also had incredible properties that fought against tooth decay. Two for one!
Domestication of Chickens
What's the connection between rice and chicken? (Aside from the obvious connection being your plate.) Scientists believe that the two have been together since the beginning of time. According to new studies, chickens were most likely domesticated in Southeast Asia up to 3,500 years ago.
They were domesticated in rice paddies, not to turn into chicken ships, but to be raised as exotic creatures or kept as pets. Chickens and rice spread together in Asia and Africa, leading to chickens being regarded as sacred.
Steamer Trunk from the 19th Century
In the 19th century, people had to travel long distances by train for various reasons. At that time, there was no internet or phones, so the only way to conduct business and earn money was to travel extensively. Steam trunks were popular during this era, as people were often on the move for months.
This brilliant steamer trunk was made in the 19th century and featured a revolutionary feature that spared you from unpacking everything once you arrived at your destination. It essentially transformed into a full-standing dresser. Invention truly is the mother of necessity.
Roman Single-Sided Dice
Dice are not a new invention. Evidence shows that dice have been used for thousands of years. Yes, it's not surprising that people have been into gambling and games of chance for so long. The Romans especially enjoyed playing with dice, but they made some strange ones that were both asymmetrical and biased.
Apparently, the reason was that the Romans believed the gods could influence the outcome of a dice roll. They assumed that the gods would favor the larger side, which is why they made certain sides larger than others. In a way, they were actually trying to make their dice fairer.
Shift in the Minoan Civilization
Minoans who? Let us Google that for you and tell you that they were an Aegean Bronze Age civilization that lived on Crete and other Aegean islands. For years, the Minoans experienced a major shift in class and culture as they were invaded by the Mycenaeans.
You see, 3500 years ago, the Minoans saw a major cultural shift with their language, clothing, and even their economic system suddenly changing. But new research shows that while the elite changed everything about their culture to fit in with the Mycenaeans, the common people continued their own unique traditions.
The Oldest Sunglasses in the World
Most people don't know that the sun actually affects the eyes much more in snowy, cold regions than in scorching hot deserts. The Inuit were well aware of this fact as they trudged through snowy regions more than 4,000 years ago.
Back then, Inuit couldn't just stroll into a Ray-Ban store and get themselves a pair of sunglasses. So they carved their own from various stones and pieces of wood. These sunglasses essentially worked as they helped limit the sun's rays on the eyes. Unfortunately, they also greatly restricted the wearer's vision, often leading to very unfortunate accidents.
New Information about the Pyramids
The pyramids still remain one of humanity's greatest mysteries. One example is the fact that they were built with incredibly heavy materials like granite and limestone during a time without known technology that could lift or move such materials.
How did they move all these things? Researchers found that there was a unique branch of the Nile specifically used to transport these heavy materials from place to place. The branch was called the Khufu Branch and was located near the pyramids of Giza. Scientists believe the branch dried up around 600 BCE.
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