25 Most Shocking Archaeological Discoveries In Human History
From ancient computers to colossal underground armies, ghastly corpses to undecipherable manuscripts, these 25 archaeological discoveries will make you realize just how complex, bizarre and, to some extent, horrifying our past used to be.
1. Ancient Chemical Warfare
In 1933, as archaeologist Robert du Mesnil du Buisson was searching the ruins of an ancient Roman/Persian battlefield, he stumbled upon a tunnel warfare that had been dug under the city . In the tunnels, he found the bodies of 19 Roman soldiers who seemingly died trying to escape desperately from something. They also found a body of a Persian soldier clutching his chest. Apparently, when the Romans realized the Persians were digging through their walls, they started to dig a tunnel of their own. The idea was to drop in on the Persians from above. The problem was that the Persians relaized what the Roman soldiers are trying to do and set a trap. As soon as the Romans dropped through they were met with burning sulfur and bitumen.
2. Aztecs Sacrifices
It's been knownthat the Aztecs held numerous bloody sacrificial festivals. But in 2004, a discovery made outside of modern day Mexico City shed some light on just how grisly the rituals could get when they found a number of decapitated and mutilated bodies of both humans and animals.
3. The Baby Disposal
A few years ago, a number of archaeologists were searching through sewers beneath a Roman/Byzantine bathhouse in Israel when they stumbled across something terrifying - baby bones, lots of them. For reason(s) still unknown, someone in the bathhouse above apparently dispose hundreds of babies in the sewer below.
4. Diquis Spheres
Diquis Spheres, also known as the stone spheres of Costa Rica, are believed to be carved around the turn of the millennium. Several theories surround the spheres and what their purpose were. But until today no one is really sure what the strange spheres are designed for.
5. Rosetta Stone
The Rosetta Stone is considered one of archaeology’s greatest discoveries to date. The stone was discovered in 1799 when French soldier was sifting through the Egyptian sand. The Rosetta stone serves as the main source for modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The stone is actually fragment of a larger stone containing a decree issued by King Ptolemy V around 200 BC . The decree is inscribed in 3 different languages - Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic script, and Ancient Greek.
6. Terracotta Army
The vast Terracotta soldiers was discovered buried with Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. The intention was for the army to protect the emperor in the afterlife.
7. The First Leper
Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, may not be contagious but its victims suffer extreme disfigurement, forcing them to live on the fringes of society. This skeleton, often cited as the first leper, was found buried just outside the city limits.
8. The Grauballe Man
It's not uncommon for mummified bodies to be discovered in bogs. But the Grauballe Man somehow stood out from the rest. Not only is his body well-preserved with his hair and fingernails still intact, it is also possible to reconstruct the cause of his death from the information found around and on his body. Judging from a large wound around his neck that spans from ear to ear, one conclusion was that he was offered as a human sacrifice, probably in an attempt to turn a better harvest.
9. The Screaming Mummies
Archaeologists discovered mummies that seem to have been screaming at their death, most probably due to some sort of ritual torture. The one shown above is "Unknown Man E" who was found in 1886 by Gaston Masparo. Unlike burials of today, the Egyptians didn't consider the fact that if you don't strap the chin to the skull, it will fall open in a permanent, terrifying scream.
10. The Venetian Vampire
As we read in literature, a stake to the heart is a surefire method to "slay a vampire", but hundreds of years ago, that was not considered enough. Their solution? A brick through the mouth. Think about it, cramming a vampire's face with cement would keep him from sucking blood, right? The skull shown here was found by archaeologists in a mass grave just outside Venice.
11. Desert Kites
Since its discovery at the turn of the 20th century, the series of low stone walls in the Negev desert has been a puzzle for scientists. In some places, the stones were called "kites" due to their appearance from the air. Recently, it was finally determined that the stone walls were actually used by hunters to funnel huge animals into pens or off of cliffs where they could easily be slaughtered.
12. Acambaro Figures
The Acambaro figures were hundreds of little figures that look like both humans and dinosaurs. For a while, their discovery made people believe that the ancients were better archaeologists than previously thought. Although recently most of the scientific community has agreed that the Acambaro figures were part of an elaborate hoax, for a while their discovery did create a bit of a stir.
13. Ancient Troy
In 1865, English archaeologist Frank Calvert began excavating trenches in a field he bought from a local farmer at Hisarlık. In 1868, Heinrich Schliemann, a German businessman and archaeologist, also began excavating in the area after a chance encounter with Calvert in Çanakkale. What they found in the field has been generally agreed upon to be the ancient Greek city of Troy, a city well-known to history, legend, and archaeology.
14. Antikythera Mechanism
Around the turn of the 20th century, the Antikythera Mechanism, a 2000-year-old device, was discovered in a shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera. The device has often been touted as the world’s first scientific calculator. It is well-equipped with gears that can accurately measure the position of the moon, sun, and planets simply by inputting a date.
15. Baghdad Battery
In the 1930's, several plain-looking jars were discovered near Baghdad, Iraq. No one really gave them a thought until a German museum curator published a paper which claims that the jars may have been used as galvanic cells, or batteries. It was considered a far-fetched conclusion at first but even the Mythbusters got on board and confirmed the claim was a good possibility.
16. Dead Sea Scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls are also among the major archaeological discoveries of the last century. The scrolls contain the earliest known surviving copies of biblical documents dating back as early as 150 BC.
17. Gobekli Tepe
Although at first glance the Gobekli Tepe may seem like nothing more than a bunch of rocks, it is actually one of the oldest examples of complex/monumental architecture in the world. The ancient settlement was discovered in 1994 and is believed to have been constructed 9,000 years ago, predating the pyramids by thousands of years.
18. Headless Vikings of Dorset
While workers was digging a railroad in Dorset, they discovered a small contingent of headless viking warriors buried in the ground. Archaeologists first thought that maybe some villagers survived a raid and exacted their revenge. However, upon closer look, things got a little less clear. The beheadings looked too clean and seemed to have been done from the front rather than the back. Until now, they're still can't explain what happened.
19. Mount Owen Moa
In 1986, an expedition was digging into the cave system of Mount Owen in New Zealand when it stumbled upon a huge claw. It was amazingly well-preserved that it almost look like whatever species it belonged to had just died recently. Upon closer look, it was determined that the claw belonged to an Upland Moa, a huge pre-historic bird with a nasty set of claws.
20. Nazca Lines
The Nazca Lines in the Nazca Desert, Peru was discovered in the early 1900's. This series of ancient geoglyphs can only be seen entirely from above. Numerous theories ranging from UFO's to technically advanced ancient civilization surround its discovery. However, the most probable theory is that the Nazca people were excellent surveyors. But the nagging question as to why they would construct geoglyphs of such size remains unanswered to this day.
21. Piri Reis Map
Piri Reis Map dates to the early 1500's. It shows the coastlines of Africa, Europe, and South America with incredible precision. The map was created by general and cartographer Piri Reis, hence the name.
22. Rapa Nui
Thousands of miles off the Chile coast in the South Pacific, Rapa Nui, popularly known as Easter Island, is one of the most isolated places in the world. The most mystifying thing about the island are the colossal stone heads that has intrigued humanity throughout the years.
This walled complex sits just outside of Cusco, Peru and is part of what used to be the capital of the Inca Empire. The most baffling part about Sacsayhuaman lies in the details of its construction. The slabs of rocks fit together so tightly that it's impossible to slide even a strand of hair between them. Sacsayhuaman serves as a lasting testament to the precision of ancient Incan architecture.
24. The Tomb of Sunken Skulls
While excavating a dry lake bed in Motala, Sweden, archaeologists discovered buried skulls with stakes driven directly through their craniums. One of the skulls even had pieces of the other skulls crammed up inside it.
25. Voynich Manuscript
The Voynich Manuscript is considered as the “world’s most mysterious manuscript”. This piece of literature dates back to the early 15th century Italy. Most of its pages is filled with what seems to be herbal recipes. However, not one of the plants shown/drawn in the manuscript match known species... and the language remains undecipherable.