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Here are the list of top 10 Archaeological Discoveries of 2019

Here are the list of top 10 Archaeological Discoveries of 2019

2019 was another exciting year for archaeology. Modern technology and extensive excavations have revealed a slew of fascinating finds-from Bronze Age “megalopolis” in Israel, a “cachette of the priests” near Luxor, Egypt, and a massive ancient wall in western Iran are just a few of the many incredible archaeological stories that came to light in 2019. Here, Archaeological World takes a look at 10 of the biggest archaeology discoveries that emerged this year, it was difficult to narrow this list to only 10.

10. Iron Age Celtic Woman Found Buried In Zurich Tree Trunk

The woman was found buried in a woolen dress and shawl, with bronze bracelets, a bronze belt chain, iron clasps and pendants, and a glass and amber necklace.

Construction of the Kern school complex in Zurich’s Aussersihl district was fairly mundane right up until the discovery of a 2,200-year-old Iron Age Celtic woman buried in a hollowed-out tree trunk. Researchers were confident this was a woman of high regard, according to LiveScience. The woolen dress, shawl, sheepskin coat, and necklace made of amber and glass beads certainly support that conclusion.

Analysis of the remains indicated she was around 40 when she died — and that she had a sweet tooth. Experts also believed she grew up in what is now modern-day Zurich’s Limmat Valley. While the preservation of her body and belongings is certainly impressive enough, the ingeniously modified tree trunk she was laid to rest in was just as remarkable.

This wasn’t the first instance of historical remnants being discovered in the region, either. In 1903, construction workers found the grave of a Celtic man buried with his sword, shield, and lance. This woman, interestingly enough, was discovered a mere 260 feet away. Previous evidence suggested a Celtic settlement dating to the 1st century B.C. existed there. While some posited the two were buried in the same decade, that aspect remains unclear. To learn more, archaeologists salvaged, conserved, and analyzed the remains.

To add further curiosity to the matter, researchers assess that from 450 B.C. to 58 B.C, when the two Celts were buried, a “wine-guzzling, gold-designing, poly/bisexual, naked-warrior-battling culture” called La Tène flourished in Switzerland’s Lac de Neuchâtel. In terms of finding a final resting place, both of these Celts could’ve done worse than find it there.

9. 66-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Eggs

A 10-year-old boy in China who was out playing near a lake accidentally unearthed a fossilized egg that led to the discovery of a dinosaur nest that is 66 million years old. The find was just the latest in a city that has become famed for its number of dinosaurs finds, especially fossilized eggs, Héyuán, in Guangdong province.

Zhang Yangzhe was playing on an embankment near the Dong River under the supervision of his mother when he made the find while trying to find something to crack a walnut with. While digging in the soil, the boy saw what looked like a strange stone, so he dug it up very carefully. Once alerted to the find, experts immediately confirmed that the strange stone was a fossilized egg. In the following days, they began to excavate the site where Zhang had made his discovery and they found 10 more eggs. They determined that Zhang had found a dinosaur nest because they were all unearthed in a small area.

8. Massive wall

Satellite images of the Gawri Wall

A wall stretching for about 71 miles (115 kilometers) was documented in western Iran. Running north-south between the Bamu Mountains in the north and an area near Zhaw Marg village in the south, it took an estimated 1 million cubic meters [35,314,667 cubic feet] of stone to build. While local people and a few archaeologists had known about the existence of the wall, it had never been described in a journal until this year when an article in the journal Antiquity, written by Sajjad Alibaigi, an assistant professor of Iranian archaeology at Razi University in Kermanshah, Iran, was released.

“Remnants of structures, now destroyed, are visible in places along the wall. These may have been associated turrets [small towers] or buildings,” Alibaigi wrote. He noted that the wall is made from “natural local materials, such as cobbles and boulders, with gypsum mortar surviving in places.”

It’s not clear when the wall was built, who built it or why. Pottery found beside the wall suggests that it was constructed between the fourth century B.C. and sixth century A.D., Alibaigi wrote. The Parthians (who ruled between 247 B.C. and A.D. 224) and the Sassanians (A.D. 224-651) are two empires that flourished in the area, and either one of them could have built the wall.

7. The Oldest Figurative Cave Painting in the World Was Discovered in Indonesia

A researcher studying what was previously believed to be the world’s oldest figurative art in a Borneo cave. The find has been supplanted by a new discovery in Indonesia.

The oldest pictorial art in the world is now believed to be an ancient hunting scene painted on the walls of an Indonesian cave some 43,900 years ago. The prehistoric artwork is even more significant, however, because it shows imaginary figures with both human and animal features. That suggests that the concept of religious thinking originated not in Europe, as previously thought, but much earlier, and on the opposite side of the globe.

6. Most colorful tomb

The colors of the paintings seen in this 4,400-year-old tomb in Egypt are remarkable. The tomb was constructed for an official named Khuwy.

Egypt divulged a wealth of ancient secrets in 2019. By far the most colorful discovery was that of the 4,400-year-old tomb of Khuwy, an official who lived at a time when the pyramids were being constructed in Egypt.

Hieroglyphs found in the tomb reveal Khuwy’s many titles included “overseer of the khentiu-she of the Great House,” “great one of the ten of Upper Egypt” and “sole friend” of the pharaoh. All these titles indicate that he was an official of some importance. But what sets this discovery apart is the remarkable preservation of the tomb’s colorful paintings. The paintings include depictions of ships at sail, Egyptians working in the fields and complex patterns that are almost impossible to describe in words. The colors bring these paintings to life; and the fact that they are so well preserved, despite the passage of more than 4 millennia of time, is unusual.

5. Bronze Age “megalopolis”

A 5,000-year-old Early Bronze Age “megalopolis” that was home to around 6,000 people (a large population at the time) was discovered at the site of En Esur in Israel. Millions of pottery fragments, flint tools, basalt stone vessels and a large temple filled with burnt animal bones and figurines were discovered in the city. One of the figurines depicts a human head with a seal impression on it, showing human hands lifted into the air. The temple had a huge stone basin that held liquids that were probably used for religious rituals. The city’s residential and public areas, streets, alleyways and temples appear to have been carefully planned out.

“This is a huge city — a megalopolis in relation to the Early Bronze Age, where thousands of inhabitants, who made their living from agriculture, lived and traded with different regions and even with different cultures and kingdoms in the area,” Itai Elad, Yitzhak Paz, and Dina Shalem, the directors of the excavation, said in a statement announcing the discovery. They said that the city was the “early Bronze Age New York” of the region.

4. A Temple and Countless Treasures in a Sunken City

In July, Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities announced that marine archaeologists diving at the ancient submerged city of Heracleion (named after Hercules who legend claimed had been there) off the coast of the Nile Delta discovered the remains of a temple, docks, and boats containing ancient treasures.

Known as Thonis in Egypt, and submerged under 150 feet of water, the city sits in what is today the Bay of Aboukir, but in the 8th century BC when the city is thought to have been built, it would have been situated at the mouth of the River Nile delta where it opened into the Mediterranean Sea. The dive team found a “clutch of new ports” which effectively extends their map of the ancient sunken city “by about two-thirds of a mile” and they have also added to their mapping of Canopus, a second submerged city close to Heracleion. What’s more, one of the scores of ancient ships at the site from the fourth century BC was found to contain crockery, coins, and jewelry.

3. Preserved And Harnessed Pompeii Military Horse Unearthed

The remains of a military official’s horse, discovered in Pompeii.

When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D., there was little anyone in its vicinity could do but run and pray to the gods. The choking, toxic cloud of gas and the searing, white-hot ash of the eruption spared neither slave nor Roman military officer — Vesuvius even took the officer’s horses. According to the Associated Press, the petrified remains of a harnessed horse and an accompanying saddle were found lying in a stable in the Villa of the Mysteries. The ancient homestead in the suburbs of Pompeii overlooks the Bay of Naples and formerly belonged to a high-ranking military officer, possibly even a general. Excavated in the early 1900s, the site had previously been re-buried.

Director of the dig site, Massimo Osanna, was confident this horse was a military steed. Saddled in a wooden and bronze harness, archaeologists believe that the horse was being prepared for the officer who would be needed to help evacuate the citizens of the city. The animal was also well-groomed and decorated with rich metals, further suggesting this was not just anyone’s horse. It was found alongside several other horses who died in the stable.

Neither of the two theoretical causes of death is what one would call preferable: either the horses suffocated from the endless cloud of volcanic ash that blanketed the city and its surroundings, or it was essentially boiled alive from the inside-out from the extreme temperatures of the volcanic gases that would have accompanied the ash cloud.

2. Largest Mass Child Sacrifice in The World Unearthed In Peru

Researchers believe the mass sacrifice was a ritualistic offering to the Chimú’s moon god, in order to ward off El Niño-related weather.

In August 2019, archaeologists in Peru uncovered the largest mass child sacrifice in recorded history. The site contained the remains of 227 victims and was found north of Lima in the coastal town of Huanchaco. According to the BBC News, ever single victim was between five and 14 years old. It’s believed that their last breaths were taken over 500 years ago, with some of the remains remarkably still having hair and skin. There was also evidence that the children were killed during wet weather.

With their deaths occurring at some point before the 1500s and their bodies facing the ocean, researchers theorized they died as offerings to the gods worshipped by the Chimú people of the region. This group was one of the strongest and most independent at the time. The Chimú culture peaked between 1200 and 1400 A.D. before the Incas conquered them and the Spanish subsequently conquered the Incas. According to CNN, it was the Chimú who constructed Chan Chan — the largest pre-Columbian city in South America. The civilization worshipped Shi, a moon god they thought was more powerful than the sun, and human sacrifices were common as appeasements to Shi. The researchers who stumbled upon this remarkable find also found the remains of 40 warriors, further illuminating the culture of the Chimú.

“This is the biggest site where the remains of sacrificed children have been found,” said lead archaeologist Feren Castillo. “It’s uncontrollable, this thing with the children. Wherever you dig, there’s another one.” For biological anthropologist John Verano, the discovery was just another reminder of how vital archaeology is to our understanding of the past.

1. 30 mummies discovered in Valley of the Kings

30 mummies discovered earlier this year in Luxor and estimated to be 3,000 years old.

Archaeologists discovered 30 perfectly preserved sealed wooden coffins, dating back 3,000 years, in “El-Assasif,” a necropolis near Luxor, Egypt, in 2019. They called the discovery the “cachette of the priests” since some of the mummies appear to be those of ancient Egyptian priests. A cachette is a place where things were hidden away. The vividly colored and complex patterns on the coffins are well preserved despite the passage of 3 millennia.

The mummies within the coffins are also well preserved. When two of the coffins were opened at a news conference, the outer wrappings of the mummies looked untouched. Archaeologists found that 23 adult males, five adult females and two children were buried in the 30 wooden coffins. Analysis of the mummies and translation of the hieroglyphs is ongoing, and more finds about this cache will likely emerge in the next year or two. It’s remarkable that so many sealed coffins, their mummies still intact, were preserved for such a long period of time. Grave robbing was a common occurrence in Egypt in both ancient and modern times.

Archaeology dig in Spain yields prehistoric ‘crystal weapons’

Archaeology dig in Spain yields prehistoric ‘crystal weapons’

When you see a beautiful crystal how do you feel? Perhaps the perfection of the diamond, or the vivid colors of the different gems are your thing? The fact is that people have been fascinated by crystals ever since they had first discovered them.

The gems ‘ names come from ancient cultures that were obsessed with them pretty much, adding them to their jewelry, kitchenware, and weapons.

Do you know that even the Bible describes the new Jerusalem after the apocalypse built all in gems and crystals?

An archeological excavation in Spain reveals that even in the 3rd millennium BC, crystals were an object of fascination and ritual

Archeologists discovered a number of shrouds decorated with amber beads at the Valencina de la Concepción site, and they also found a “remarkable set of “crystal weapons

The Monterilio tholos, excavated between 2007 and 2010, is “a great megalithic construction…which extends over 43.75 m in total.” It has been constructed out of large slabs of slate and served as a burial site.

The period in which this site was built was well known for the excavation of metals from the ground, and where there is excavation – there can also be crystals.

In the case with the Monterilio tholos, the people there found a way to shape the quartz crystals into weapons.

However, the spot where these crystals were uncovered is not associated with rock crystal deposits, so it means that these crystals were imported from somewhere else.

The rock crystal source used in creating these weapons has not been pinpointed, but two potential sources have been suggested, “both located several kilometers away from Valencina.”

As the academic paper which focuses on these crystal weapons states, the manufacture of the crystal dagger “must have been based on the accumulation of transmitted empirical knowledge and skill taken from the production of flint dagger blades as well from the know-how of rock-crystal smaller foliaceous bifacial objects, such as Ontiveros and Monterilio arrowheads.”

The exact number of ‘crystal weapons’ found in the site has been estimated to “10 crystal arrowheads, 4 blades and the rock crystal core of the Monterilio tholos.”

Interestingly enough, although the bones of 20 individuals were found in the main chamber, none of the crystal weapons can be ascribed to them.

The individuals had been buried with flint daggers, ivory, beads, and other items, but the crystal weapons were kept in separate chambers.

These crystal weapons could have had ritualistic significance and were most probably kept for the elite. Their use was perhaps closely connected to the spiritual significance they possessed. Indeed, many civilizations have found crystals as having a highly spiritual and symbolical significance.

The paper states that “they probably represent funerary paraphernalia only accessible to the elite of this time period.

The association of the dagger blade to a handle made of ivory, also a non-local raw material that must have been of great value, strongly suggests the high-ranking status of the people making use of such objects.”

Nodosaur Dinosaur ‘Mummy’ Unveiled With Skin And Guts Intact in Canada

Nodosaur Dinosaur ‘Mummy’ Unveiled With Skin And Guts Intact in Canada

A heavy equipment company began mining a strange colored stone at Millennium Mine in northern Alberta in 2011.

His supervisor quickly realized that they had something special, Michael Greshko reports for National Geographic. He stopped looking more closely and puzzled the material, which had strange patterns.

A little fossilized skin had recently been extracted from an armored nodosaur, a kind of ankylosaur. Nevertheless, this was not just a fossil; it was one of the best-preserved specimens of nodasaurus ever discovered.

The fossil remains are incredibly lifelike, resembling a sleeping dragon.

According to National Geographic, which sponsored the five-year, 7,000-hour preparation of the fossil, it’s likely that the 3,000-pound,18-foot-long creature died in or near a river. Then its bloated carcass floated out to sea before sinking back-first into the muck where fossilization began.

“It’s basically a dinosaur mummy—it really is exceptional,” Don Brinkman, director of preservation and research at the Royal Tyrrell Museum where the fossil is housed tells Craig S. Smith at The New York Times.

The remarkable preservation of its armored plates, as well as some preserved scales, are helping paleontologists finally understand the size and shape of the creature’s keratin defenses.

“I’ve been calling this one the Rosetta stone for armor,” Donald Henderson, curator of dinosaurs at the Tyrrell Museum tells Greshko.

The nodasaurus fossil on display (Courtesy of Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller, Canada)
The nodosaur has been described by some scientists as the “rhinoceros of its day.”

As Matt Rehbein at CNN reports, the dino is 110 million years old, making it the oldest ever found in Alberta. It also represents a new genus and species of nodosaur. But the most exciting aspect may be at the microscopic level, Greshko reports.

The researchers have detected miniscule bits of red pigment, which could help them reconstruct the dinosaur’s coloration—a feature that may have helped it attract mates.

“This armor was clearly providing protection, but those elaborated horns on the front of its body would have been almost like a billboard,” Jakob Vinther, an animal coloration expert from the University of Bristol who has studied the fossil, tells Greshko.

The new specimen isn’t the only exceptional ankylosaur specimen recently unveiled. Just last week Brian Switek at Smithsonian.com reported that the Royal Ontario Museum discovered a new species in Montana, which they nicknamed Zuul. That specimen also has some intact armor plates and skin as well as a tail club.

Switek explains that during decomposition the armor plates of ankylosaurs typically fall off and are often washed away or not found.

But the discovery of these two extraordinary samples will go a long way towards helping researchers figure just what these animals looked like and how they used their formidable horns and armor.

The nodosaurus is now on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, as part of an exhibit highlighting the importance of cooperation between extraction industries and paleontologists in uncovering fossils.

Chinese Boy Accidentally Finds 66-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Eggs

Chinese Boy Accidentally Finds 66-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Eggs

The Beijing Youth Daily revealed that a 9-year-old primary school student from Heyuan, South China’s Guangdong province, accidentally discovered what he suspected to be a dinosaur egg fossil while playing with his mom on the downtown riverbank.

Third-grade Zhang Yangzhe (pictured) made the extraordinary discovery while playing on the embankment of Dong River in Heyuan, southern China’s Guangdong Province

Later, the mom of the boy, Li Xiaofang, approached the local museum whose staff members went and dug even more dinosaur eggs around the site.

The 11 dinosaur egg fossils date back to 66 million years ago.

Li said later in an interview that she and her son, Zhang Yangzhe, were playing near the Dongjiang River.

“The bridge over the river has been damaged by the flood, and the soil below the abutment was exposed,” she said. This is what helped the boy to find the eggs.

The schoolboy found 11 eggs in total.

“He found an eggshell on the slope (of the broken bridge) and called me immediately to tell me about his discovery, saying it seemed like a dinosaur egg,” said Li.

She added that the boy had recently visited the local dinosaur museum where he saw various shapes of dinosaur egg fossils, some complete while others are broken, which helped him recognize the dinosaur egg at a glance.

Soon after the excavation of the first one, another was also unearthed about 80 cm above the previous spot on the slope.

Knowing their archeological values, his mother Li contacted Heyuan Dinosaur Museum via the help of a friend.

Yangzhou was accompanied by his mother (pictured with her son) while coming across the fossils. According to his mother, Li Xiaofang, Yangzhe has read many books about dinosaurs

The city, known as the “hometown of dinosaurs”, has discovered a large number of dinosaur eggs and bone fossils since 1996.

A dinosaur research institute named China’s Ancient Animal Museum and Dinosaur Egg Museum, also known as the Heyuan Dinosaur Museum, has been established in the city.

Thousands of eggs have been found in the city of Heyuan over the years.

Huang Zhiqing, deputy director of the research department of Heyuan Dinosaur Museum, said they rushed to the scene with police after receiving the news.

A total of 11 “stone eggs” each about 9 centimeters in diameter were excavated, later verified as dinosaur eggs all dating back to the late Cretaceous age, according to the local museum.

Huang Zhiqing said houses were built at the place where the dinosaur eggs were discovered, so the soil softens as time flies. Dinosaur egg fossils which remain in good condition despite water and erosion are extremely rare.

Huang Zhiqing said the museum will organize manpower to clean and repair these dinosaur egg fossils. They will also find an appropriate time to re-examine and further excavate the abutment.

“Maybe we will discover new things,” Huang Zhiqing said.

Li said the child’s recognition of the dinosaur egg is inseparable from his education.

“Maybe because of the city’s environment, he is full of curiosity about everything related to dinosaurs,” she said, adding that he goes to libraries and museums to search for information he is curious about.

Greek Farmer Accidentally Discovers 3,400-Year-Old Minoan Tomb Hidden Under Olive Grove

Greek Farmer Accidentally Discovers 3,400-Year-Old Minoan Tomb Hidden Under Olive Grove

Sometime between 1400 and 1200 B.C., two Minoan men were laid to rest in an underground enclosure carved out of the soft limestone native to southeast Crete.

Both were entombed within larnakes—intricately embossed clay coffins popular in Bronze Age Minoan society—and surrounded by colorful funerary vases that hinted at their owners’ high status. Eventually, the burial site was sealed with stone masonry and forgotten, leaving the deceased undisturbed for roughly 3,400 years.

When a farmer was parking his truck under some olive trees on his property when the ground beneath him started to give way.

After the farmer moved his vehicle to a safer location, he saw that a four-foot-wide hole had opened up in the ground. When he peered inside, he realized this was no ordinary hole.

The hole in the ground led to a Minoan Bronze Age tomb.

The farmer called in archaeologists from the local heritage ministry to investigate, and they began excavating what turned out to be an ancient Minoan tomb, carved into the soft limestone, which had been lying hidden for millennia.

Two adult Minoan men had been placed in highly-embossed clay coffins called “larnakes” which were common in Bronze Age Minoan culture. These, in turn, were surrounded by funerary vases which suggest that the men were of high status.

The ancient chamber tomb was entirely intact and undamaged by looters.

The tomb was about 13 feet in length and eight feet deep, divided into three chambers that would have been accessed via a vertical tunnel that was sealed with clay after the tomb’s occupants were laid to rest.

One larnax was found in the northernmost chamber, with a number of funerary vessels scattered around it.

The chamber at the southern end of the tomb held the other larnax coffin, along with 14 amphorae and a bowl. The tomb was estimated to be about 3,400 years old and was preserved in near-perfect condition, making it a valuable find.

The skeletal remains were found inside two larnakes (singular: “larnax”) – a type of small closed coffin used in the Minoan and Greek Bronze Age.

Kristina Killgrove, a bioarchaeologist, wrote for Forbes that the ornamentation on the artifacts found in the tomb suggest that its inhabitants were men of wealth.

The fanciest tombs from the same period, however, had massive domed walls in a “beehive” style, which this tomb doesn’t, so they probably weren’t among the wealthiest.

The find dates from the Late Minoan Period, sometimes called the Late Palace Period.

In the earlier part of that era, the Minoan civilization was very rich, with impressive ceramics and art, but by the later part of the period, there is an apparent decline in wealth and prestige, according to Killgrove.

It’s believed that the civilization was weakened by a combination of natural disasters, including a tsunami triggered by an earthquake, and the eruption of a nearby volcano. This made it easier for foreigners to come in and destroy the palaces.

The ornate pottery vessels found inside the tomb were all in good condition. 

Locals don’t anticipate the discovery of any more tombs of this type, but the area is known to be the home of a number of antiquities, and a great deal of them have been found by coincidence, as with this find.

The Deputy Mayor of Local Communities, Agrarian, and Tourism of Ierapetra pointed out that the tomb had never been found by thieves, and went on to say that it would probably have remained undiscovered forever, except for the broken irrigation pipe that was responsible for the softened and eroded soil in the farmer’s olive grove.

Minoan fresco is commonly known as the ‘Prince of the Lilies.’

He went on to say how pleased they were with having the tomb to further enrich their understanding of their ancient culture and history, and that the tomb was proof for those historians who didn’t think that there had been Minoans in that part of Crete.

Previously, it had been thought that the Minoans only settled in the lowlands and plains of the island, not in the mountains that surround Ierapetra, although there was an excavation in 2012 that uncovered a Minoan mansion in the same area.

Killgrove will be analyzing the skeletons, to see what further information can be gleaned from them. She said, “As a bioarchaeologist, I routinely pore over the skeletons of ancient populations so that I can learn about their health, diet, and lifestyles.” It’s also hoped that analysis can contribute more information into the research on Minoan and Mycenaean origins.