While archaeology may not seem like the most exciting profession in the world, it certainly has its moments. Of course, you won’t be excavating mummies everyday but on occasion you may find yourself face to face with some fairly intense artifacts. Whether they are ancient computers, massive underground armies, or just gruesome corpses, these are the 25 most intense archaeological discoveries in human history.
One thing you will realize by the end of this list is that people, at least in the past, were very fond of cannibalism, sacrifice, and torture. As a case in point, not long ago as several archaeologists were searching through the sewers beneath a Roman/Byzantine bathhouse in Israel when they came across something terrifying…baby bones, and lots of them. For whatever reason someone in the bathhouse above apparently felt compelled to dispose of hundreds of babies in the sewer below.
Although these days the most surefire method used to slay vampire is a stake through the heart, hundreds of years ago that was not considered sufficient. Allow us to introduce you to the ancient alternative – the brick through the mouth. Think about it. What’s the easiest way to keep a vampire from sucking blood? Cram his face full of cement no doubt. The skull you are looking at here was found by archaeologists just outside Venice in a mass grave.
Although it has been known for years that the Aztecs hosted numerous bloody sacrificial festivals, in 2004 a grisly discovery was made outside of modern day Mexico City. Numerous decapitated and mutilated bodies of both humans and animals shed some light on just how horrific the rituals could get.
While it may not be intense in the same way as the last few discoveries, this vast terracotta army that was buried with Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, is certainly intense in its own right. Apparently the intention was for the soldiers to protect the emperor in the afterlife.
Unlike modern burials, Egyptians didn’t take into account the fact that if you don’t strap the chin to the skull, it will fall open in a permanent scream. Although most mummies exhibit this sort of profile, it can get significantly more terrifying. Every once in a while archaeologists discover mummies that seem to have truly been screaming at their death due to some sort of ritual torture. The one above is name Unknown Man E and was found by Gaston Masparo in 1886.
Also known as Hansen’s disease, leprosy is not contagious but its victims have often lived on the fringes of society due to extreme disfigurement. Because Hindu tradition calls for cremation the skeleton above, often cited as the first leper, was found buried just outside the city limits.
In 1933 archaeologist Robert du Mesnil du Buisson was searching beneath the ruins of an ancient Roman/Persian battlefield when he came across some siege tunnels that had been dug under the city. In the tunnels he found the bodies of 19 Roman soldiers that seemingly died while trying to desperately escape from something and one Persian soldier clutching his chest. Apparently when the Romans heard the Persians digging under their walls they began digging a tunnel of their own with the idea of dropping in on the Persians from above. The trouble for them was that the Persians heard it and set a trap. As soon as the Roman soldiers dropped through they were met with burning sulfur and bitumen which has the unfortunate effect of turning to acid in your lungs.
Discovered in 1799 by a French soldier sifting through the Egyptian sand, the Rosetta Stone has been one of archaeology’s greatest discoveries to date and the primary source for modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The stone is a actually a fragment of a larger stone that contained a decree issued by King Ptolemy V around 200 BC with the decree inscribed in 3 languages – Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic script, and Ancient Greek.
Known as the stone spheres of Costa Rica, scientists believe these nearly perfect speres were carved around the turn of the millennium. Although there is much speculation as to what they may have been used for, no one is completely sure.
It’s not a strange occurrence for mummified bodies to be found in bogs but this body, now known as the Grauballe Man, is a bit unique. Not only is he amazingly well preserved with his hair and fingernails still intact, it is possible to reconstruct his demise from the information found on and around his body. Judging from a large wound wrapping around his neck from ear to ear it seems he was sacrificed, probably in an attempt to turn a better harvest.
Since being discovered by pilots at the turn of the 20th century a series of low stone walls in the Negev desert of Israel had puzzled scientists for years. The walls could be up to 40 miles long in some places and were nicknamed “kites” as a result of their appearance from the air. Recently, however, it was determined that the walls were actually used by hunters to funnel large animals into pens or off of cliffs where they could easily be slaughtered en mass.
Okay, so Plato’s Atlantis, at least the one he wrote about in his dialogues has never actually been found. Of course every once in a while archaeologists turn up something that stimulates numerous rumors and other ancient ruins have certainly been found resting at the bottom of the ocean but as of today the “naval power that stood before the Pillars of Hercules and sank to the bottom of the sea in a single day and night of misfortune” has yet to be found.
Although most of the scientific community has now agreed that these figures were part of an elaborate hoax, their discovery at first created a bit of a stir. Found in the ground near Acambaro, Mexico were hundreds of little figures resembling both humans and dinosaurs which for a little while led some to believe that the ancients were better archaeologists than previously thought.
Discovered in a shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera around the turn of the 20th century. This 2000 year old device has often been touted as the world’s first scientific calculator. With dozens of gears it can precisely measure the position of the sun, moon, and planets simply by inputting a date. Although there is debate over its exact use it certainly shows that even 2000 years ago civilization was already accomplishing amazingly advanced feats of mechanical engineering.
Popularly known as Easter Island, this is one of the most isolated places in the world, thousands of miles off of the Chilean coast in the South Pacific. The most baffling thing about the island, however, isn’t the fact that humans even managed to find and settle it but that they then proceeded to construct enormous stone heads around the island.