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5 Fun Facts about Archaeology

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

Every year, exciting archaeological discoveries are made, and the world is newly fascinated by what has been uncovered from our past. Enjoy this smattering of fun archaeology facts about some of the most interesting artifacts and features ever found.

1. First archaeologist in the world

In around 550 BCE, Nabonidus, the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire is credited with being the very first archaeologist and historian ever recorded. He conducted excavations on existing temples in Mesopotamia, specifically searching for foundation deposits. (A foundation deposit is the ritual burial of materials under the foundations of buildings.) Nabonidus looked for foundation deposits with the intention of finding details to help him restore these sites to their original plans. On the famed Nabonidus Cylinder, King Nabonidus recorded an account of the excavation and restoration of temple of the Akkadian Empire ruler Naram-Sin. The Cylinder of Nabonidus is currently housed in the British Museum in London.

2. Oldest urban civilization

Speaking of Mesopotamia, the southernmost portion of the country is Sumer, which is credited with being the oldest urban civilization on the planet. Thought to be settled between 4500 to 4000 B.C, by 3000 BCE, Sumer was a flourishing urban center. The Sumerian city-states of Ur and Uruk introduced innovations in language, governance and architecture, with Uruk boasting a populace of between 40,000 and 80,000 inhabitants during its heyday.

3. Country with most Unesco sites

Important archaeological sites are present on every continent and in every country. But what country has the most important cultural, historical, and scientific sites? These are the Unesco World Heritage sites and Italy has a whopping 58 of them. China in second place with 56 followed by Germany with 51. In Italy, the most visited site is Rome, but you’ll have heard of other noteworthy sites such as Pompeii, Vernona, Herculaneum, Florecne and the Amalfi Coast

In China , the most visited site is, of course, the Great Wall, built from 220 BCE through to the Ming Dynasty in 1644 AD. Germany’s most popular site is Museumsinsel (Museum Island) which houses a collection of five museums, each designed specifically around the collections they display.

4. Oldest human artifact

Before there was homo sapiens, other hominids walked the earth in West Turkana in Kenya. It was there that the handmade stone anvils, cores and flakes dating from 3.3 million years ago were unearthed at the Lomedwi 3 site. Discovered in 2011 after a group of archaeologists from Stony Brook University took a wrong turn and decided to survey, 130 artifacts used for hammering and cutting were found. They are the oldest tools ever found and were dated based on their stratigraphic position relative to two layers of volcanic ash. It’s led archaeologist to surmise that very early hominids figured out how to make tools much earlier than previously thought.

5. Most intriguing archeological artifact found

An obviously subjective topic, each year, strange and mysterious archaeological artifacts are found. Perhaps one of the most intriguing is the Antikythera mechanism.

It’s the oldest example of an analogue computer believed to have been built by Greek scientists and it dates from somewhere between 205 to 80 BCE.

It’s actually an ancient Greek hand-powered orrery which was used to predict the movements of the sun and moon and calculate eclipses through a mechanism containing 37 bronze gears.

The mechanism was found in 1901 when a Roman cargo shipwreck was discovered off the Greek island of Antikythera.

Want to read more? Read about 5 Archaeologists you should know about.

Are you ready to make an exciting discovery of your own? Spend your next vacation on an archaeological dig. Find out where to go on an archaeology dig.

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