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5 unique archaeological discoveries

Archaeologists uncover amazing discoveries in all corners of the world—all of which have given us an understanding of the people and cultures who lived before us. Sometimes, something really unusual is discovered that changes the way we see the world.


Here are our top 5


1. The Oldest work of art is in a cave in Indonesia

Photo credits: A. A. Oktaviana, ARKENAS/Griffith University

Forty-four thousand year old rock art from Sulawesi, Indonesia depicts dwarf bovids, wild pigs and handprints. According to Aubert, Oktaviana and Brumm, the leading scientists, "This hunting scene is—to our knowledge—currently the oldest pictorial record of storytelling and the earliest figurative artwork in the world.”

It had been thought that caves in Europe held this distinction, but this find “had implications for everything from the origins of art, religion, and human spirituality to the movement of Austronesian peoples. Many scholars consider these artistic activities to be the expression of a leap in human cognitive development,” according to an article by Silvio Viviani in Sapiens magazine.


2. Early Japanese camp in British Columbia

Dishes and bottles found at the site in the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve. Bob Muckle

Within the forest of British Columbia, a site from the early 1900s was discovered which was believed to have started as a multi-ethnic logging camp that turned into a village of Japanese residents. Professor Robert Muckle and his team spent 14 years excavating over 1,000 artifacts from the site that was “very likely a small community of Japanese who were living here on the margins of an urban area,” according to Muckle. According to Smithsonian Magazine, “The first major wave of Japanese immigration to Canada began in 1877, with many of the new arrivals settling in the coastal province of British Columbia. From the start, they were met with hostility and discrimination.” Muckle surmises the residents were living at this location in secret to avoid racism.


3. A young Bedouin shepherd discovery

CTVnews, 2020

In 1947 the Judean Deserts, a shepherd found the first Dead Sea Scrolls while tending to his flock. The Hebrew manuscripts were found encased in jars caves near Khirbet Qumran on the northwestern shores of the Dead Sea. They date from the third to first century CE and are written in Hebrew, with some in Aramaic and Greek. After the discovery of the first seven scrolls, around 900 more were found in the surrounding desert and caves. They represent the earliest evidence for biblical text in the world and are considered a turning point in the study of the history of the Jewish people in ancient times. For a look at the jars that the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in, check out this link from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.


4. The fate of the leaders of Jamestown

Loreto, 2015

New light has been shed on the lives of America’s first settlers in Jamestown by forensic anthropologist Douglas Owsley and his team. Owsley unearthed four skeletons of the founders of the first permanent settlement in the New World in Jamestown's historic 1608 church. The teeth provided clues about how long the men were at the settlement, and how their lives changed by moving to America. For example, Captain Gabriel Archer was only 34 when he died in 1609 during the “starving time” when hundreds perished. National Geographic proves information found during the research of the bodies, which gives us a better understanding of what life was like in the early days of America.


5. Elena Korka’s Lost City of Tenea Discovery

An aerial shot of the ruins of the lost city of Tenea. Photo courtesy of the Greek Culture Ministry.

The city of Tenea, founded by the Trojans after the Trojan War, was finally found in 2018 after a 34-year search in the Peloponnese region of Greece. The team, led by archaeologist Elena Korka, found 200 coins at the site demonstrating the incredible wealth of the city that was known through ancient texts. Archeologists have also found burials, jewelry, and massive baths.


There is still so much to be discovered about the past. You have the opportunity to work alongside archaeologists on excavation. Dig into the adventure and find an archaeological expedition on Ancient Odysseys.


Related Blog Posts: How to sound like an archaeologist (with no formal training!), 5 Fun Facts about Archaeology and How do archaeologists know where to dig?

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