Monday, December 18, 2006

Top 10 Archaeological Discoveries of 2006

I'm a fan of the old stuff, so I thought this list was pretty cool. One quibble: the dating on the shells in number 10 is screwy -- it assesses the date of the shells themselves, not when they were made into jewelry.

Top 10 Archaeological Discoveries of 2006

By Christine Senter

10.) 100,000 Year Old ShellBeads Found in Middle East
In June, two separate sites in the Middle East have yielded a total of three Nassarius shells that appear to have been deliberately modified to make beads for some type of body modification. Carbon dating on these shells show them to be between 90,000 and 100,000 years old, making them the oldest known pieces of jewelry to date.

9.) 5,000 Year Old Dagger Found in Bulgaria
In August, a small gold and platinum dagger was excavated at a dig near Sofia, Bulgaria. Also found were several hundred tiny gold rings, silver vessels, and an array of pottery. Previous digs in the region have produced thousands of tiny gold rings dating to around 5,000-5,200 BC.

8.) 3,000 Year Old Writing Found on Stone Tablet in Mexico
In mid-September, workers discovered a stone slab containing hieroglyphs at a rock quarry in Veracruz, Mexico. Experts feel sure that the 28 different hieroglyphs were made by an ancient society called the Olmec. This civilization thrived in Mexico long before the Maya came to power, making these hieroglyphs the oldest form of writing in the Americas.

7.) Tumi Burials Found in Mexico
In late November, archaeologists found 22 graves containing "tumi" knives. These ceremonial blades have never before been found in a scientific manner as all known pieces have come from tomb robbers. The Peruvian people see the tumi as their national symbol even though this society lived in the region long before the Incas.

6.) Palace of Ajax Found in Greece
In March, Greek archaeologists found what they say is a Mycenaean-era complex thought to the palace of the legendary warrior-king, Ajax. According to the Greek writer, Homer, Ajax was one of the great heroes fighting against the Spartans during the Trojan War. The ruins were found in exactly the place Homer described in his story, The Illiad. One of the more interesting finds at this dig was a piece of bronze armor with the stamp of Pharaoh Rameses II, who ruled in the 13th century BC. The ruins are thought to date from the same time span.

5.) Aztec Altar and Monolith Found in Mexico
In early October, archaeologists recovered an Aztec altar depicting the image of their rain god, and an 11-foot monolith, while digging in the heart of Mexico City. Spanish conquistadors destroyed the Aztec's capitol and built Mexico City on it's foundation. In the center of the city stands one of the few remaining temples of the Aztec nation, the Templo Mayor.

4.) 3,400 Year Old Canoe Found in England
In August, workers laying a natural gas pipeline had to stop their work after finding what seemed to be a large piece of tree trunk in their way. Archaeologists were called in and soon realized that they had an ancient, hand tooled canoe. Also found was a small settlement and some polished stone rings. A small piece of the oak canoe was sent to Miami for radio carbon dating, where it was announced that the tree was more than 3,000 years old.

3.) Book of Psalms Found in Irish Bog
In late July, a man working in the peat bogs noticed a piece of leather. Experts were called in to investigate and found the piece to be a book of psalms dating from between 800-1000 AD. It is being hailed as the greatest find in recent Irish history. The 20 page book was opened when found and it is thought that the acidic conditions led to the books preservation.

2.) Lucy's Baby
In late September, the archaeological world was rocked with the discovery of a hominid child dated to 3.3 million years old. The skeletal remains of child of the same species as the famed "Lucy" was found in Great Rift Valley of Eastern Africa. It will take several years for the skeleton to be completely removed from the sandstone encasing in which it was found, but the find will help experts in their understanding of human evolution.

1.) First Tomb Found in Egypt Since King Tut
In February, Egypt announced that there had been a new tomb found in the Valley of the Kings. This was the first such find since Howard Carter found the tomb of King Tutankhamun in 1922. Though no mummies were found in the tomb, there were several sarcophagi, including one small golden sarcophagi meant either for a child or a small statue. Other finds in the tomb include flower garlands and 20 large sealed jars.

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