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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.