Discoveries 2014 feature image2014 has been a year of incredible archaeological discoveries, hastened by the rapidly accelerating fields of underground mapping and no-dig techniques. But some of the most important and transformative discoveries could only have come about with a careful eye and a careful hand. Here’s our pick of the biggest-hitting stories we’ve published this year.

1. The 500,000 Year Old Engraving that Shows Humans Weren’t the First to Make Art

the first art shell reverse

The earliest known example of geometric art was thought to have been made by Homo sapiens about 100,000 years ago. The discovery that Homo erectus engraved this shell half a million years ago has transformed our understanding of what has long been considered one of the defining traits of modern humans: artistic creativity.

The engraved shell sat in a museum in the Netherlands for over a century and remained unrecogonised until archaeologist Josephine Joordens noticed it while studying the collection when researching how Homo erectus used marine resources. Read more.

2. The 4,000 Year Old Meeting Hall that Could Be Europe’s Oldest Known Purpose-Built Political Precinct

UAB-LAALMOLOYA-1

Archaeologists in Spain uncovered a densely populated urban settlement centred around a meeting hall capable of seating up to 64 people and believe this 4,000 year old complex could be one of Europe’s first purpose-built political precincts.

High up on a steep plateau, the site of La Almolaya is set within the Argaric territory – a civilisation that flourished in south-eastern Spain during the Bronze Age. The excavations also uncovered tombs containing a wealth of grave goods, including a silver diadem and four gold and silver ear dilators. Read more.

3. The Vast Array of Previously Unknown Archaeological Monuments Surrounding Stonehenge

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An unprecedented digital mapping project transformed our knowledge of the iconic Stonehnge landscape when it revealed a vast array of previously unknown archaeological monuments, including remarkable new discoveries at the world’s largest ‘super henge’, Durrington Walls.

The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, led by the University of Birmingham in conjunction with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology, is the largest project its kind. Read more.

4. The Incredible Iron Age Site Uncovered By Finland’s First Crowdfunded Dig

Horse head pendant from Pirttitörmä

Cold, remote and relatively unknown to archaeologists, few have excavated in Northern Finland. In fact, many believed it remained poor and unsettled until the Middle Ages.

During a three week excavation in Pirttitörmä, Northern Finland, a small team of archaeologists from the University of Oulu unearthed evidence of a rare Late Iron Age site, including jewellery, coins and a walled settlement, with a burial site just 1km away. Read more.

5. The Engimatic Viking Fortress of King Harald Bluetooth that Was Burnt to the Ground

Trelleborg fortress

South of Copenhagen, on the island of Zealand, archaeologists did something they hadn’t done for over 60 years: discover a new Viking fortress, and a massive one at that.

Measuring 145m from side to side, this is not just any Viking fortress, but one of the perfectly circular Trelleborg fortresses built during the reign of King Harald Bluetooth. And it seems to have been burnt to the ground. The discovery of this new Viking fortress is a unique opportunity to gain new knowledge about Viking war and conflicts. Read more.

 

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