Coolest Archaeological Discoveries of 2015

Tiva in the barrowAs the end of the year approaches, it’s time to look back of the biggest headlines and ask ourselves: what are the coolest things found by archaeologists this year?

As it turns out, 2015 has been a year of incredibly compelling discoveries around the world. But the things found by archaeologists are so much more than splendid, or impressive; some have actually helped to solve real world problems. But before we get to that, let’s get literal and start with the biggest discovery of the year…

Archaeologists Find Another Enormous Monument UNDERNEATH Superhenge


Described by the papers as ‘archaeology on steroids’, it’s not hard to see why. At over 1,640 feet in diameter, 4,500 years old and made of 90 standing stones, the discovery of this brand new monument was HUGE. But actually, size was not the most impressive thing about it. What’s really amazing is that it was found using Ground Penetrating Radar underneath another monument just two miles from Stonehenge, adding a whole new chapter to the story of one of the UK’s most iconic landscapes.

A Celtic Prince Buried With Ancient Greek Treasure

Moustaches thumbnail

Everyone’s aware of the ‘Celts’, and everyone’s aware of the Ancient Greeks, but not everyone is aware of the deep connections between the two. This cauldron featuring the head of Greek god Achelous was found in the 2,500 year old grave of a Celtic prince in the Champagne region of France. Not only does it provide new insight into the depth of trade routes, but it’s reinvigorated the whole area of research between Mediterranean and Atlantic cultures. Fascinated? Check out our work on hillforts in Atlantic Spain.

Bronze Age Brits Mummified Their Dead Too

Skeletal remains from Neat's Court in Kent, England. These bones show signs of low-level heat treatment, indicating that the body might have been mummified in an extremely dry environment or through smoking. Credit: Geoff Morley

Skeletal remains from Neat’s Court in Kent, England. These bones show signs of low-level heat treatment, indicating that the body might have been mummified in an extremely dry environment or through smoking. Credit: Geoff Morley

Say ‘mummy’ and we bet the first thing you think of is Ancient Egypt or Peru, but this year archaeologists found evidence to suggest that Bronze Age Brits regularly mummified their dead too, albeit not with bandages. In a preliminary study of ancient bones, it seems that they were regularly smoking or otherwise preserving their dead to prevent them from rotting and may even have brought them out for ceremonies. If there was ever a story that could change our view of Bronze Age British burial rites, this is it.

Archaeologists Have Invented a Portable Carbon Dating Device

Image - Quadrupole Element

The modern archaeologist’s toolkit is a rapidly expanding bag, but this is by far the coolest breakthrough we’ve heard of this year. In fact, it’s one we think will revolutionise field archaeology forever. So cool!

New Human Ancestor Disposed of Their Dead

Homo naledi faceIf Uberhenge was the biggest discovery of the year, then the discovery of a new human ancestor in a cave 40m underground was definitely the most intrepid. An all-female team squeezed through narrow passages into a chamber where they found the remains of 15 individuals, the likes of which had never been seen before – they had small brains, big thumbs and disposed of their dead in deep underground caves.

Ancient Egyptian Process Can Help Us Easily Purify Dirty Water

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Archaeologists don’t just learn things about people of the past, sometimes they learn things from them that help solve modern-day problems. Seriously, this year archaeologists working with a team of scientists proved that reports of Ancient Egyptian women rubbing Moringa seeds onto their water pots really do kill dangerous microbes in water bringing a cheap and easily solution to people who don’t have access to expensive chemical alternatives.

Archaeologists Bring Extinct Tree Back from the Dead

methuselah baby

Exactly one decade on from when this story was first announced, we’re bringing it back to your attention with an update. The Judean date palm had been extinct for thousands of years, but when archaeologists found an ancient jar of seeds they decided to plant one. To their delight, it sprouted and ten years on, the tree is ready to become a dad and there are now plans to replant an entire orchard. Amazing.

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Written by Maiya Pina-Dacier

Head of Community at DigVentures, Maiya digs with a trowel in one hand, and a Twitter feed in the other. She reports on all our discoveries live from the trenches, and keeps our Site Hut full of the latest archaeology news. Got a story? Just drop her a line...

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