As 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…
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.
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.
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.
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!
If 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.
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.
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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