History may be a boring subject at school but when you look at it from the perspective of learning more about how human cultures have developed, it can be quite fascinating. Archaeologists keep digging to find out more about how we evolved, and sometimes, accidental discoveries turn out to be immensely significant.
- Pompeii. Flattened by an earthquake caused by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D, this ancient Roman town near Naples in Italy lay buried and forgotten for nearly 1700 years. It was discovered in 1599 and then excavated in 1748, revealing perfectly preserved remains under layers of ash. Pompeii had a complex water and drainage system, an ampi-theatre, gymnasium and port that’s comparable to modern towns. It’s one of the most popular tourist sites in Italy.
2. The Rosetta Stone. It’s all about learning languages, right? Right. The original Rosetta Stone, which is the most visited object in the British Museum in London since the year 1802, is actually a huge stone slab inscribed with a decree by Egyptian pharaoh Ptolemy V. It has directions in three texts, Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic and Ancient Greek. Discovered by a soldier in Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign, it became key to unlocking the meaning of hieroglyphics for researchers.
3. The Dead Sea Scrolls. Discovered between 1946-1956 in caves along the Dead Sea, these 981 documents, some on papyrus, some on parchment, and one on copper, date back to the 2nd century A.D. In Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, they helped Biblical scholars reconstruct the early days of Christianity.
4. The Caves at Lascaux. Paintings on cave walls dating back to paleolithic times were discovered in the southwestern French village of Montignac by a teenager out for a walk in the hills. They affirm the intrinsic love of aesthetics in human beings from time immemorial.
5. The Tomb of Tutankhamun. Perhaps the most famous archaeological find in the history of History, King Tut’s tomb and the artifacts found there continue to fascinate. The 1922 discovery by archaeologists Howard Carter and George Herbert made headlines across the world. The priceless antiquities, especially the death mask of the mummified king, have become the face of Egyptology since then.