Finding ancient ruins of long-forgotten settlements and cities in a myriad of landscapes, archaeologists are often confronted with the quest of making sense of people’s lives in those settlements, and their excavations reach headlines.
Piecing together the rubble of houses, walls, and statues they will frequently find more questions than answers. Stonehenge is a good example of this, the imposing structure is today still debated and speculated as to what it was built for.
On a smaller scale, there are many other archaeological finds that have a very unexpected explanation, or their purpose is simply theorized.
In southern Costa Rica, giant dark stone spheres are dotted on the Diquis Delta. Some of them are sculpted from gabbro, some out of limestone, and others of sandstone. They were discovered in 1930 by a fruit company trying to clear the jungle for a banana plantation.
The theory is that the stones have been carved with other small stones into the round smooth shape they are now by Precolombian settlers known as Diquis. Various theories have been juggled around as to their purpose, some believing that they served astronomical functions, or that their placement pointed to some important cult locations, or that they served as markers for chieftains dwellings.
The truth is that their real purpose has not been discovered as of yet. The stones are regarded as monuments and are frequent tourists attraction. They have become a national symbol, many stones being placed in front of national institutions as per assuming their heritage and identity, despite the fact that upon discovering them, many stones have been moved, crushed, bulldozed, and blown up with TNT in pursuit of potential El-dorado treasures.
Valuable cache findings in archaeology go far beyond precious metals or stones as even a lump of rusted bronze and wood can pose much value. In dealing with Ancient Greece, this titanic culture was so powerful that it even influenced the mighty Roman Empire. Archaeologists have a lot to deal with.
It seems that very frequently a new ancient site is discovered in Greece today as the country tries to build one new building or highway after another and stumble on the remnants of the old civilization. Even the waters around the peninsula are awash with plenty of shipwrecks that reveal nuggets of the past. In 1900 one such wreck was discovered near the island of Antikythera.
Of course, many of the findings included the regular statues, coins, pottery, glassware, jewelry, and among them a strange lump.
Little to no interest had been given to this artifact until two years later a gear was spotted on the strange lump, which lead researches to believe it was some astronomical clock. Much later in 1971 interest resurged for this item and upon scanning it with x-rays and gamma rays the complexity of this device came into focus. It looked to be an analog computer and as such, it came to be known, the very first one at that.
It is intriguing that such a complex device was ignored for so long, and upon looking at it and various reconstructions of it now, one may remain in awe at how modern it looks, proving that illuminated minds of the past evolved and created wondrous items.
Apart from pottery and items that are either shrouded in mystery or uncover deeper facts about the past, archaeologists often find human remains. It comes with the job, and in some cases, these discoveries reveal aspects of human nature as relating to a certain historical context. In the city of Ashkelon in modern-day Israel, the remains of at least 97 babies were uncovered buried beneath an ancient bathhouse. It is believed that the bathhouse doubled as a brothel, and the mass grave, containing mostly male remains, are the unwanted babies that came as the result of the brothel’s business.
In another part of the world, in Egypt, a pit containing 16 human right hands was discovered, dating to around 3600 years ago. This discovery comes in support of an Ancient Egyptian custom of presenting an enemy’s hand in exchange for gold, a sort of bounty hunt with dismembered hands. Although how the pharaoh new that he was not swindled with some random person’s hand is up to debate.
Monsters from the past
Human remains aside, sometimes we find unusual creatures that have not walked the earth any time since our existence. In New Zealand’s Mount Owen caves, a 3300 years old dinosaur looking claw was found. Research suggests it belonged to a prehistoric bird that might look similar to modern-day emus, and the mummification process of the claw brought it to modern days in such good condition that it looks like it was ripped straight out of a Jurrasic Park movie.
In Western Australia, an area of 15 miles on the Daimler Peninsula has actually come to be known as Australia’s Jurrasic Park. A slew of fossilized dinosaur tracks can be found here, and recently a sauropod footprint was discovered measuring 1.7 meters, the largest ever found.
Canada, on the other hand, boasts a very well preserved specimen of ankylosaur. The specimen was found by miners in 2011 in an oil and sand quarry. Bringing the fossil out of the rock it was encased in took a very long time, but the end result was the reward of the almost statue-like condition of the dinosaur with details of its armor down to the scales. This also helped determine some amount of pigmentation on its skin, painting a better picture of the color pattern it may have had.
When it comes to studying the past through archaeology, no small discovery is to be shrugged off, as in many cases, the devil often can be found in the details, as many of the finds mention showed. The world still has many discoveries that, until now are still left a mystery, so we can only hope to be enlightened in the future