In today's post I will be highlighting the top 10 archaeological discoveries of the decade as well as highlighting the top 10 that were uncovered in 2020. I am going to include all that I can for each discovery. I discovered this list when I was getting my Archaeology magazine back in January and thought it would be cool to explore the discoveries.
You may be asking yourself well why are we reading a post about Archaeology. Well that has to do with what I plan on doing in the future. I am planning to go back to school in the next couple years and get a degree focusing on Archaeology because that's what I enjoy. So for now I get joy by reading my Archaeology magazine and reading articles online about new discoveries. I will dive more into the reasoning in another post.
*This list was taken from Archaeology Magazine (Jan/Feb 2021 issue), I am using their wording as it is the easiest way to explain the discoveries. I am putting the authors name with each portion of the article and I am linking the said article as well. I am outlining these like quotes so they are easier to see what is from the article and what is from me.*
Where did these discoveries occur?
Discoveries have occurred all over the world. The only place that I haven't seen any recent discoveries is Oceania, however that doesn't mean that there haven't been any.
Why is Archaeology important?
The goal of archaeology is to understand how and why human behavior has changed over time. Archaeologists search for patterns in the evolution of significant cultural events such as the development of farming, the emergence of cities, or the collapse of major civilizations for clues of why these events occurred. Ultimately, they are searching for ways to better predict how cultures will change, including our own, and how to better plan for the future. Archaeology is not only the study of these broad issues but also provides a history and heritage to many cultures. Nothing would be known of the cultural developments of prehistoric peoples if it were not for archaeology. Additionally, archaeology paints a picture of everyday life for groups such as slaves, coal miners, and other early immigrant workers who were poorly documented by historians.
Today, our culture seems to document everything through books, newspapers, television, and the Internet. However, there is frequently a difference between what is written and what people actually do. Modern media often puts a "spin" on a story that reflects an editorial bias on what has taken place. Although the written record may be tremendously useful, it is biased by the beliefs and mistakes of those who produced them. Archaeology frequently provides a more objective account of our past than the historic record alone. Our past is our cultural heritage, and how we choose to use this information for future generations is an important role for archaeologists. Understanding patterns and changes in human behavior enhances our knowledge of the past. It aids us in planning, not only our future, but for generations to come. Many people believe that public archaeology is critical to understanding, protecting, and celebrating our rich and diverse cultural heritage. Archaeologists recognize the importance of this role and are developing various mechanisms of media outreach, publications, Internet, and public programs, to publicize the contributions of archaeology.
Top 10 Discoveries of 2020
Mummy Cache; Saqqara Necropolis, Egypt
Within three deep burial shafts in a section of the Saqqara necropolis known as the Area of Sacred Animals, archaeologists have unearthed nearly 60 vividly painted wooden coffins containing the mummified remains of individuals who traveled to the afterlife some 2,500 years ago. The sealed sarcophagi were found stacked atop one another alongside 28 statues of the funerary deity Ptah-Sokar-Osiris and a bronze sculpture of the lotus-flower god Nefertum. Although the shafts were reopened multiple times in antiquity to inter more people, researchers have dated all the burials to the 26th Dynasty (688-525 B.C.) based on names inscribed on the coffins. “These kinds of shafts, which contain many burials, possibly for a family or group, were common during this period,” says Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. “We think that the owners of these coffins are the priests and high officials of the temple of the cat goddess, Bastet.” -- Benjamin Leonard
Carbon Dating Pottery; Worldwide
Since the 1990s, biogeochemist Richard Evershed of the University of Bristol has been trying to find a way to accurately radiocarbon date ceramic artifacts. But it has taken nearly three decades for technology to catch up to his vision. Archaeologists have been using pottery styles to date artifacts and sites for decades, but these dates had to be confirmed using methods such as radiocarbon dating of associated materials or dendrochronology, the analysis of tree rings. Evershed's new technique allows researchers to directly radiocarbon date animal fat residue on pottery. His team is able to isolate compounds from samples of potter that weigh as little as two grams and to detect the miniscule amount of fatty-acid carbon remaining in the residues left by milk, cheese, or meat. Being able to directly date pottery in this way offers archaeologists a novel option. "It gives you a new anchor point," says Evershed. As proof of concept, his team used the method at sites with well established chronologies. One of these is an elevated wooden path that ran through a wetland in Somerset, England, known as the Sweet Track site. Dendrochronology carried out in the 1980s had previously revealed that construction of the track began in the winter of 3807 B.C. Dates from pottery found near the track matched the date obtained through dendrochronology. At the early Neolithic (ca. 6700-5650 B.C.) site of Çatalhöyük in Turkey, dates from four pottery sherds also matched the site's known chronology. Evershed hopes the technique will allow researchers to learn more about the origins of animal domestication. It could also reveal when changes in prehistoric diets, such as adoption of dairy products, took place. The best part, says Evershed, is that pottery is found all over the world and, therefore, "it's a technique that could be applied anywhere, to any culture." -- Zach Zorich
Largest Viking DNA Study; Northern Europe and Greenland
The largest-ever study of Viking DNA has revealed a wealth of information, offering new insights into the Vikings’ genetic diversity and travel habits. The ambitious research analyzed DNA taken from 442 skeletons discovered at more than 80 Viking sites across northern Europe and Greenland. The genomes were then compared with a genetic database of thousands of present-day individuals to try to ascertain who the Vikings really were and where they ventured. One of the project’s primary objectives was to better understand the Viking diaspora, says University of California, Berkeley, geneticist Rasmus Nielsen. It turns out that the roving bands of raiders and traders, traditionally thought to have come only from Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, were far more genetically diverse than expected. According to Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen, one of the most unexpected results was that the Viking Age of exploration may have actually been driven by outsiders. The researchers found that just prior to the Viking Age and during its height, between A.D. 800 and 1050, genes flowed into Scandinavia from people arriving there from eastern and southern Europe, and even from western Asia. In contrast to the traditional image of the light-haired, light-eyed Viking, the genetic evidence shows that dark hair and eyes were far more common among Scandinavians of the Viking Age than they are today. “Vikings were not restricted to genetically pure Scandinavians,” says Willerslev, “but were a diverse group of peoples with diverse ancestry.” In fact, some who adopted the trappings of Viking identity were not Scandinavian at all. For example, two individuals who were buried in Scotland’s Orkney Islands with Viking grave goods and in traditional Viking style were, surprisingly, determined to be genetically linked to the Picts of Scotland and contemporaneous inhabitants of Ireland. Viking raiding parties departing from a given country, the study found, tended to journey consistently to a particular destination. Expeditions from Sweden usually went eastward to the Baltic states, Poland, and Ukraine; Vikings from Norway tended to sail to Iceland, Greenland, and Ireland; and those from Denmark predominantly ventured to England. The study also determined that Viking expeditions sometimes comprised a group of close-knit, even related, individuals. Analysis of 41 skeletons from two ship burials in Salme, Estonia, indicates that they likely hailed from a small village in Sweden, and that four were brothers, entombed alongside one another. -- Jason Urbanus
The First Enslaved Africans in Mexico; Mexico City, Mexico
Details from the lives of three young men buried in a sixteenth-century mass grave in Mexico City have finally been brought to light by researchers who conducted isotope, genetic, and osteological analysis of their remains. Most notably, all three appear to have been born in West Africa. The men’s teeth were filed into shapes similar to those described by contemporaneous European travelers to West Africa and to dental modifications still performed by some groups in the region today. The skeletons were originally discovered in the 1980s, when subway construction revealed a colonial-era hospital for Indigenous people. “We know there were a large number of Africans who were abducted and transported to New Spain, but they did not generally live in Mexico City,” says archaeogeneticist Rodrigo Barquera of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. “That’s why it’s surprising to find these three individuals there.” The skeletons also show evidence of strenuous physical labor and violent trauma. According to Barquera, the men were likely among the first generation of enslaved Africans brought to coastal Mexico in the 1520s. They may have toiled on a sugar plantation or in a mine before possibly becoming sick during an epidemic, which could explain their presence at the hospital. Isotope analysis of their teeth—which can determine where a person originated and what kind of food they consumed as a child—was consistent with West African ecosystems, and their DNA revealed that all three shared West African ancestry. However, the men weren’t related to each other, and the team couldn’t connect them to a specific population. It is possible, Barquera explains, that “after the community in Africa was raided, it disappeared from the historical record.” -- Marley Brown
Luwian Royal Inscription; Türkmen-Karahöyük, Turkey
While conducting a surface survey of the ancient mound site of Türkmen-Karahöyük in southern Turkey, a team led by archaeologists James Osborne and Michele Massa of the University of Chicago made a surprising discovery in a canal not far from the mound: a stone stela bearing hieroglyphs in Luwian, a relative of the Hittite language. Based on the shapes of the glyphs, the inscription has been dated to the eighth century B.C. It records the military achievements of “Great King Hartapu,” a ruler previously known only from inscriptions found at two nearby hilltop sanctuaries. Those enigmatic monuments offer no details about the dates of his reign or the extent of his realm. The new inscription, Osborne explains, establishes Hartapu as a Neo-Hittite leader who claims to have conquered the wealthy kingdom of Phrygia in west-central Anatolia and, in a single year, to have defeated a coalition of 13 kings. “We now know almost certainly that Hartapu’s capital city was Türkmen-Karahöyük and that he was allegedly powerful enough to defeat Phrygia in battle when it was at its height,” Osborne says. “Hartapu wasn’t a local yokel, he was apparently a major Iron Age player.” Based on the ceramics they recovered from the mound, the researchers have determined that, by around 1400 B.C., Türkmen-Karahöyük had grown from a small settlement to a regional center sprawling over more than 300 acres. During the succeeding centuries and throughout Hartapu’s reign, Osborne says, the city probably continued to be one of the largest in Anatolia. “Even in a country as archaeologically diverse as Turkey,” he says, “it’s not every day that an archaeologist finds a massive Bronze and Iron Age city that has never been touched.” -- Benjamin Leonard
A Shrine to Romulus; Rome, Italy
A shrine believed to have once been associated with Romulus, the mythical founder of Rome, has reemerged in an ancient and sacred part of the Roman Forum. The small monument was first discovered by archaeologist Giacomo Boni in 1899, but was subsequently reburied and forgotten for more than a century. During renovation work on the stairs of the Curia Julia, the ancient Roman Senate house, workers rediscovered the sixth-century B.C. hypogeum, or subterranean tomb, which contains a stone sarcophagus and a small round altar. According to legend, Romulus and his brother, Remus, were abandoned at birth and then rescued and nurtured by a she-wolf. Tradition holds that Romulus went on to found the city of Rome in 753 B.C. The recent archaeological rediscovery was made in an area of the Forum where the fabled forefather’s tomb was once located, according to some Roman writers. It is also near a very ancient and mysterious rectangle of black paving stones, known as the Lapis Niger, that Romans believed marked the spot where Romulus was murdered by members of the Senate. Scholars still debate whether Romulus actually existed, and, in any case, archaeologists do not believe the shrine ever held his body. Instead, suggests Alfonsina Russo, director of the Archaeological Park of the Colosseum, it was created as a symbolic monument where Romans could worship their city’s legendary founder and celebrate Rome’s origins. -- Jason Urbanus
Oldest Chinese Artwork; Henan, China
A tiny 13,500-year-old sculpture crafted from burned bone discovered at the open-air Lingjing site can now lay claim to being the earliest three-dimensional object of art found in East Asia. But what makes something a work of art or someone an artist? “This depends on the concept of art we embrace,” says archaeologist Francesco d’Errico of the University of Bordeaux. “If a carved object can be perceived as beautiful or recognized as the product of high-quality craftsmanship, then the person who produced the figurine should be seen as an accomplished artist.” Measuring only half an inch high, three-quarters of an inch long, and just two-tenths of an inch thick, the bird, a member of the order Passeriformes, or songbirds, was made using six different carving techniques. “We were surprised by how the artist chose the right technique to carve each part and the way in which he or she combined them to achieve their desired goal,” says d’Errico. “This clearly shows repeated observation and long-term apprenticeship with a senior craftsperson.” The artist’s attention to detail was so fine, adds d’Errico, that after finding that the bird was not standing properly, he or she very slightly planed the pedestal to ensure the avian would remain upright. -- Jarrett A. Lobell
Enduring Rites of the Mound Builders; Georgia, United States
The site of a three-story-high earthen structure known as Dyar Mound now lies beneath central Georgia’s Lake Oconee, a reservoir created by a dam built in the 1970s. Before the dam’s construction, archaeologists excavated the mound, which was originally built in the fourteenth century A.D. by the ancestors of today’s Muscogee Creek people. Based on artifacts recovered from the site, they determined that Dyar Mound had been abandoned shortly after a 1539–1543 expedition led by Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto traversed the southeastern United States. De Soto and his retinue brought diseases that caused a population collapse in the region. This collapse has long been thought to have precipitated the sudden end of the Mississippian tradition, a widespread belief system practiced by the ancestral Muscogee peoples, among others. A team led by Washington University in St. Louis archaeologist Jacob Holland-Lulewicz has now redated charcoal unearthed at Dyar Mound and used statistical modeling to determine that the site was not in fact abandoned after the de Soto expedition, but that people carried out Mississippian rites atop the mound for nearly 150 years more. “The ancestors of the Muscogee were resilient, and their practices endured for generations,” says Holland-Lulewicz, who notes that advances in radiocarbon dating methods will likely continue to help revise scholarly narratives of early contact between Europeans and Indigenous peoples. -- Eric A. Powell
Oldest Maya Temple; Tabasco, Mexico
The oldest and largest ceremonial structure in the Maya world has been hiding in plain sight on a Mexican cattle ranch near the Guatemala border. “It just looks like part of the natural landscape,” says University of Arizona archaeologist Takeshi Inomata. He and his team were studying low-resolution lidar images of the region collected by the Mexican government when they were astonished to come across what seemed to be a huge earthen platform. A subsequent high-resolution lidar survey of the site showed that the platform stretches almost a mile long and rises as high as 50 feet. Radiocarbon dating suggests that Maya people constructed the ritual space between 1000 and 800 B.C. Known as Aguada Fenix, or “Phoenix Reservoir,” the structure resembles a platform discovered in the 1960s at the even older Olmec city of San Lorenzo, some 300 miles to the west. Evidence unearthed at San Lorenzo, such as colossal stone heads memorializing its rulers, suggests that the Olmec were likely directed to build the platform by powerful leaders. But signs of such social inequality are absent at Aguada Fenix, where the only piece of sculpture thus far unearthed is a two-foot-tall limestone sculpture of a javelina nicknamed “Choco” by the excavators. “People weren’t coerced into building this platform,” says Inomata. “They seem to have come together and built it communally, without strong central leadership.” -- Eric A. Powell
First English Playhouse
Archaeologists have uncovered what they believe are the remains of the Red Lion, the earliest purpose-built playhouse in England, which dates to the 1560s. Prior to this, playhouses were temporary creations, generally set up in the yards of inns or within great houses. The Red Lion was built under the direction of a grocer named John Brayne and until its discovery was known primarily from a pair of lawsuits he filed alleging shoddy workmanship by the carpenters who helped construct it. The later lawsuit, filed in 1569, mentions “a farme house called and knowen by the name of the Sygne of the Redd Lyon” that has seating and a stage measuring 40 feet north to south and 30 feet east to west. Guided in part by land deeds that placed the Red Lion on the border of Whitechapel and Stepney Parishes in East London, a team from University College London’s Archaeology South-East unearthed a timber structure closely matching the dimensions noted in the lawsuit. The team also discovered a number of postholes, which they have dated to the mid-sixteenth century, surrounding the stage. The posts may have supported scaffolding or galleried seating. “Some had assumed that the Red Lion would be round or octagonal,” says lead archaeologist Stephen White. “But it actually looks very reminiscent of certain European theaters that were operating in the sixteenth century where you have these types of enclosed rectangular spaces.” The Red Lion doesn’t appear to have enjoyed a very lengthy career as a playhouse, but it does seem to have served as a prototype for The Theatre in Shoreditch. Larger than the Red Lion, The Theatre was built by Brayne in 1576 in partnership with his brother-in-law, the actor and theatrical impresario James Burbage, and premiered a number of William Shakespeare’s early works. Burbage’s son Richard was a close friend of Shakespeare and played the lead role in many of his plays. -- Daniel Weiss
Top 10 of the Decade
Neanderthal Genome; Vindija Cave, Croatia, 2010
Neanderthals—Homo sapiens’ closest cousins—went extinct around 30,000 years ago. Yet some people possess genetic markers inherited from these distant relatives. This was the conclusion of a groundbreaking 2010 study led by Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute, whose team successfully sequenced a Neanderthal genome for the first time. Around 400,000 years ago, Neanderthals diverged from the primate line that would go on to produce Homo sapiens, and spread to parts of Europe and western Asia. After modern humans migrated out of Africa, researchers believe they encountered and interbred with Neanderthals in the Middle East around 60,000 years ago. As a result, modern humans of non-African descent share around 2 percent of their DNA with Neanderthals. Scientists are still learning how these genes manifest themselves. “Neanderthals contributed DNA to present-day people,” says Pääbo, “and this has physiological effects today, for example in immune defense, pain sensitivity, risk for miscarriages, and susceptibility to severe outcomes from COVID-19.” -- Jason Urbanus
Neolithic City of Shimao; Shaanxi Province, China, 2011
It was originally thought that the ancient stone walls visible on the edge of the Mu Us Desert in the northern province of Shaanxi had once been part of the Great Wall. But, when archaeologists examined them intensively, they realized something much older and more complex was buried there. They had discovered the lost city of Shimao, which dates back to 2300 B.C. Over the past 10 years, excavators including Zhouyong Sun of the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology have uncovered a stone city with immense fortifications and sophisticated infrastructure, thousands of luxurious artifacts, and a 230-foot-high stepped pyramid that served as the residence for Shimao’s rulers and leading families. The site’s early date and peripheral location were surprising since Chinese civilization was thought to have first developed in the Central Plains around 500 years after Shimao’s founding. “The discovery really puzzled me and other archaeologists,” says Sun. “Shimao reveals a unique trajectory to urbanism in China. This once-powerful kingdom was completely unknown in ancient textual records.” -- Jason Urbanus
Child and Llama Sacrifice; Huanchaquito–Las Llamas, Peru, 2012
A decade ago, archaeologists were summoned to investigate a scattering of human and camelid bones outside the modern city of Trujillo. They would soon learn that the 500-year-old remains belonged to the victims of a mass ritual sacrifice, the largest of its kind known in the Americas. In total, the skeletons of 200 llamas and 140 boys and girls were recovered from the Chimu site of Huanchaquito–Las Llamas. Cut marks on the children’s ribs and sternums suggest their hearts were removed during the ritual before each victim was carefully prepared for burial. “Despite the bloody ceremonies, I was shocked by the careful postmortem treatment of the bodies,” says University of Florida archaeologist Gabriel Prieto. “They didn’t simply discard them.” At first, Prieto and his colleagues John Verano of Tulane University and Nicolas Goepfert of France’s CNRS thought that the sacrificial event was a singular response to dire climatic changes. However, in recent years, more sacrifice sites spanning hundreds of years have been identified in the region, leading him to conclude that such ceremonies were a central component of the Chimu religion. -- Jason Urbanus
The Grave of Richard III; Leicester, England, 2012
After Richard III—England’s most vilified monarch—was killed in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, he was hastily buried in Leicester’s Greyfriars church. When the church was demolished 50 years later by Henry VIII, the grave of the last Plantagenet king was lost. Almost 500 years later, it was identified a few feet beneath a parking lot. “The odds were heavily stacked against us,” says Richard Buckley of the University of Leicester Archaeological Services. “What were the chances of the grave surviving for so many years in the middle of a great industrial city?” Yet, radiocarbon dating and osteological analysis confirmed the bones as Richard’s. The skeleton displayed serious wounds, including blows to the head, consistent with reports of Richard’s battlefield injuries. His severely curved spine, caused by adolescent scoliosis, may have led to exaggerated portrayals of Richard’s physical deformities by his enemies. Subsequent DNA testing even identified at least one living relative, a descendant of his sister Anne. -- Jason Urbanus
The Wrecks of Erebus and Terror; Arctic Circle, Canada, 2014
Captain John Franklin set sail from England in May 1845 with 133 men and two ships—HMS Erebus and HMS Terror—in search of the Northwest Passage. The crews of two whaling ships that sighted the expedition that August were the last Europeans to see Franklin and his crew alive, sparking a nearly 170-year maritime mystery. Search parties sent to northern Canada occasionally happened upon ominous clues: items left behind by the expedition, grim testimonies from Inuit witnesses, and even a note left by a crewman on King William Island in 1847 stating that the two ships had become trapped in the ice. In 2014, Canadian authorities announced that researchers had finally located Erebus at the bottom of Wilmot and Crampton Bay. Two years later, Terror was found around 45 miles away. Both wrecks are remarkably well preserved and, in recent years, underwater archaeologists have explored the ships’ cabins and retrieved hundreds of objects, which are helping experts piece together the final days of Franklin’s fateful voyage. -- Jason Urbanus
To read more about the Franklin Expedition and the discovery of Erebus, go to “Franklin’s Last Voyage.”
Homo Naledi; Rising Star Cave, South Africa, 2015
When the strange skeletal remains of more than a dozen early hominins were uncovered in South Africa’s Rising Star cave system, they challenged the story of human origins. The fossils perplexed scholars, as their anatomical features combined modern human and ape-like characteristics. Their shoulders and curved fingers were adapted to climbing trees, but their long, slender legs and foot shape suggested that these hominins walked on two feet. Their skulls were similar to those of modern humans, but their brain cavities were less than half the size. University of Witwatersrand paleoanthropologist Lee Berger and colleagues determined that the bones represent a previously unknown human species, now called Homo naledi. Recent dating of the bones indicates that Homo naledi lived around 230,000 to 330,000 years ago, almost a million and a half years later than initial estimates. This means that the species was not only a distant cousin of modern humans, but also a neighbor living at the same time. “It’s remarkable,” says Berger. “Until naledi, we thought modern humans were alone in Africa at this time.” -- Jason Urbanus
Laser Scanning; Angkor, Cambodia, 2015
The countryside surrounding the Khmer Empire’s capital of Angkor is blanketed with thick jungle, which has hindered archaeological investigation for more than a century. However, laser scanning technology was finally able to do what researchers couldn’t and peer through the dense vegetation, revealing unknown urban settlements and hundreds of hidden archaeological features. “Had you been there a thousand years ago, the forest wouldn’t have existed,” says Damian Evans of the French School of Asian Studies. “You would have seen a vast, bustling metropolis of wooden dwellings and fields stretching off in every direction.” The 3-D images captured in 2015 were the result of the most extensive archaeological scanning project ever undertaken. Evans’ team surveyed 737 square miles of terrain at the heart of the Khmer Empire, which flourished between the ninth and fifteenth centuries. The images captured a complex system of roads, canals, and dams that attest to the civilization’s scale, sophistication, and remarkable ability to engineer Cambodia’s challenging landscape. -- Jason Urbanus
Grave of the “Griffin Warrior”; Pylos, Greece, 2015
One of the greatest archaeological discoveries in Greece over the past 50 years was made at Pylos by University of Cincinnati archaeologists Jack Davis and Sharon Stocker. The grave of the “Griffin Warrior” held the remains of a powerful man who died around 1450 B.C. and was buried alongside 1,500 precious objects, including silver cups, bronze weapons, ivory combs, and gold rings. “The more we study the assemblage, the more amazed we are by how rare and exotic this unique group of artifacts is,” say Davis and Stocker. The most exquisite artifact is one of the smallest: a 1.4-inch-long carved almond-shaped agate sealstone depicting three warriors. Davis and Stocker believe the gem was made on Crete. “Our understanding of the closeness of the relationship between Pylos and the Minoans of Crete has grown,” they say. “As we look more closely at certain artifacts, particularly the sealstones, we realize that they were likely produced by Minoan craftsmen and display typical Minoan iconography. Other artifacts in the grave, however, are very mainland in their appearance.” -- Jason Urbanus
To read more about the Griffin Warrior's grave, go to “World of the Griffin Warrior.”
Mummification Workshop; Saqqara, Egypt, 2018
Mummification is among the best-known religious practices of the ancient Egyptians, yet apart from a few textual descriptions and tomb paintings, very little is known about the facilities where this process took place. That changed when archaeologists discovered a unique series of rooms dating to the Saite-Persian period of the mid-first millennium B.C. “The whole complex could be looked upon as a funeral home of sorts that provided the service of mummification along with burial compartments and equipment,” says Ramadan Hussein of the University of Tübingen. The facility includes a subterranean chamber at the bottom of a 40-foot-deep shaft that was used by embalmers. There, they laid bodies out on a rock-cut bed, drained them of fluids, and prepared them for burial. Hussein’s team also found ceramic vessels labeled with substances’ names and instructions for how each should be used in the mummification process. Just feet from the embalmer’s room, the team located a 100-foot-deep shaft that contained six different tombs holding 59 mummies. -- Jason Urbanus
Regio V Excavations; Pompeii, Italy, 2018
Although Pompeii has been almost constantly excavated since the mid-eighteenth century, around one-third of the city still remains buried beneath 20 feet of volcanic debris from the A.D. 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Archaeologists do not often get a chance to work in the unexcavated areas. However, when a large section of volcanic debris in a neighborhood known as Regio V began to collapse, authorities had no choice but to remove more than a quarter acre of material, revealing long-hidden parts of the Roman city. Streets, houses, and workshops were exposed for the first time in almost 2,000 years. Vibrantly colored frescoes, still bright and radiant, look as if they have just been painted. Archaeologists also retrieved a number of bodies of people who were not fortunate enough to escape the deadly eruption, including 11 found huddled together in one room of a newly explored house. Excavations continue…
To read more about recent excavations of Pompeii, go to “Digging Deeper into Pompeii’s Past.”