I wanted to be Indiana Jones as a kid. The problem is, archaeology is a lot harder of a degree to obtain than one in English. It’s also way more boring. Admittedly, the life of an archaeologist probably isn’t as exciting as the Nazi-punching adventures of Dr. Jones.
Yet every once in a while, a discovery is made in the field of archaeology that is crazy interesting. The following finds in archaeology may be lesser known than the Ark of the Covenant, but they’re still super cool and also not filled with ancient spirits that will melt your face off.
1. L’Anse aux Meadows: Many believe that it was Columbus who discovered the New World, but this settlement in Newfoundland proves that the Vikings were the first to settle in North America. The site was built 1,000 years ago, and was able to support 30 to 160 Vikings.
The vikings were into North America before it was cool!
2. Saksaywaman: This complex fortress sits on the outskirts of Cusco, Peru, the former capital of the Incan empire. The rocks are so tightly fit together you can’t even slip a piece of paper between them.
Also, the Incans managed to build this without mortar. If you know anything about construction (I don’t), this is pretty important to the process.
3. Mohenjo-daro: This town was built in 2600 BCE in present-day Pakistan. It is one of the first examples of city-planning in human history. It has roads and even a draining system similar to a sewer.
The city was mysteriously abandoned seven centuries after it was founded. It wasn’t rediscovered until 1922. How do you lose a whole city like this?
4. The Gate of the Sun: Located in west Bolivia, this gate is the precisely cut, megalithic stone archway of the Tiwanaku empire. The empire stretched from Peru to parts of Bolivia 1500 years ago. It was the most powerful South American nation before the Incans.
Scholars believe this might not be the original location of the archway, suggesting a bizarre, Stonehenge-like situation here.
5. Stone Age tunnels: Just a few years ago, archaeologists found a new, underground network of tunnels built by people of the Stone Age. It stretches from Scotland, through Europe, and into Turkey.
They are calling it a “highway,” but given that most of the tunnels are only 70 cm wide in diameter, it’s more like the playground in a Chuck E Cheese’s.
6. The Longyou Grottoes: Located in Zhejiang, China, these man-made caves date all the way back to 212 BCE. The most interesting part about them are the meticulously made markings that run along the walls and ceiling that are all evenly spaced at a 60 degree axis.
I feel like people back then were just bored a lot. This would never happen in the age of Netflix.
7. Göbekli Tepe: Situated on a mountaintop in modern Turkey, this ancient structure changed the way archaeologists think about the origins of human society. The structure pre-dates agriculture (circa 9,000-10,000 BCE), confirming that church and worship were the beginnings of civilization.
Yeah so, take that, Mesopotamian fertile crescent!
8. Stone Spheres of Costa Rica: Not much is truly known about the spheres, except that they were probably made by the Diquis people that lived from 700 to 1530 AD. There is a local myth that they are relics from the lost city of Atlantis.
This thing weighs about 15 tons!
9. Yonaguni Monument: There is still some debate from archaeologists over whether or not the underwater monument off the coast of Japan is man-made or not. It features two twin monoliths that appear to have been placed, in addition to this pictured structure, known as “The Turtle”.
The arguments of its origins: the flat edges and 90 degree angles would suggest this was man made, but the fact that it’s very much under the ocean water would suggest not.
10. The Unfinished Obelisk: Recently found in Aswan, Egypt, the obelisk was ordered by Hatshepsut in the mid 1500s BC and could have been the largest Egyptian obelisk ever erected–if it were completed.
It must have been awkward for the Egyptian slave masters to force their slaves to make most of an obelisk, but then be like, “Psych, nah, we don’t want it anymore.”
As much as I have always wanted to be Indiana Jones, I feel like archaeology is more about dusting dirt with a tiny broom than dodging booby traps. I’m glad there are people out there into that so we can learn all this cool stuff!