Top 10 archaeological discoveries of 2016

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2016 has revealed an amazing array of archaeological discoveries, pushing the boundaries of scientific research and our understanding of the past. The following list represents 10 of the most exciting announcements across the year.

1 – Bronze Age stilt houses unearthed in East Anglian Fens

 

Archaeologists have revealed exceptionally well-preserved Bronze Age dwellings during a series of excavations throughout the year at Must Farm quarry in the East Anglian fens that is providing an extraordinary insight into domestic life 3,000 years ago. The settlement, dating to the end of the Bronze Age (1200-800 BC), would have been home to several families who lived in a number of wooden houses on stilts above water. The settlement was destroyed by fire that caused the dwellings to collapse into the river, preserving the contents in situ. Find out more

2 – Swedish Archaeologists Discover Unknown Ancient City in Greece

Archaeologists from the University of Gothenburg have begun exploring a previously unknown ancient city at a village called Vlochós, five hours north of Athens. The archaeological remains are scattered on and around the Strongilovoúni hill on the great Thessalian plains and can be dated to several historical periods.‘What used to be considered remains of some irrelevant settlement on a hill can now be upgraded to remains of a city of higher significance than previously thought, and this after only one season’ Find out more

3 – Spectacular cargo of ancient shipwreck found in Caesarea

Archaeologists diving in the ancient harbor in the Caesarea National Park recovered beautiful artifacts and coins from a 1,600-year-old shipwreck. This is the largest assemblage of marine artifacts to be recovered in the past thirty years. Many of the artifacts are bronze and in an extraordinary state of preservation: a bronze lamp depicting the image of the sun god Sol, a figurine of the moon goddess Luna, a lamp in the image of the head of an African slave, fragments of three life-size bronze cast statues, objects fashioned in the shape of animals such as a whale, a bronze faucet in the form of a wild boar with a swan on its head, etc. Find out more

4 – Significant Bronze Age city discovered in Northern Iraq

Archaeologists from the University of Tübingen perform excavation work just 45 kilometers from IS territory – the settlement may have been an outpost of the Akkadian Empire. Archeologists from the Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Studies (IANES) at the University of Tübingen have uncovered a large Bronze Age city not far from the town of Dohuk in northern Iraq. The excavation work has demonstrated that the settlement, which is now home to the small Kurdish village of Bassetki in the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan, was established in about 3000 BC and was able to flourish for more than 1200 years. The archaeologists also discovered settlement layers dating from the Akkadian Empire period (2340-2200 BC), which is regarded as the first world empire in human history. Find out more

5 – Archaeologists uncover massive 2500 year old Iron Age Mound

Archaeologists have discovered that a 40-foot mound in Yorkshire, thought to be a Norman castle motte, is actually a unique Iron Age monument, built 2,500 years ago. University of Reading archaeologists say that Skipsea Castle in Yorkshire is actually more similar to Silbury Hill in Wiltshire than a Norman Conquest-era ‘motte and bailey’ castle, as previously thought. The discovery of the ‘Silbury Hill of the North’ makes Skipsea Castle a unique Iron Age monument in Britain. Previously, only smaller burial mounds from this period were known about. Find out more

6 – Archaeologists in Norway discover church and altar of Viking King Olav Haraldsson

Archaeologists in Norway claim to have discovered a church where the Viking King, Olaf Haraldsson was first enshrined as a saint. Archaeologists working on a site near Trondheim have unearthed the foundations of a wooden stave church and the alter where Olaf may have been enshrined immediately after being declared a saint. The discovery gives credibility to Norse saga accounts surrounding important events of that era. Find out more

7 – Structures in French cave sheds new light on the Neanderthals

Deep inside Bruniquel Cave, in the Tarn et Garonne region of southwestern France, a set of man-made structures 336 meters from the entrance was recently dated as being approximately 176,500 years old. This discovery indicates that humans began occupying caves much earlier than previously thought: until now the oldest formally proven cave use dated back only 38,000 years (Chauvet). It also ranks the Bruniquel structures among the very first in human history. Find out more

8 – Pharaonic boat burial uncovered in Abydos, Egypt

Penn Museum archaeologists excavating at the desert site of Abydos, Egypt have discovered the remains of a subterranean pharaonic boat burial dating to the reign of Senwosret III (c. 1850 BCE), according to Dr. Josef Wegner, Penn Museum Associate Curator in the Egyptian section and long-time Project Director of the Abydos excavations. Of the original boat, most likely a pharaonic funerary boat built for the Pharaoh Senwosret III, only a few planks remain. Inside the chamber, however, an unusual tableau survived the millenia: incised on all four of the white-washed plaster walls of the vaulted, elongated burial chamber (about 21 meters long and 4 meters wide), are drawings of more than 120 pharaonic watercraft. More than 145 pottery vessels, buried with their necks facing toward the entrance to the ceremonial boat burial, were also uncovered. Find out more

9 – The Roman shoe hoard of Vindolanda

1,800 years ago the Roman army built one of its smallest but most heavily defended forts at the site of Vindolanda, which is now a part of the Frontiers of The Roman Empire World Heritage Site. The small garrison of a few hundred soldiers and their families took shelter behind a series of large ditches and ramparts, while outside the walls a war was raging between the northern British Tribes and Roman forces. Once the war was over (c AD 212) the troops and their dependants pulled out of the fort, and anything that they could not carry with them on the march was tossed into the defensive ditches. In 2016, the Vindolanda archaeologists excavated the ditch and discovered an incredible time capsule of life and conflict, and amongst the debris were dog and cat skeletons, pottery, leather and 421 Roman shoes. Find out more

10 – Mummified remains identified as Egyptian Queen Nefertari

A team of international archaeologists believe a pair of mummified legs on display in an Italian museum may belong to Egyptian Queen Nefertari – the favourite wife of the pharaoh Ramses II. As the favourite wife of the pharaoh Ramses II, Nefertari was provided with a beautifully decorated tomb in the Valley of the Queens to which Professor Fletcher was recently given access. Although plundered in ancient times, the tomb, first excavated by Italian archaeologists in 1904, still contained objects which were sent to the Egyptian Museum in Turin. This included a pair of mummified legs which could have been part of a later interment as was often the case in other tombs in the region. But as the legs had never been scientifically investigated, it was decided to undertake the recent study to find out if the legs could actually represent all that remained of one of Egypt’s most legendary queens. Find out more

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