Monday, August 8, 2011

Greatest world discoveries of the last century

July 24 will be the 100th anniversary of American historian Hiram Bingham discovery of the forgotten Inca city Machu Picchu in Peru. In honor of Bingham, The List this week looks at some noted archaeology and geographical discoveries made in the last 100 years since Machu Picchu was revealed to the broader world.

Machu Picchu (1911) - On July 24, 1911, a local 11 year-old Quechuas boy led Yale University professor Hiram Bingham up to a pre-Columbian 15th-century Inca site in Peru, which is situated 7,970 feet above sea level. Bingham called the complex “The Lost City of the Incas.” Machu Picchu was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
Olduvai Gorge (1911) - A German entomologist named Wilhelm Kattwinkel searching for butterflies came across the important prehistoric site Olduvai Gorge, sometimes called “the Cradle of Mankind,” situated in the eastern Serengeti Plains in northern Tanzania. The gorge is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world.
Tomb of Tutankhamen (1922) - In 1922 Howard Carter and George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon opened the nearly intact tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings, in Egypt exposing treasures unsurpassed in the history of archaeology. The event received worldwide press coverage.
The cemetery at Ur (1927) - Working in Ur in Iraq in 1927, archaeologist Leonard Woolley uncovered a remarkable complex of tombs - known now as the “royal cemetery at Ur.” The cemetery produced objects, in gold and lapis lazuli, buried with the occupants of the tombs (presumed to be a king and queen) in about 2500 BC. Agatha Christie visited the site in 1930 where she met archaeologist Max Mallowan, and married later that year.
Peking Man (1929) - Peking Man refers to a batch of Homo erectus fossils found in Zhoukoudian, near Beijing, beginning in 1929 estimated to be over 500,000 years old. The site yielded remains of 40 half-human, half-ape creatures.
Sutton Hoo (1939) - One of the most famous archaeological finds in England took place in 1939 at Sutton Hoo, a village near Ipswich, where a the ceremonial ship in which Raedwald, Saxon king of the East Angles, was buried in 624, is discovered. The ship, containing a treasure of jewelry, weapons and armor, was dug up almost intact.
Cave of Lascaux (1940) - The cave, decorated with prehistoric drawings, was discovered on September 12, 1940 by four teenagers. Carbon-dating suggests the murals were created between 15,000 and 17,500 years ago. The cavern is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Dead Sea scrolls (1947) - In 1947, Bedouin shepherds found seven scrolls or parts of scrolls and fragments, along with store jars and broken pottery jars in a cave overlooking the northwest end of the Dead Sea. When a dealer acting on behalf of the shepherds sold the scrolls, they came to the attention of scholars in Jerusalem and then the scholarly world.
Workshop of Phidias (1954) - An ancient building was excavated in 1954 just to the west of the temple of Zeus at Olympia. Discarded tools, heavy pottery moulds and fragments of worked ivory were found. They date from about 430 BC, revealing the workshop of Phidias, a Greek sculptor.
Catal Huyuk (1958) - In 1958, James Mellaart excavated Catal Huyuk, an early agricultural settlement in Turkey occupied about 8,000 years ago. The houses were packed together like New York City apartment buildings, with entrances on their roofs that would have made Catal Huyuk a tough town to ransack.
The art of the San (1969) - Archaeologists, digging in 1969 in a remote cave in the Hun Mountains in Namibia, unearthed stone slabs on which animals were been painted, probably done by the San people, the earliest modern inhabitants of southern Africa. Radiocarbon dating revealed the painters lived between 28,000 and 26,000 years ago. Until the discovery of Chauvet cave, in 1994, they are the world’s earliest known images.
Terracotta Army (1974) - A legion of life-sized terracotta clay soldiers and horses were discovered in 1974 by local farmers in Xian, in China near the 2,200-year-old burial ground of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi. Current estimates suggest there are over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits.
The Ebla archive (1975) - In 1975 an Italian team excavating Tell Markikh, in Syria, uncovered a pile of cuneiform tablets. The tablets turn out to be part of a library amounting to some 15,000 items revealing a community of great economic significance from perhaps as early as 2500 BC.
Uluburun Shipwreck (1982) - The world’s oldest shipwreck, known as Uluburun, was located 150 feet below the water’s surface near Kas off the southern coast of Turkey in 1982 by Mehmed Çakir, a local sponge diver. The ship sank in 1316 BC. The discovery was said to be as one of the top 10 historic finds of the past 50 years.
The frozen corpse in the Alps (Otzi the Iceman) (1991) - On 19 September 1991, in the Hauslabjoch gully high in the Alps on the border between Austria and Italy, two German climbers come across the head and shoulders of a man, face down, protruding from the ice. The man in the ice turns out to be more than 5000 years old, Europe’s oldest natural human mummy.
Chauvet Cave (1994) - In December 1994, in the Ardèche region of southern France, three expert potholers decided to explore a small cavity (only about 30 inches high and 10 inches wide) on a hillside. It led them into a vast cave system, previously unknown where the walls were covered in paintings of animals said to be the earliest known cave paintings.

For more interesting topics related to archaeology, visit archaeology excavations.

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