Archaeology aims to open a window into the past by unearthing artifacts that show exactly how humans' ancestors used to live. But sometimes, experts have discovered archaeological finds that rewrote history. Rather than confirm a commonly held belief (cavemen weren't intelligent!), these finds would upend it (cavemen made art and crafted advanced tools!). More recent historical artifacts that rewrote history have changed the way people think about ancient civilizations and humanity as a whole.
Some of these discoveries might seem minor at first glance. A new burial ground might seem like another collection of bones, until you consider what its placement means about early humans' intelligence. A strange metal mass could be a piece of trash, until historians discover it can calculate the planets' orbits. These eye-opening, and downright weird, discoveries continue to expand people's view of their world. From ancient fossils to strange structures, every object can help modern humans understand the past a little more. Read on to discover a few of these important artifacts in history, and be prepared to be amazed.
Painted Shells Demonstrate 'Primitive' Neanderthals Made ArtPhoto: Peresani M et al / PLOS
Public perception of Neanderthals imagines them as dim cavemen who were effectively wiped out by the more advanced homo sapiens. Modern research has begun to contradict this point, with recent findings indicating that Neanderthals were more similar to modern humans than many have previously thought.
One significant example is the finding of painted shells in Italy that have been dated to a period before homo sapiens arrived in Europe. These ornamental pieces may have been decorated by Neanderthals, suggesting that these early people may have created and collected artwork.
Incan Mummies Showed How Children Were Drugged And Sacrificed
Bygone writers described the human sacrifices of the ancient Incan Empire. But the exact method of sacrifice was never fully understood – until three mummies were found in Argentina in 1999. The perfectly preserved bodies of three children, aged 4, 5, and 13, gave researchers the chance to study them in detail.
Forensic tests showed that the children were given large amounts of maize beer and coca leaf before their death. Archaeologists assume the children were drugged until they passed out, then left to die on the mountaintop.
A 2 Million-Year-Old Skull Changed Thinking On Human Evolution
Known as Skull 5, this fossil is a 1.8 million-year-old hominid skull that was found in Dmanisi, Georgia. What makes it especially important is the fact that it was completely preserved as one complete piece. This allowed researchers to carry out detailed analysis of the shape and features.
The results suggest that common thoughts on human evolution may be wrong, as the skull contains details that would normally be associated with different species of early humans. The team behind the study believe this indicates that early homo species may have had far fewer separate species than previously believed.
Ancient Scrolls Reveal That Budget Cuts, Not Fire, Destroyed The Library of AlexandriaPhoto: National Geographic
The Royal Library of Alexandria was one of the largest scholarly institutions ever built, containing thousands of scrolls and texts from the greatest thinkers of ancient times. However, its quick disappearance from history has led many to believe that it was destroyed in a fire, possibly at the orders of Julius Caesar when he attacked Egypt.
Recent evidence uncovered by Luciano Canfora, in the form of scrolls written by people working in the library, reveal that it was actually brought down due to budget cuts from the government rather than a dramatic event. Texts gradually fell apart or were given to other institutions, and what was left of the Library's collection was likely destroyed in 642.