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The 16 Most Bizarre Historical Artifacts Ever Discovered On Construction Sites

Updated September 23, 2021 40.3k votes 10.4k voters 1.0m views16 items

List RulesVote up the most surprising things found on construction sites that would shock you if you were laying a foundation.

There have been some seriously strange things found at construction sites. While some people have spent their entire lives searching for buried riches or lost holy relics only to come up short, others have just sort of stumbled upon historical artifacts found at construction sites. The weird stuff found on construction jobs ranges from priceless treasures to tangible evidence of civilizations thought lost forever. Truly, a few of these accidental archaeological finds changed what we know about history

In all cases, the stories of those lucky (or unlucky) enough to find a mummy or a trove of Tudor artifacts in their floorboards are fascinating and often creepier than fiction. These discoveries are by turns heartwarming, stomach-churning, and awe-inspiring. Be careful, or these serendipitous moments may inspire you to start digging in your backyard, combing the beach, or putting holes in your wall. But then again, who knows? You might get lucky.    

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    A 13th Century Mansion Was Found Under Somerset, England

    In 2013, during construction for a housing development in Wellington, England, excavators discovered the foundations of a 12th-century mansion. Archeologists working on the discovery later discovered that there were no historical records of the building. Normally, large estates have deeds and other records kept by the occupants, local lords, or with church officials. 

    While no sufficient information about the mansion’s history or occupants has ever been found, archeologists did discover a segment of tile in the mansion with a knight painted on it. Because this is similar to tiles at Glastonbury Abbey, this revelation made the site and mansion foundations instantly more important and of great historical value. While the housing project continued, the artifacts uncovered from the archeological dig ended up being moved to the Museum of Somerset for study and preservation. 

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  • 6

    A 17th Century African Burial Ground Was Found In Manhattan

    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    History is often obscured by the fog of time and, more literally, rubble. In 1991, plans to build a new federal building in lower Manhattan began with excavation just north of the Tweed Courthouse in what is now Chinatown.  

    As excavation progressed, workers discovered a seventeenth century burial ground where African people, enslaved in what was then the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, had been continually interred for about century, between the 1690s and the 1790s. The site sits between Broadway and Centre Street, near Thomas Paine Park. 

    Once discovered, the building construction was stopped and further archeological excavation of the site unearthed the remains. Some individuals were even identified, notably Groot Manuel, who was identified by his living descendant, Christopher Moore. 

    Two years later, the site was recognized as a national historic landmark. A decade later, the remains of over a dozen individuals were ceremoniously reburied, and in 2006 President George W. Bush proclaimed the area a national monument. The discovery and preservation of the burial ground is of huge importance to both African-American history and American history as a whole. 

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  • 7

    A Medieval Hospital Was Found In Madrid, Underneath The Future Site Of An Apple Store

    Photo: Gerardus Cremonensis / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The bubonic plague swept from Italy through Europe. Hospitals became overwhelmed with plague victims, and many had to be shut down and abandoned when no physicians were left to treat sick patients. In 2013, the foundations of one of those hospitals was unearthed in Madrid when Spanish construction crews began excavating for the new Apple Store that was to be built there. 

    The hospital dates from the 15th century, and was specifically used to treat sufferers of the bubonic plague. It continued to be used well into the 19th century, but it was closed and torn down in the 1850s.

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  • 8

    A 60,000-Year-Old Wooly Mammoth Tusk Was Found In Washington State

    Video: YouTube

    Beneath the modern frame and foundation of a residential building in Seattle, lay a single, fossilized tusk of mammuthus columbi, the Columbian Mammoth. The fossilized tusk found beneath the building measured over eight feet long, according to paleontologists who were called in to examine the find. 

    After closer inspection, it was confidently assessed to be at least 60,000 years old and would need to be carbon dated. Particular credit should be given to AMLI, the residential company that owned the building and land, for taking the step to request that the tusk be removed and preserved by paleontologists. The tusk was soon taken to the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle.

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