21 Ancient World Discoveries

Step back in time and prepare to be amazed! We might think we know a lot about our history, but the truth is we’ve only just begun to uncover the mysteries of the past. From ancient ruins to forgotten artifacts, new discoveries are popping up all over the place, and they’re revealing just how little we truly know about our ancestors. It’s a humbling reminder that the more we learn, the more we realize there is still so much left to discover.

So, buckle up and join us on a journey through the ages as we take a look at some of the most recent historical moments that are shaking up our understanding of the past and proving that history is far from set in stone.

Plain Of Jars

Believed to be over 2,000 years old, the Plain of Jars is located in Laos in the Xieng Khuang province. French researcher Madeleine Colani suggested that the jars were used as ancient burial grounds which turned out to be true, as human remains were discovered in the same location.

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Photo by Eric LAFFORGUE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Photo by Eric LAFFORGUE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

However, much of the land and many of the jars were destroyed due to war in the 1960s and 70s with researchers still hesitant to visit the site due to the threat of buried landmines. Researchers assume that there’s still much more to learn and understand about the jars’ area and historical impact.

Gobekli Tepe

The Gobleki Tepe in Turkey is the oldest temple ever constructed by humans. It was built around 11,000 B.C., making it 6,000 years older than Stonehenge. Its discovery was revealed in 2008, which marveled researchers and historians alike. They didn’t think that something as complex as this would have been possible so long ago.

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Photo by Halil Fidan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Photo by Halil Fidan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

It helped answer questions about ancient humans, what they were capable of, and the societies they lived in. However, people are still dumbfounded at how they were able to build such a structure without the aid of metal tools or deep knowledge of architecture.

The Nazca Lines

While walking the desert plains of Nazca in southern Peru, you may not notice the giant geoglyphs that cover the floor of the desert. There are over 100 of these designs that are thought to have been created between 500 B.C. and 500 A.D. and were made by removing a layer of topsoil to reveal the yellow-grey subsoil beneath.

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Photo by Luis Rosendo/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Photo by Luis Rosendo/Heritage Images/Getty Images

There are figurative designs of various plants, animals, and people as well as less-distinctive designs. Yet, the amazing thing is that these geoglyphs can only be seen from above, which begs the question who they were for and how they were designed without access to the sky.

The Saksaywaman Walls

The Saksaywaman Walls in Cuzco, Peru are believed to predate the Incan Empire although the exact date of their construction is unknown. What’s amazing is how all of the stones fit so perfectly together even though it’s assumed that the creators didn’t have the proper tools or knowledge to succeed in such an endeavor.

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Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

With the entire structure estimated to weigh around 200 tons, how they managed to get the stones there as well as stack them is yet another astonishing mystery. Yet, they succeeded, and the site is assumed to have been an ancient temple where religious ceremonies were performed.

The Rongorongo Glyphs

Discovered in the 19th century on Easter Island, rongorongo is a system of glyphs that have yet to be deciphered. While some believe the glyphs have calendrical and genealogical information, none of the actual symbols can be read. If rongorongo is discovered to be writing, it would be one of the very few independent inventions of writing in human history.

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Photo by Express/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Photo by Express/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Two dozen irregular tablets have been found with inscriptions engraved onto them with the majority of them sharing the symbols of a chieftain’s staff, a bird-man silhouette, and two crescent-shaped symbols. The tablets are believed by many to have once been sacred to the island’s inhabitants although their time of creation is unknown.

Qin Shi Huang’s Terracotta Army

In 1974, a group of Chinese farmers unearthed an ancient life-sized terracotta army for Emperor Qin Shi Huang. To this day, the discovery is considered to be one of the greatest archeological finds of all time. However, people were wondering what the purpose of the army was, and it was deduced that the terracotta army was built to defend the emperor in the afterlife.

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Photo by Howard Ruffner/Getty Images
Photo by Howard Ruffner/Getty Images

With that mystery solved, the real question arose which is where the emperor himself was buried. According to an ancient document describing the emperor’s tomb, he is buried in an underground palace that is complete with a surrounding kingdom. Surely, the discovery of his tomb will be mind-blowing to researchers around the world.

Olmec Warrior Sculptures

These massive heads of Olmec sculptures are considered to be some of the most recognizable pieces of tribal art in the world. Incredibly, each is unique and shows the distinctive features of the images that are carved, which provides us with insight into a culture that we still don’t know all that much about.

Carved head
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Carved by hand out of a single piece of basalt, it’s incredible how these ancient people managed to move and arrange them at all, considering their weight.

The Antikythera Mechanism

Otherwise known as “the world’s oldest computer,” the Antikythera Mechanism is an ancient Greek device that was used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses for calendars and other astrological means. The mechanism was discovered amongst wreckage off of the coast of the Greek island Antikythera in 1902.

The Antikythera Mechanism
LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images
LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images

The device has been estimated to date back to 87 B.C. and is assumed to have been designed by Greek scientists. It’s made up of 30 bronze gears and 37 gear wheels which allow it to follow and calculate and measure the movements of the moon, sun, and other elements of space.

The Voynich Manuscript

Dating back to the 15th or 16th century, the Voynich Manuscript is an undecipherable book that is currently stored in Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The manuscript is a handwritten codex using an unknown writing system paired with illustrations and diagrams.

The Voynich Manuscript
CESAR MANSO/AFP/Getty Images
CESAR MANSO/AFP/Getty Images

The writing is yet to be deciphered by researchers although it has been studied by professional cryptographers including American and British codebreakers from World War I and World War II. The origin and meaning of the manuscript have fascinated researchers since it was first brought to the attention of the public by Wilfrid Vooynich in 1912.

The Oldest Astronomical Clock

The Prague Astronomical Clock is one of the world’s oldest and fully functioning astronomical clocks, which tells the time as well as information about the sun, moon, zodiac constellations, and other plants.

Picture of the clock
Prisma/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Prisma/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The clock in Prague is often referred to as The Orloj, and in order to be a fully functioning clock, it had to be constructed in multiple layers. The main face of the clock features the time as well as glyphs that show ancient Czech time, and Roman numerals for 24 hour time.

The Stone Spheres

The stunning stone spheres of Costa Rica can now be found in museums, affluent people’s gardens, and still in the jungles of Costa Rica. Believed to be the work of ancient indigenous people, these perfectly shaped spheres range from being a few inches in diameter to seven feet across and weighing 16 tons.

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MAYELA LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images
MAYELA LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Referred to as Las Bolas or “The Balls,” over 300 of them have been discovered varying in different types of stone. Some have proposed that the spheres were used as decorations leading up to the house of chiefs, however, their true significance remains unknown.

Royal Sandals

When most people think about Egypt, they think about mummies, great pyramids, and fancy eyeliner. However, these sandals worn by King Tut show that the people in Ancient Egypt were more modern than most might expect.

Picture of a sandal
Horacio Villalobos – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images
Horacio Villalobos – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Apparently, they were just as into fashion as modern-day humans, with ancient footwear expert, André Veldmeije, noting, “When footwear is mentioned in general books, if at all, it is usually noted that sandals were flimsy and most people were barefoot all the time. Moreover, they say there were only few types of sandals. This is a misconception, probably based on artistic depictions alone.”

Not An Ordinary Fire Truck

Although this may appear to be a fire truck that was involved in some terrible accident, what it actually is is one of the first responders on the morning so September 11, 2001. One piece of the equipment remains at the site in reemergence, which is Ladder 3.

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Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images
Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images

This particular truck was driven by Captain Patrick Brown and the rest of his team lost their lives when the North tower collapsed, landing on the truck. After the truck was recovered, it was placed in a hangar at JKF International Airport until it was moved to the Memorial Museum in 2011.

The Sajama Lines

Much like the Nazca Lines, the Sajama Lines in Bolivia can only be seen from above. However, they differ greatly from the Nazca lines, as the lines don’t depict any images. Instead, they are simply intersecting lines that cover over 8,700 miles, making it one of the largest archaeological sites in the world.

The Sajama Lines
DigitalGlobe/ScapeWar3d/Getty Images
DigitalGlobe/ScapeWar3d/Getty Images

Discovered by Aime Felix Tschiffely in 1932, the lines are dated to be around 3,000 years old with nobody having any solid evidence as to what the lines were used for or if there was a purpose at all.

The Horrors Of War

Serving under Napoleon during one of the battles at Waterloo, Antoine Fraveau was a 23-year-old cuirassier that donned this breastplate before taking to the field of battle. This was an important piece of armor because it protected against swords, other weapons, and at times even bullets.

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Todd Gipstein/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
Todd Gipstein/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

However, one thing it couldn’t protect against was cannon fire. While fighting in 1815, Fraveau was killed after being hit by direct cannon fire. Unfortunately, he was supposed to get married not long after. This perfectly shows the violence of warfare back then.

Roman Dodecahedrons

These Roman dodecahedrons are hollow objects constructed from bronze and stone. They’re designed with twelve flat faces with each face having a circular hole. They’re believed to originate back from the 2nd or 3rd centuries and have been found all over Europe including Wales, Spain, Italy, and Hungary. So far, around 100 of them have been discovered, although there isn’t any reference to them in art or historical accounts.

Roman Dodecahedrons
DeAgostini/Getty Images
DeAgostini/Getty Images

Some experts have theorized that they were used as candlesticks, dice, a tool to gauge distances, or even gauges to calibrate water pipes. Several of these objects were also found in coin hoards, so it’s assumed that they were considered to be valuable.

A Watch Fit For A Queen

This incredibly ornate pocket watch turns out to have been commissioned for Marie Antoinette by a mystery suitor in 1783. Clearly, no expense was spared, and the gold and other materials that were used are assumed to be worth $30 million.

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David Silverman/Getty Images
David Silverman/Getty Images

The watch is one of a kind and includes a full calendar, an hour jumping hand, 23 complications, and 823 individual parts. It is considered to be the fifth most intricate watch ever made, although unfortunately, Antoinette never received it as she had been executed before it was completed.

Stonehenge

While we know that Stonehenge was constructed between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago, the prehistoric monument still has many mysteries surrounding it. Some researchers have concluded that it was part of a larger sacred area that was made up of other stone and wood structures.

Stonehenge
Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images
Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images

There is historical evidence that the area was used for hunting as evidenced but more than 350 animal bones discovered in the area. Yet still, the major questions remain unanswered such as why it was built, who built it, and how did they manage to construct it with such rudimentary tools and limited knowledge?

Primitive Snow Goggles

The sun has had negative effects on the human eyes since the dawn of man. However, the ancient people, such as the Inuits, created ways to lessen the effects of the sun.

Pair of snow goggles
SSPL/Getty Images
SSPL/Getty Images

For example, more than 2,000 years ago, when the Inuit people would travel across the snow, they hand-carved snow goggles, making little slits that provided enough vision. Researches are impressed by these goggles because they don’t fog over in the polar conditions, which is an issue people still face today.

Hellenikon Pyramid

While people often associate pyramids with ancient Egypt, over the years, pyramids have been discovered all over the world. The shape has shown to be of meaning to numerous different cultures so it’s no surprise that they weren’t restricted to Egypt.

Hellenikon Pyramid
DEA/C. BALOSSINI/Getty Images
DEA/C. BALOSSINI/Getty Images

For example, the Hellinikon Pyramid in Argolis, Greece was built in 2721 B.C. and is much older than the Egyptian pyramids. It is believed that it was built as a tomb for the people that had died fighting for what was once Argos. Yet, there still hasn’t been significant proof as to what the purpose of the pyramid actually was.

A Mask That Isn’t For Wearing

This interesting green mask was discovered at the base of a pyramid in Mexico in 2011 and assumed to have been placed in the ground as an offering to the gods around 2,000 years ago.

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DEA / G. NIMATALLAH/De Agostini via Getty Images
DEA / G. NIMATALLAH/De Agostini via Getty Images

Along with the mask, archeologists also found pieces of obsidian and pottery made from the same material of green stone. It is believed that the mask was not made for wearing but was part of a dedication ceremony and is most likely made in somebody’s likeness, which gives researchers a glimpse into what these people look like, almost like a photograph into the past.