Go Digging at 5 Fascinating Archaeological Sites

These are the finds that changed the world

By Google Arts & Culture

Public entertainment by Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre AnnunziataUNESCO World Heritage

History may sometimes be buried, but you can't keep it down. Digging into humanity's hidden past can bring insights that shape the future. Scroll on to discover five examples of archaeological discoveries which changed the world.

The Last Day of Pompeii (1830/1833) by Karl BrullovThe State Russian Museum

1. Pompeii

When Mount Vesuvius erupted in the summer of 79 AD, it buried the Roman town of Pompeii under a blanket of ash and volcanic debris. The pyroclastic flows moved so fast, and the temperature was so hot, that few of the town’s inhabitants survived, with many frozen forever in the molten rock. 

Excavations at Pompeii have provided us with a wealth of knowledge about Ancient Rome and the lives of everyday Romans. A large number of paintings, mosaics and other relics, as well as over 1,000 bodies, have been discovered at the site, giving us an unparalleled glimpse into life 2,000 years ago. With around a third of the site (22 hectares) still to be excavated, it’s likely that Pompeii has yet more secrets to reveal. 

Use the arrows to wander the streets of the ancient city, in the shadow of Vesuvius, for yourself.

The Rosetta Stone (-196/-196)British Museum

2. The Rosetta Stone

The Rosetta Stone was discovered in the Nile Delta by Napoleon’s army in 1799. On Napoleon’s defeat, the stone became the property of the British Army and it was shipped to England in 1802. 

The unique thing about the Rosetta Stone is that it features the same text in three different scripts: Greek, Egyptian demotic, and Egyptian hieroglyphics. Because scholars could already read Greek, they were able to slowly decipher the hieroglyphics, unlocking the secrets of the Egyptians in the process.

Granite statue of Tutankhamun as a priest of Hapy (-1350/-1350)British Museum

3. Tutankhamun’s tomb

Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered by British archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922. King Tut came to the throne at about 8 or 9 and was just 18 or 19 when he died. He ruled Egypt between 1334 – 1325 BC. 

Because Tutankhamun’s tomb was virtually undisturbed when it was discovered, archaeologists were able to learn a huge amount about his life, family and beliefs. Relics from the tomb have been put on display in museums around the world, attracting huge crowds wherever they go.

The Great Isaiah Scroll MS A (1QIsa)1st century BCE (Late 1st century BCE - early 1st century CE) by UnknownThe Israel Museum, Jerusalem

4. The Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea scrolls were discovered in the West Bank in 1946 and 1956. The ancient Hebrew manuscripts date from the last three centuries BC and the first century AD. The scrolls have huge religious and historical significance, containing works that went on to be included in the Hebrew bible.

Although many scrolls only survive in fragments, they provide scholars with vital information on linguistic and cultural development as well as an insight into the origins of the Bible. Some of the scrolls are written in Hebrew, some in Aramaic, and some in Greek.

5. Tikal, Guatemala

One of the best-preserved examples of pre-Colombian Mayan civilisation in the world, Tikal is a veritable ancient metropolis, deep within the Tikal National Park, Guatemala. Click and drag to explore, and maybe even make it to the top of the famous Acropolis Norte.

The oldest buildings date to 400 BCE, but the city reached its thriving peak as the centre of the Mayan world in around 200 BCE. Local populations retained knowledge of the site for centuries, and archaeologists began to map and record the ruins from the 19th Century.

[Plaster Casts of Bodies, Pompeii] (ca. 1875) by Giorgio SommerThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

Find out more about Pompeii here

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