Probably the most well known archaeological dig in the world would be the discovery of the tomb of King Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. In the first decade of the 1900s, an American business man named Theodore M. Davis found a pit that contained what appeared to be a grave robbers cache of stolen royal artifacts. Davis didn’t recognize the significance of his find, but Howard Carter, working with him on the dig, was convinced that it would lead to the tomb of the boy king. He went to his wealthy friend, Lord Carnarvon, and asked him to finance a dig in the area in an effort to locate the tomb. In November of 1922, Carter finally found the tomb of King Tutankhamen. It wasn’t until February of 1923, after careful excavation, that Carter was able to enter the tomb and discover that it contained fabulous treasures. As the dig continued in the tomb, the mummy of King Tutankhamen himself was discovered.
Another archaeological dig that rivals the discovery of King Tut’s tomb as being the most famous is that of Pompeii. A resort city of the wealthy, with fine art and luxurious buildings, it was completely buried by debris and ash from the eruption of the volcano, Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Excavations at the site have uncovered the preserved bodies of victims who were killed by the fury of Vesuvius as they tried to flee. Many structures of Pompeii are still identifiable giving us a glimpse into the lives of the residents of Pompeii. Although treasures comparable to those of a king’s tomb have not been found at Pompeii, some breathtaking artwork can still be observed throughout the city.
One of the most famous and fascinating archaeological digs in Asia is that of the mausoleum of the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. Discovered by local farmers in 1974, the tomb complex contains an army of terra cotta figures. It is estimated that there are 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, no two alike and excavation of the figures is still going on. Although the actual tomb of the emperor hasn’t been opened as yet, it is believed that it is still intact since it shows no signs of compromise.
Another famous archaeological dig site is that of Stonehenge in England. Excavation of the site had stopped in 1964 but in April of 2008 another round of excavation was initiated. Some of the artifacts that have been found are ceramics from Rome, stone hammers and a pottery fragments from the Neolithic period in England. Archaeologists are hoping to discover why the stones that make up the structure of Stonehenge were brought from many miles away to this pictorial site. They are also hoping to be able to establish a time frame for the construction of this mystical circle and who may have been the builders of such a fantastic structure.
There are many other famous archaeological digs around the world that may come to mind and each person will have a different opinion as to which is most famous. Although only four are covered here, there are important digs in Africa, the Middle East, MesoAmerica, South America and North America that have given us clues as to the lives of those who have lived before us. As long as there is a quest for knowledge of ancient cultures, there will be archaeological digs and it remains to be seen if the most important one is waiting to be discovered.