Top Archaeological Discoveries of 2010

Some people might assume that humanity knows everything that there is to know about the past, although this is far from the case. Every year new archaeological discoveries are being made, and 2010 was no exception. The lack of public awareness of such discoveries though is generally down to a lack of media coverage.

Few archaeological discoveries are as likely as to be as sensational as the 1922-23 discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb, although some discoveries, like the 2009 Staffordshire Hoard, do make it into the media worldwide.  

Egypt remains an area of the world where archaeological discoveries continue to be made, although perhaps nothing like the scale and importance of Tutankhamen’s tomb. Every year tombs of priests and scribes are discovered, including a double tomb at Saqqara, as well as numerous statues. The Valley of the Kings is also continually being searched for new tombs or hidden rooms.

The Archaeological Institute of America published a list of their top archaeological discoveries of 2010, a list that includes both physical and theoretical discoveries. Arguably the discovery most likely to capture the public’s imagination is the discovery of the tomb of Hecatomnus. The name itself may not mean much but he was the ruler of Caria, and the father of Mausolus. The tomb of Mausolus would become one of the wonders of the ancient world, and although the tomb is not as architecturally important, the decoration is still superb. Unfortunately the tomb was itself discovered two years earlier by modern day looters, so some artefacts may have already been lost.  

The physical discoveries on the list also include the discovery of HMS Investigator, Carthaginian child burials, the Jamestown Church, El Zotz Royal Tomb, Peruvian pyramids, and Cretan Paleolithic tools.

The list made by the Archaeological Institute of America is by no means exhaustive, and around the world other discoveries have been made; including the discovery in Somaliland of some one hundred examples of five thousand year old cave art.

It is, of course, not just archaeologists who are making discoveries, as the Anglo-Saxon Staffordshire Hoard showed. An amateur metal detectorist discovered a bronze Roman cavalry helmet near to Crosby Garrett in Cumbria. The discovery was certainly an exquisite one, although the outcome can hardly be described as a success for archaeology.

Many people interested in archaeology are waiting for the next big discovery, something that rivals the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb. A lot of attention is, of course, given to Egypt, where the resting place of so many pharaohs remain unknown, but the next discovery might be the semi-mythical tomb of Genghis Khan, or a thorough examination of the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor and the burial mound.

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