We have come a long way from our humble beginnings, and our collective history boasts of an infinite amount of stories, myths, and legends. But how do study them? We may find some answers by examining these primitive relics from human history.
1The Antikythera mechanism - An ancient mechanical device that helped the Greeks learn more about astronomy
In 1900, the Antikythera mechanism was discovered in a shipwreck near the island of Antikythera in Greece. It was found by a group of divers who were searching for artifacts such as statues, coins, jewelry, etc. Little did they know that what they discovered was an ancient Greek computer designed to predict astronomical positions.
The mechanism, found encased in a 340mm x 180mm x 90mm wooden box, is a complicated piece of machinery with more than 30 bronze gears. It dates back to 150-100 BC which proves that the ancient Greeks were ahead of their time.
2The Baghdad Battery – A 2000-year-old energy charger
The Baghdad Battery is a set of ceramic pots, with a metallic tube and a rod. At the top, an iron rod is kept separate from the copper via bitumen.
The artifact is said to date from the Parthian period, somewhere between 250 - 224 BC. Its origin and purpose remain a mystery, but several theories have been put forth. Some believe it was used as a galvanic cell for electroplating. Those who support this hypothesis also think lemon juice or vinegar was used to generate electricity.
3The Piri Reis map – A map that showed Antarctica before it was even discovered
The Piri Reis map was drawn in 1513 by Ottoman admiral Piri Reis. It shows not only the location of Europe, Africa, and Brazil accurately, some even believe it shows Antarctica which wasn't discovered centuries later. Scholars, however, have refuted this, due to the vague representation of the continent on the map.
Even though only one-third of the map survived, it showed the extent of global exploration done by old civilizations, who knew more about the new world than what was previously thought.
According to historical documents, the Piri Reis map was made by combing the information contained in Arab and Indian maps.
4The Quipu of Caral – The knots that unraveled one of America’s most ancient civilizations
The city of Caral thrived in America over 5000 years ago and was known to be a very peaceful kingdom. Villagers built gigantic monuments like pyramids and plazas and used complex systems for both the calculation and recording of information.
This elaborate system was revealed after the discovery of the Quipu, which is a device that was used for recording data. Made with colored spun and plied threads, it was used for maintaining tax records, military data, and even census information.
The chords had numeric values encoded by knots in a base ten positional system. One could decipher the data by looking at the type of wool used, the color of the knots, and other variables, which led into a specific narrative. For a civilization so primitive, they had an ingenious but simple way of keeping records.
5Nebra Sky Disk –The oldest space map in existence
This bronze artifact was discovered in 1999 by Henry Westphal and Mario Renner while out treasure hunting. It dates back to 1600-1560 BC, but it could have easily existed before that period.
The Nebra sky disk has golden symbols embossed on its surface that resemble the sun, moon, and stars. It is believed to be the oldest depiction of our universe in human history.
6Dead Sea Scrolls – The tomes of lost knowledge that changed the world
These scrolls were discovered in a series of caves near the Dead Sea, between 1947-1956.
The missives offer information about biblical and non-biblical events including the last words of Joseph, Judah, Levi, and Amram. Most of these scrolls were written thousands of years before the New Testament and contained several manuscripts from the older version.
7The Mask of Agamemnon – Possible proof that the Trojan War really happened
This golden funeral mask was discovered in 1876 by Heinrich Schliemann placed over the face of a body in a burial shaft in Mycenae. At the time of the discovery, the body was believed to be that of Agamemnon, the legendary Greek leader. However, upon further examination, it was found out that the mask was from 1550-1500 BC, which was well before Agamemnon lived.
The mask proved that the Trojan War happened, and wasn’t just a tale from ancient Greek lore.
8The Rosetta stone – The stone that inspired the study of ancient languages
The Rosetta stone was discovered in 1799 by one of Napolean's soldiers in Egypt. It contains text written in three different languages—Greek, Demotic, and Hieroglyphics.
It took nearly three years to decipher the Greek translation, and the Hieroglyphics took over 20 years to translate. The Rosetta stone sparked a new interest in the ancient language, and it is one of the reasons why scholars can understand the language of the ancient Egyptians today.
9Bust of Nefertiti – A sculpture of one of the world’s most powerful women in history
The discovery of the bust was significant in many ways. It is believed to have been made in 1345 BC by an Egyptian sculptor, Thutmose, as it was found where his workshop used to be.
It was discovered by a German archaeological team in 1912. Its style was very different from traditional Egyptian art, as Nefertiti’s husband was a maverick of sorts who tried to change their traditional religion. He wanted to completely overhaul the artistry of the time and encourage artists to create with more innovation.
10The Mask of Tutankhamun – An artifact that told the story of the boy king of Egypt
Discovered in 1925 by Howard Carter, it was the funeral mask of the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun. It's solid gold, and weighs about 24 pounds.
The mask was fashioned after the late king’s face, and different aspects of the design tell a story. The vulture on top of the brow symbolizes Pharaoh Tutankhamun's sovereignty over Upper Egypt, while the cobra placed next to the vulture shows that he ruled over Lower Egypt.