11 Famous Ancient Artifacts
Ancient history includes the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age. In each age, humans evolved as they developed new tools, created brilliant art, and made incredible technological advances. Centuries ago, ancient civilizations began to record human history, allowing these ancient artifacts to transcend time.
Archeologists have uncovered iconic ancient artifacts that act as a window into the past. Many of the most brilliant minds still struggle to comprehend how humans even created these incredible artifacts. Below are some of the most iconic discoveries that changed our views on ancient civilization.
1. The Mask of Tutankhamun
From 1332 to 1323 BC, the Pharaoh Tutankhamun ruled over ancient Egypt. Also known as King Tut, Tutankhamun’s tomb became lost in time due to debris and huts built on the tomb’s entrance. Then, in 1922, Howard Carter discovered the tomb in the Valley of Kings. In 1925, Carter found one of ancient Egypt’s most extraordinary artifacts, the Mask of Tutankhamun.
The Pharaoh wore the death mask during his funeral and it was placed in the tomb when he was buried. Based on the Egyptian god of the afterlife, Osiris, the gold mask weighs 22 pounds and contains semi-precious stones. It also includes an ancient spell from the Book of the Dead inscribed in hieroglyphs. A symbol of ancient Egypt and one of the most famous artifacts, the death mask is displayed at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
2. Babylonian Map of the World
Discovered in 1882, the Babylonian Map of the World is a clay tablet from the 9th century B.C. It features a world map with text written above the map. The text is written in the Akkadian language and describes the known world at the time.
Furthermore, the back of the tablet includes additional text. However, it’s unclear if all three parts make up one text or are meant as separate texts. It’s an essential piece of history and helps us understand civilizations from the past.
3. Venus of Willendorf
On August 7, 1908, workman Johann Veran discovered the Venus of Willendorf figurine in Austria along the Danube River. The historic figure depicts a naked woman with exaggerated body parts. Evidence suggests the Venus of Willendorf is roughly 25,000 to 30,000 years old. It’s carved out of oolitic limestone with a hint of red ochre.
Amazingly, oolitic limestone is not local and possibly comes from Italy or Ukraine. That indicates that ancient civilizations were able to travel. The purpose of the Venus of Willendorf remains a mystery, with some speculating it is a self-portrait, pornography, or a symbol of fertility.
4. Terracotta Army
The first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, ruled over ancient China from 221 – 210 BC. Before his death, the Emperor ordered the construction of a mausoleum to house his tomb. The mausoleum included all kinds of treasures and priceless art. Buried between 210 to 209 BC, The Emperor had a collection of terracotta figures, the Terracotta Army, buried with him for protection in the afterlife.
The impressive work of art featured three holes of figures, including 8,000 soldiers, 150 cavalry horses, 130 chariots, and 520 horses. It also included musicians, strongmen, and acrobats. The Terracotta Army is one of the most vital symbols of ancient Chinese civilization.
5. The Dead Sea Scrolls
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is one of history’s most significant archaeological finds. The scrolls consisted of prayers, rules, hymns, and religious texts. Furthermore, 250 scrolls include ancient Hebrew and Jewish manuscripts. The Dead Sea scrolls are vital in understanding history, languages, and ancient civilizations. The initial discovery of the scrolls took place in 1947.
A Bedouin shepherd, Muhammed ed-Dib, stumbled upon the caves when searching for a lost goat. Near the Dead Sea in the Middle East, ed-Dib found roughly 1,000 texts from 300 BC to AD 70 stuffed into clay jars in the cave. Eventually, archaeologists discovered more scrolls in the nearby caves, with many texts damaged but several vital ones intact.
See more about - 14 Lost Treasures Never Found
6. Olmec Colossal Heads
From 1500 to 400 BC, the ancient Olmec civilization lived in the southeastern part of present-day Mexico. The Olmec were one of the first to build monuments using a refined technique of stone sculpture. Thus, they constructed the Olmec colossal heads.
Possibly built around 900 BC, the Olmec carved the heads out of large basalt boulders. The boulders depict individuals with crossed eyes, fleshy cheeks, and flat noses. Additionally, the statues represent powerful Olmec rulers with unique headdresses.
Amazingly, the Olmec managed to transport the massive boulders roughly 93 miles. How they moved the boulders remains a mystery, but the Olmec Heads are one of the most important archaeological discoveries.
7. 150 Bronze Statues
In May 2022, archaeologists discovered a large selection of ancient artifacts in Saqqara, Egypt. The head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziri, announced the incredible discoveries in a press conference.
Among the ancient artifacts is a collection of 150 bronze statues from the Late Period of Ancient Egyptian and includes statues of the deities Nefertem, Hathor, Anubis, and Osiris. Also on display is a headless bronze statue of Imhotep. The council put the bronze statues on display with the other artifacts at a makeshift exhibit at the Step Pyramid of Djoser.
8. Rosetta Stone
In 196 BC, King Ptolemy V Epiphanes issued a decree in Memphis, Egypt. Three versions of the decree appear on a slab of stone known as the Rosetta Stone. On display at the Sais temple, the stone features the decree written in Ancient Greek and Ancient Egyptian using Demotic and hieroglyphic scripts.
In 1799, the French discovered the ancient artifact during the Napoleonic campaign. However, the British took possession of the Rosetta Stone after defeating the French in 1801. It’s now one of the most famous artifacts in the British Museum. The three versions of the decree played a vital role in understanding ancient Egyptian culture and language.
9. The Venus of Hohle Fels
Located in Germany, the Hohle Fels is a cave that produced crucial archaeological discoveries. Archaeologists found some of the earliest examples of prehistoric musical instruments and art. For instance, the Venus of Hohle Fels is the oldest figurine of a human being.
Roughly 40,000 years old, it’s carved from mammoth ivory and is from the Aurignacian period. Discovered in the cave in 2008, it quickly became one of the most important ancient artifacts. The Venus of Hohle Fels aided archaeologists in understanding prehistoric art.
10. 250 Sarcophagi
Archaeologists made a recent discovery near Cairo, Egypt, that includes an extensive collection of priceless artifacts. At the necropolis of Saqqara, researchers uncovered 250 painted coffins. Also known as sarcophagi, they contained 40 coffins with well-maintained mummies sealed inside. It included bronze vessels used in rituals of the fertility goddess Isis. It’s easily one of the most important finds of the last ten years.
11. Cuneiform Tablets
In the Ancient Middle East, several civilizations used a logo-syllabic script, Cuneiform tablets, to write down various languages. The name comes from the uniquely shaped images it produces. One of the earliest forms of writing, it became prevalent during the Bronze Age.
Initially, the Sumer used Cuneiform tablets to write down the Sumerian language. Despite its popularity, Cuneiform disappeared after the last tablet in 75 AD. It vanished from history until its rediscovery in the 1800s. The most extensive collection of Cuneiform tablets sits in the British Museum.
See more about - 15 Amazing Titanic Artifacts Found In The Ship’s Wreckage