Top 10 Most Amazing Real Life Artifacts

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Top 10 Most Amazing Real Life Artifacts

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
Indiana Jones would have a field day with these items! For this list, we'll be looking at artifacts from the ancient world and what they might tell us about early people and civilizations. Our countdown includes The Babylonian Map of the World, The Code of Hammurabi, The Rosetta Stone, and more!
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Top 10 Amazing Artifacts From the Ancient World


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Amazing Artifacts From the Ancient World.

For this list, we’ll be looking at artifacts from the ancient world and what they might tell us about early people and civilizations.

Which of these do you find the most fascinating? Let us know in the comments below!

#10: The Babylonian Map of the World

Housed in the British Museum since the late 1880s is the Babylonian Map of the World. But don’t go expecting some extravagant wall-mounted tableau. This little thing measures about five inches high and three inches across. Still, it’s an amazing bit of human history. Dating from the 6th century BC, this map depicts the Euphrates river and its surrounding environs like Babylon and Susa (john philip). It also depicts an ocean surrounding Mesopotamia, the various mountains beyond, and text inscriptions reciting Marduk’s (MAR-duck) creation of Babylon. The map tells us much about ancient Babylonian culture - not only how they physically saw the world, but also their beliefs and religious systems.

#9: Skhul Jewelry

Back in the mid-2000s, researchers discovered small shell beads inside a cave in Israel. Skhul Cave is found on the slopes of Mount Carmel (car-MELL), which has hosted human habitation since the Neanderthal age. The shells had small holes cut into them, indicating that they were part of a necklace or bracelet. It’s also believed that the shells are up to 100,000 years old, indicating that jewelry has long been a part of human history. Experts claim that jewelry wasn’t solely meant for fashion; it bore a social construct as well. It could be used to denote power and wealth, or it could be used in a religious context as some type of protective talisman.

#8: Dead Sea Scrolls

Often regarded as one of the greatest archaeological finds in human history, the Dead Sea Scrolls are monumentally important to our understanding of ancient cultures. These parchment scrolls are thousands of years old, yet were only recently discovered (well, relatively recently) in the mid-1940s. No one really knows who wrote them, although they have long been associated with a Jewish sect called the Essenes (ess-scenes). About three-quarters of the scrolls are manuscripts relating to the Hebrew Bible, including ancient Books that were not officially canonized. The scrolls have had a huge impact on our understanding of history, both in religious and cultural contexts.

#7: Bone Flutes

Music is in our bones. Quite literally! Numerous flutes made of bone and ivory have been found in various German caves. They date to the Late Stone Age and are associated with the Aurignacian (awrrig-NATION) industry, making them about 40,000 years old. The Divje Babe flute is the world’s oldest known musical instrument, and it could be upwards of 60,000 years old. It was made from the femur of a cave bear. The existence of this ancient flute suggests that Neanderthals were more intelligent and spiritual than is typically believed. Experts also theorize that flutes and music were an important tool in human habitation, allowing us greater and more expansive social networks. This is the true power of music.

#6: Venus of Hohle Fels

Another German cave discovery, the Venus of Hohle Fels is currently the oldest known carving of a human being. Although you probably wouldn’t know this by looking at it, it being a bit blobby in design. Also belonging to the Aurignacian industry, this figurine is approximately 40,000 years old and is missing both its left arm and head. However, the lack of head is intentional, as the figurine was likely worn as some kind of dangling amulet. It’s believed that the figurine was meant to represent fertility and reproduction - basically, the continuation of the human species at a time when mere survival was a day-to-day battle.

#5: The Code of Hammurabi

When people think of dense legal texts, their eyes often glaze over and they get a slack-jawed expression as they desperately fight sleep. But not when it comes to the Code of Hammurabi! Composed around 1750 BC, the code is inscribed on a smooth black rock that stands over seven feet tall. As its name suggests, the code was drawn up by the Babylonian king Hammurabi, and it contains over 4,000 lines of legal text. All the complex laws are listed, ranging from real estate to criminal. The code provides enormous insight into ancient Babylonian culture and the complex politics of the city. It also greatly influenced all future integrations of rightful law and order.

#4: The “Epic of Gilgamesh” Tablets

We got a lot of cool stuff from Mesopotamia, including the world’s oldest piece of surviving literature. The “Epic of Gilgamesh” concerns the titular mythological hero, who was well known in ancient Mesopotamian culture. Many of the clay tablets on which the poem was written survive to this day, with some dating back to the 18th century BC. The tablets themselves are incredible, but even more incredible is the poem’s legacy and impact. It basically invented literature as we know it by creating the heroic myth and greatly influencing later Greek mythology. Some aspects of the poem were even borrowed for the Hebrew Bible, and the biblical canon’s influence on modern humanity is obviously wide-ranging. The “Epic of Gilgamesh” started it all.

#3: Lomekwi Stone Tools

It’s amazing to think about early humans’ ingenuity when it came to making tools. For example, archaeologists working in Norfolk unearthed an ax formed around a shell fossil that was 250,000 years old. But perhaps it’s even more amazing to think about non-human creatures making tools. In 2015, a team discovered the oldest stone tools known to humankind. In fact, they even pre-date humankind. These primitive tools were found in a Kenyan riverbed and are believed to be 3.3 million years old. We don’t really know what made these tools, although some suspect it was an early hominin called kenyanthropus platyops. Either way, the tools predate Homo sapiens by about three million years.

#2: The Rosetta Stone

And here we have the most visited object in the British Museum, where it has been housed since 1802. Dating back to 196 BC, the Rosetta Stone is a literal stone inscribed with the Decree of Memphis. Recorded in both Ancient Egyptian and Greek, the Rosetta Stone commemorates young Ptolemy V as pharaoh of Memphis. But this object is more important than its historical context would suggest. We had long lost the ability to translate Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, but the Rosetta Stone allowed us to crack the code. Finally, after more than a thousand years, we deciphered and understood Ancient Egyptian writing. The Rosetta Stone is now an idiom meant to signify a tool or clue that solves a specific problem.

#1: The Antikythera Mechanism

This both looks and sounds like something out of a fantasy novel. Discovered in 1901, the Antikythera mechanism is often regarded as the world’s oldest analogue computer. Don’t get too excited; it’s not like the Ancient Greeks were streaming Netflix. Rather, the Antikythera Mechanism was used in a complex model of the known solar system. This in turn was utilized to predict astronomical occurrences like solar eclipses and the lunar month. No one really knows how old the device is, with estimates ranging between 205 BC and 60 BC. Either way, this was by far the most complex machine of its time, and it would be another thousand years before something rivaled its mechanical ingenuity.
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