The year of 2015 has seen some captivating discoveries discovered in the world. From shipwrecks to ‘super stones’, we have uncovered some fascinating insights into the past. Here are some of Mashable’s favorite archaeology stories of this year.
A new monument just two miles from Stonehenge stands as one of the most impressive finds of the year.
Dubbed “Superhenge,” it is one of the largest stone monuments in Europe. It consists of a row of huge stones arranged in an arena-like C-shape and dating back to 4,500 years ago. The site lies buried three feet beneath a thick, grassy bank at a Stone-Age enclosure known as Durrington Walls.
The finding shows that Stonehenge wasn’t standing in splendid isolation on the edge of Salisbury Plain. On the contrary, it was the center of a large and rich ceremonial landscape.
2. Oldest pretzel
Food was again at the center of the archaeologists’ investigation as the wreck of a nearly 2,000-year-old Roman ship was found off the Liguria coast in Italy.
The vessel was laden with thousands of jars containing the ketchup of the ancient Romans — a pungent, fish-based seasoning known as garum.
A baking mistake 250 years ago made it possible to recover the world’s oldest pretzels. Unearthed in Germany beneath the floor of structure long known to be a bakery, the two pretzels were totally carbonized but looked similar to today’s product.
It is believed the baker forgot the pieces in the oven and afterwards he threw them away in a hole under the floor.
3. Oldest peach
Analysis of a Paleolithic stone tool provided the most ancient evidence of the processing of oat, revealing that the world’s oldest flour was made from oat some 32,000 years ago.
Eight fossilized peach endocarps, or pits, were found near a bus station in China. They are the oldest peach pits, dating back more than two and a half million years. Identical to modern ones, the pits show that peaches were a popular snack long before the humans arrived on the scene.
4. Celtic prince
This year will be also remembered for one of the most stunning Iron Age discoveries of the past century.
Archaeologists in northwestern France unearthed the tomb of an Iron Age Celtic prince who was buried with his chariot at the center of a huge mound.
Standing near the small village of Lavau, in northwestern France, the mound, 130 feet across, was dated to the 5th century BC. The 2,500-year-old tomb featured at its center a 150-square-foot burial chamber, housing the deceased and his chariot.
Items found in the tomb included a large bronze-decorated wine cauldron, most likely made by Greek or Etruscans craftsmen. Measuring about 3.2 feet in diameter, the cauldron has four circular handles decorated with bronze heads that depict the Greek god Acheloos.
5. Etruscan tomb
Another stunning, intact tomb was found at the end of the year in Tuscany. A farmer opened a void in the earth while working with his plow in a field near Città della Pieve, a small town some 30 miles southwest of Perugia, bringing to light a rare undisturbed Etruscan tomb.
The 2,300-year-old burial revealed a 16 square-foot rectangular chamber with two sarcophagi, four finely sculpted marble urns and various grave goods. One of the sarcophagi, made from stone, bears a long inscription.The urns contained cremains, while one male skeleton was visible in one sarcophagus.
The use of alabaster marble, the style of the burial and clues from the inscription suggest the burial belongs to an aristocratic family from the nearby Etruscan stronghold of Chiusi.
A mysterious marble head, clearly broken at the neck level, was also found. It portrays the beautiful real-size face of a young man, but its meaning remains obscure.
Biblical archaeologists made a major discovery as they solved one of Jerusalem’s greatest mysteries — the location of the biblical Greek fort known as Acr.
Built by the Greek King Antiochus IV more than 2,000 years ago and mentioned in Jewish biblical sources, the fortress has been sought for over 100 years.
The remains were unearthed in a parking lot in Jerusalem after 10 years of excavations and included a section of a massive wall, which was the base of an imposing tower measuring 66 feet long and 13 feet wide. The wall’s outer base was coated with layers of soil, stone and plaster — a specially designed slippery slope meant to keep attackers away.
Among the ruins, the archaeologists also discovered lead slingshots, bronze arrowheads and stone catapults, all stamped with a trident, which symbolized the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes (215-164 BC).
The stronghold withstood all attempts at conquest and only in 141 BC was it conquered by the Hasmonean king Simon Maccabeus, after a long siege and the starvation of the Greek defenders.
A discovery in a small Greek archipelago is perhaps this year’s most significant finding in underwater archaeology.
Twenty-two shipwrecks were found within an area of just 17 square miles around the small Fourni archipelago, a collection of 13 islands and islets located between the eastern Aegean islands of Samos and Icaria.
The finding added 12% to the total of known ancient shipwrecks in Greek territorial waters in just 10 diving days, basically revealing what may be the ancient shipwreck capital of the world.
Overall, the shipwrecks span from the Archaic Period (700-480 B.C.) to the Classical (480-323 B.C.) and Hellenistic (323-31 B.C.) through the Late Medieval Period (16th century).
The cargoes revealed long distance trades between the Black Sea, Aegean Sea, Cyprus, the Levant, and Egypt in all those periods.
The archaeologists have only examined about 5% of the archipelago’s coastline, and are confident that many more wrecks will be discovered.
Archaeologists weren’t just busy in the field. A number of breakthroughs occurred also in the lab.
Investigation with scanning electron microscopy on a 14,000-year-old molar revealed the oldest known dentistry, as the infected tooth was partially cleaned with flint tools.
A powerful X-ray procedure was perfected which allowed for the first time to read letters hidden inside two carbonized papyri without unrolling them.
The scrolls were reduced to lumps of coal by the 750-degree Fahrenheit cloud that wrapped the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum during the Mount Vesuvius eruption in 79 A.D.
Paradoxically preserved forever, the papyri are now stored at the National Library of Naples, making up the only library known to have survived the ancient world.
The new technology promises to produce the most significant rediscovery of classical literature since the Renaissance.