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This 2,000-year-old sapphire ring is thought to have belonged to Caligula, the notorious ancient Roman emperor that reigned in 37 A.D. The portrait carved into the sapphire is thought to be of Caligula’s last wife, Caesonia. My Modern Met
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This 3,500-year-old bronze cast and gold foil prosthetic hand has baffled researchers. Though it appears too small to have been an actual prosthetic, the hand could have been on a statue, mounted on a stick like a scepter, or worn as part of a ritual. It was uncovered in 2017 near Lake Biel in Bern, Switzerland.Archaeological Service of the Canton of Bern/Philippe Joner
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The Oseberg ship is a particularly ornate Viking vessel made of oak, and it could be sailed or rowed. It was built in Norway around the year 820, and it was discovered in a large burial mound at the Oseberg farm near Tønsberg in 1904. It's one of the finest Viking artifacts ever discovered. Trip Advisor
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Ancient game from Mohenjo Daro, Indus Valley. 2600 B.C. Harappa Museum/Facebook
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Often referred to as “the world’s first computer,” the 2,000-year-old Antikythera mechanism was actually a tool used in astronomy. Its dials displayed the zodiac and the days of the year, with pointers indicating the location of the Sun, the Moon, and the five planets that were known to the Greeks at the time. Weekend Wayfarers/Flickr
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The world's oldest cosmetic face cream is 2,000 years old (from ancient Roman times) and still has finger marks in the cream stuck to the lid.
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The Baghdad Battery was a 5.5-inch clay vessel with a copper cylinder inside, held in place by asphalt. Within the cylinder was an oxidized iron rod that prompted scientists to initially speculate that it could have been a battery. It is believed to be about 2,000 years old and it was found in Khujut Rabu — just outside Baghdad. smith.edu
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Ancient Romans used tourniquets to control bleeding, especially during amputation. This example was used on the thigh and was made from bronze. Wellcome Collection
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The Lycurgus cup is an ancient Roman cage cup showing the mythical King Lycurgus. It changes color depending on the light that shines on it. It is the only complete Roman object made from this type of glass. It dates from the 4th century A.D.reddit
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This bronze incense burner from southwestern Arabia consists of a short cylindrical cup set on a conical support base. It likely held Frankincense and myrrh, gum resins that were widely valued in the ancient world in the use of incense, perfumes, cosmetics, and medicines.The Met Museum
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A carved funerary boat model with rowers, dating back to circa 1981 to 1975 B.C., from the
Egyptian Middle Kingdom. The model is made from
wood, paint, plaster, linen twine, and cloth, and it is larger than you may think — approximately 53 inches long and 21 inches tall. The Met Museum
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A horse blinker (also known as blinders) carved in relief with a seated sphinx,
dating back to circa 8th century B.C. from Mesopotamia.
Elaborate horse trappings like this were sometimes crafted from ivory and often represented on Assyrian reliefs.
The Met Museum
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Corinthian helmet from the Battle of Marathon with the wearer's skull still inside. From 490 B.C., found in 1834 in Greece. Irish Archaeology
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The oldest known liquid Roman wine dates back to the 4th century A.D. The 1.5-liter bottle was found in the tomb of a Roman nobleman in present-day Germany, and was still in liquid form thanks to the amount of olive oil added and the wax seal. reddit
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Several portable phallic pieces with replications of totally retracted or absent foreskin, piercings, scars, and tattoos. Dated to 12,000 B.C. Researchers once thought these to be ornamental, but now believe they were probably used for sexual pleasure. European Association Of Urology
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The "Fasting Siddhartha” sculpture, aka The Fasting Buddha, was found in the Gandhara region located in Pakistan. The statue dates to the 2nd century B.C. — and ranks not only as the finest specimen of Gandhara Art, but as one of the rarest antiquities of the earliest world. Google Arts and Culture
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Four young dogs huddled together, carved in marble. From the House of the Faun, Rome, 1st century B.C.mharrsch/Flickr
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Intricate 2,000-year-old glass portraiture mosaics, uncovered in the ancient city of Zeugma, Turkey. reddit
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The seal to King Tut’s shrine. The Boy King was buried in a series of four sarcophagi, which were kept inside a series of five shrines. This seal (on the second shrine door) remained intact for 3,245 years — until Egyptologist Howard Carter opened it in the early 1920s.Imgur
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The Nazca Lines are a group of huge geoglyphs in the soil formed by depressions or shallow incisions of the Nazca Desert in southern Peru. They were created between 500 B.C. and 500 A.D. — and the figures vary in complexity. They are now thought to be in honor of the seabirds, which ancient Peruvians believed brought rainfall.
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A twenty-sided die with faces inscribed with Greek letters. Nothing specific about their use is preserved, but researchers think they were used for games or possibly divination — seeking advice about the unknown from supernatural forces.
Dated back to 2nd century B.C. – 4th century A.D.The Met Museum
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This cuneiform clay tablet, sent to the merchant Ea-Nasir of ancient Babylon, complains about the delivery of the wrong grade of copper. It is likely the earliest known customer complaint letter. 1750 B.C. Wikimedia Commons
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A 2,300-year-old Scythian woman's boot was found preserved in the frozen ground of the Altai Mountains. reddit
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In ancient buildings inside Pompeii, inscriptions equivalent to electoral slogans have been preserved. This one encourages us to vote for Helvius Sabinus for public office. Circa 600 B.C.- 79 A.D.reddit
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A Neo-Assyrian amethyst vase, dating back to circa 8th century B.C., Mesopotamia. These were usually put into stands, hence the rounded bottom. Christie's
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This Roman folding stool from the Eastern Empire, dating back to the 2nd century A.D., proves that a simple, classic design never goes out of style. Christie's
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This 2,000-year-old Roman dagger found by a teenage archaeologist in Germany was originally so corroded that it looked like a breaded chicken finger. Months of sandblasting revealed the beautifully crafted dagger, sheath, and belt. Archaeology World
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Archaeologists in South Africa discovered these 100,000-year-old abalone shells, bones, and stones that served as toolkits to make some sort of ocher-based compound like paint or glue. It's the oldest evidence of humans making a complex compound, as well as the oldest evidence of humans using containers. AAAS/Science
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The Ubaidian culture is a prehistoric culture in Mesopotamia that dates between 4500 and 4000 B.C. A discovery at the Al Ubaid archaeological site uncovered many pre-Sumerian 7,000-year-old artifacts depicting humanoid figures with lizard characteristics. What exactly they represent is unknown. Wikimedia Commons
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This crumbling Czech wooden water well certainly doesn’t look impressive, but a tree-ring dating method revealed that the oak used to build it is 7,275 years old. That might make it the oldest known wooden structure in the world confirmed using this method.
Archaeological Centre Olomouc
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Pontius Pilate, who according to the Bible was the Roman official who ordered the killing of Jesus, has his name engraved on this 2,000-year-old copper alloy ring, which was found near Bethlehem. Advanced photography only just recently deciphered the name on the ring — though it's doubtful that a wealthy man like Pilate would be the actual owner of an alloy ring like this. reddit
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This 1,500 year-old sword was found by an 8-year-old girl in Vidöstern Lake, Sweden. The 34-inch sword was sheathed in a holster made of wood and leather.JÖNKÖPINGS LÄNS MUSEUM
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A newly restored Hittite jug suggests that the ancient Turkish and Syrian people weren’t just grim-faced warriors. This 3,700-year-old ceramic jug has what is believed to be a smiley face painted on it.
"The smiling face is undoubtedly there. There are no other traces of painting on the flask," Nicolo Marchetti, an archaeology professor at the University of Bologna in Italy, said. "As for the interpretation, you may certainly choose your own."Turco-Italian Archaeological Expedition at Karkemish
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Artifacts as much as 4,000 years old show that the ancient Egyptians were practicing dentistry that remains astounding even today. reddit
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A 2,000-year-old helmet that was worn by the elite cavalry of the Roman army.reddit
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Carved out of mammoth ivory, this 40,000-year-old figurine clearly represents a woman with ballooning breasts and elaborately carved genitalia. The head, arms, and legs are merely suggested. "You couldn’t get more female than this," said Nicholas Conard, the archaeologist whose University of Tübingen team found the sculpture in southwestern Germany. Scientists debate if this sculpture is symbolic of a well-nourished community or prehistoric porn.
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Researchers uncovered a 1,200-year-old clay jug in Yavne, the central region of Israel that held gold coins; scientists ascertained that it was some sort of ancient piggy bank.Liat Nadav-Ziv/Israel Antiquities Authority
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This 10th-century Viking artifact that resembles the Hammer of Thor shows that the myth deeply influenced Viking jewelry. In case there was any doubt, another very similar pendant was found, which contained the runic inscription, "This is a hammer." Ancient Origins
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This Gallo-Roman bronze statuette depicting Priapus (minor god of fertility and protector of gardens) was found in Picardy, France. The sculpture is in two parts, where one of the layers presents a great phallus. Dated to the 1st century A.D.reddit
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A standing ballplayer ceramic statue from
the 1st century B.C.– 3rd century A.D. Found in Mexico.
The Met Museum
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This 2,000-year-old shoe was found in a well at the Saalburg ancient Roman fort in Germany. The intricately-designed shoe was incredibly fashion-forward at the time. reddit
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The Sword of Goujian, found in 1965, Hubei, China. This sword is mainly made of bronze with blue crystals and turquoise decoration. From the period 771–403 B.C. reddit
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The Rosetta Stone is a tablet of black rock discovered in Egypt in 1799. It is inscribed with a decree written in 196 B.C. using ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, Demotic scripts, and ancient Greek. The stone has been key in deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs.Hans Hillewaert/Wikimedia
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Chinese workers digging a well in 1974 made a startling discovery: thousands of life-size terracotta figures of an army prepared for battle. Now called the Terracotta Army, the figures are located in three pits near the city of Xi'an in China's Shaanxi province. They are a form of funerary art buried with the emperor around 210 B.C., with the purpose of protecting him in the afterlife.Wikimedia Commons
44 Ancient Artifacts That Reveal What Life Was Really Like For Our Ancestors
While ancient times seem like they happened so long ago, some things never change — and these artifacts are all the proof you need. From practical items to magnificent artworks, humankind's ingenuity has always led us to create items we see in our imagination. Whether it's a tool or a chair, there's an ancient artifact that represents it.
Maybe you enjoy learning about ancient Egypt, with its mystic pyramids, hieroglyphics, and love of cats. Or maybe you're a fan of the prehistoric Mesopotamians, with their uncanny ability to make just about anything out of clay. Perhaps you prefer reading about the Assyrians and their infamous battle cry: "I destroyed, devastated, and burned with fire."
From the 3.3 million-year-old stone tools found in Kenya to the ancient Egyptians' treasure-filled tombs, artifacts are defined as any objects made, modified, or used by a human, anywhere in the world. Since many ancient peoples didn't develop a written language, these artifacts are the only clues as to how they lived, worked, and played.
Often, artifacts speak louder than written words ever could. They are a valuable learning tool, and many hobbyists dream of finding a spectacular specimen themselves. Unfortunately, in the U.S., if you're not an archaeologist and you find an artifact, you're required to report it. Each state has an office of preservation or a state archaeologist, and they can assist you.
With that, let's take a deeper dive into some of the more fascinating ancient artifacts from around the world.
The Antikythera Mechanism
electropod/Flickr A reconstruction of the Antikythera mechanism.
At first glance, the Antikythera mechanism looked like an innocuous lump of bronze and wood on an ancient shipwreck. But in 1902, one of the archaeologists examining wreckage from a sunken Greek ship from 85 B.C. noticed something unusual. The "lump" had cracked open a bit — and inside he saw gear wheels.
Often referred to as "the world's first computer," the Antikythera mechanism was actually a tool used in astronomy. Its two metal dials displayed the zodiac and the days of the year, with pointers indicating the location of the Sun, the Moon, and the five planets that were known to the Greeks at the time (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn).
The astoundingly modern-looking ancient artifact consisted of 82 pieces, including about 30 interlocking gear wheels. Technology like this would not be seen again in Europe for another 1,000 years.
Archaeologists were amazed at the discovery. However, it wasn't until X-ray technology became available that the complexity of the device was fully revealed. The technology fueling the Antikythera mechanism proved so advanced that some people believed aliens helped create the device.
World's Oldest Paint Studio
Science/AAASAn abalone shell with a grindstone on the shell lip, evidence of the earliest paint-making.
In 2011, archaeologists found 100,000-year-old tools used for paint-making — the oldest evidence of mixing paint — inside the South African Blombos cave. Archaeologist Christopher Henshilwood uncovered two abalone shells with ocher ground into them.
Ancient people would add bone and charcoal to a liquid mixture to make it sticky, and ocher provided the color. Grindstones and hammerstones were other tools that assisted in the preparation of the materials.
"Above and below each shell and to the side of each shell was a complete kit that was used for producing a pigmented mixture," Henshilwood said. "We can see where the small quartz grains that had adhered to the finger had left a very tiny trace in the shell."
It was pretty complex chemistry for the time. According to Science Mag, "The conceptual ability to source, combine, and store substances that enhance technology or social practices represent a benchmark in the evolution of complex human cognition."
Furthermore, it's a benchmark in individuality. "The ultimate purpose of putting something on yourself, your house, your walls is to make a statement about who you are," said Alison Brooks, an anthropologist at George Washington University. "I think we're going to find that these early people were smarter than we think."
King Tut's Tomb
Wikimedia CommonsHoward Carter and his famous discovery, the sarcophagus of the Egyptian King Tutankhamen.
Of course, there are many artifacts from the tomb of King Tutankhamen, who died in 1324 B.C. The man who uncovered these treasures was Howard Carter, an archaeologist who was given permission by excavation backer Lord Carnarvon to explore the Valley of the Kings in 1914.
There were excavation delays caused by World War I, but a hopeful Carter pressed on. Finally, after a water boy stumbled on a rock that happened to be the top step of a fateful flight of stairs, Carter's dream was realized.
The outer chambers of King Tut's tomb were open — having been looted not long after the burial. However, the inner chambers remained undisturbed. The gilded wood shrine containing his sarcophagus still had the necropolis seal. As it turned out, one of the world's greatest mysteries had been kept hidden for a long 3,245 years.
Photographer Harry Burton captured the iconic photo of the ornately decorated doors of the second shrine. The simple copper handles were secured together with rope. This was accompanied by a clay seal depicting Anubis, the jackal god who stood in protection of the tomb.
One can only imagine what it must have been like to remove that rope from the tomb door. Inside, the king's mummified remains were untouched; it was the most well-preserved pharaoh's tomb ever found.
An All That's Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she's designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.