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Hyderabad: Archaeological discoveries unravel secrets and challenge our ideas about human history. From lost cities, civilisations and stone circles to solving a nearly 170-year maritime mystery, the last decade witnessed major archaeological discoveries. Here’s a look back at some of the most significant archaeological finds and breakthroughs of the last decade.

Neolithic City of Shimao (Shaanxi, 2011)

It was thought that the ancient stone walls visible on the edge of the Mu Us Desert in the Shaanxi province had once been part of the Great Wall. But, when archaeologists examined them, they discovered the lost city of Shimao, which dates back to 2300 BC.

Over the past 10 years, excavators have uncovered a stone city with immense fortifications and sophisticated infrastructure, thousands of luxurious artifacts, and a 230-foot-high stepped pyramid that served as the residence for Shimao’s rulers.

Wrecks of Erebus and Terror (Arctic Circle, 2014)

Captain John Franklin set sail from England in May 1845 with 133 men and two ships—HMS Erebus and HMS Terror—in search of the Northwest Passage. The crews of two whaling ships that sighted the expedition that August were the last Europeans to see Franklin and his crew alive, sparking a nearly 170-year maritime mystery.

Search parties sent to northern Canada occasionally happened upon ominous clues. In 2014, Canadian authorities announced that researchers had finally located Erebus at the bottom of Wilmot and Crampton Bay. Two years later, Terror was found around 45 miles away.

Homo Naledi (South Africa, 2015)

When the strange skeletal remains of more than a dozen early hominins were uncovered in South Africa’s Rising Star cave system, they challenged the story of human origins. The fossils perplexed scholars, as their anatomical features combined modern human and ape-like characteristics.

The researchers determined that the bones represent a previously unknown human species, now called Homo naledi. Recent dating of the bones indicates that Homo naledi lived around 230,000 to 330,000 years ago.

Laser Scanning (Angkor, 2015)

The countryside surrounding Angkor is blanketed with thick jungle, which has hindered archaeological investigation for more than a century. However, laser scanning technology was able to do what researchers couldn’t peer through it, revealing urban settlements and hundreds of hidden archaeological features.

The 3-D images captured in 2015 were the result of the most extensive archaeological scanning project ever undertaken. The images captured a complex system of roads, canals, and dams.

Mummification Workshop (Saqqara, 2018)

Archaeologists discovered a unique series of rooms dating to the Saite-Persian period of the mid-first millennium BC. The whole could be looked upon as a funeral home of sorts that provided the service of mummification along with burial compartments and equipment.

The facility includes a subterranean chamber at the bottom of a 40-foot-deep shaft that was used by embalmers. There, they laid bodies out on a rock-cut bed, drained them of fluids, and prepared them for burial. The team located a 100-foot-deep shaft that contained six different tombs holding 59 mummies.

Regio V Excavations (Pompeii, 2018)

Although Pompeii has been constantly excavated since the mid-eighteenth century. When a large section of volcanic debris in a neighborhood known as Regio V began to collapse, authorities had to remove more than a quarter acre of material, revealing long-hidden parts of the Roman city.

Streets, houses, and workshops were exposed for the first time in almost 2,000 years. Vibrantly coloured frescoes, still bright and radiant, look as if they have just been painted. Archaeologists also retrieved a number of bodies of people who were not fortunate enough to escape the deadly eruption.

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Author: Howard Caldwell