While some of the discoveries are the result of backbreaking archeological digs, many others were simply stumbled upon by people going about their business.
And we’re not just talking about the odd coin or two—like the 11-year-old girl who unearthed a 2,000-year-old silver coin this week—but about mind-blowing and history-changing artifacts such as the Dead Sea scrolls, first unearthed by Bedouin shepherds in the 1940s.
Since then, countless people have unexpectedly come across ancient treasures, enriching our understanding of the past and the people who inhabited it.
To celebrate the fabulousness of all these accidental discoveries, here are 10 of the best ones in recent years.
1. Diver stumbles on 900-year-old Crusader sword off the Carmel coast
Just recently, an Israeli man scuba diving off Israel’s northern coast spotted several ancient artifacts lying on the seabed, that were probably uncovered by shifting sands. Among them were pottery shards, stone anchors, and, most excitingly, a meter-long sword dating to the Crusader era. The sword was preserved in perfect condition, albeit covered in a crust of seashells and sediment, and once it is cleaned up and researched it will be made available for public viewing.
2. 11-year-old stumbles on ancient amulet during family hike
Eleven-year-old Zvi Ben-David was out hiking with his family in southern Israel earlier this year when he came across a small pottery figurine believed to be an ancient amulet that was meant to protect children or increase fertility. The amulet is in the shape of a woman wearing a scarf but is otherwise bare-chested, and was probably in use in the fifth or sixth centuries BCE. The discovery is pretty rare, and the Israel Antiquities Authority has only one such other figurine, but these were apparently once common.
3. Ancient sarcophagi get lost at zoo, then unearthed anew
Earlier this year, two Roman-era coffins were uncovered for a second time after being forgotten at the Ramat Gan safari. Originally found in the zoo’s parking lot many years ago, they were moved to a location near the African savannah zone, where they were forgotten and disappeared beneath sand and thick vegetation.
Now, in the midst of construction for a new wildlife hospital, the head of the African savannah zone noticed the two coffins jutting out of the ground and reported them. The 1,800-year-old sarcophagi were finally transferred to the Israeli National Treasures repository, where they are being better looked after.
4. Soldier stumbles on rare, two millennia-old coin
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