Humans and our ancestors have been around for hundreds of thousands of years. Naturally, all of them tried to shape their surroundings accordingly. Sometimes, some of them created extraordinary items that were most likely stunning then as they are now. As we all know, archeologists dig during (mostly) summer and unearth some impressive artifacts. So, here is our choice of the top ten archeological finds to see in European museums.
10. Neanderthal Flute (National Museum of Slovenia)
This is the oldest musical instrument ever to be found. It was discovered on the Divje Babe site and is made out of cave bears' bones. It could have been used as a flute with its carved holes along the bone, just like the ones we know today. What this item is showing us is the capability of our ancestors to express themselves artistically.
However, there has been a lot of discussion among scholars that it's fake. If not, was it actually used as a musical instrument? Some say it could even be a work of some animal, such as hyenas!? Anyhow, this item is extraordinary, dated to around 60,000 BC, and is a must-see if you ever come to Ljubljana.
9. Red-Haired Goddess (National Museum, Belgrade)
At first glance, you probably wonder why this artifact has such a name? Well, some red pigment has been found along with the hair of this figurine. This is a very impressive but questionable find from the vicinity of village Odzaci. Some scholars suspect it's a fake since the context of the find is uncertain. It's described as a figurine with female attributes and a phallic shape, found in a pit with some deer antlers.
Dated to the early Neolithic (early stone age), with its height of 38 cm (almost 15 inches), this is the biggest and one of the oldest figurines of this kind ever to be found. This artifact was discovered in settlement of the first agricultural settlers in this region of Europe. It's now a part of the permanent exhibition of the National Museum in Belgrade (Serbia).
8. Varna Gold Treasure (Varna Archeological Museum)
Have you ever wondered what 6000 years old gold jewelry looks like? Don't mind if we pop over to have a sneak peek! This astonishing collection of finds made out of precious metals is the oldest known gold humans used to make jewelry. Found nearby the town of Varna (Bulgaria), it all comes from one Copper-Age cemetery.
The central position at the museum's prehistoric exhibition is a skeleton of a man covered in lavishly decorated golden pendants, necklaces, and bangles. Here we see some very dramatic and significant social hierarchy on display! Besides this, you can see ancient Greek, ancient Roman, Byzantine, medieval Bulgarian, and Ottoman period heritage displayed in the Varna Archeological Museum.
7. The Trundholm Sun Chariot (National Museum of Denmark)
This probably is the most stunning art and cult artifact ever on display. The sculpture is dated to the Bronze Age (around 1400 BC). This one was found in the region Odsherred, way back at the beginning of the 20th century. Some archeologists believe that the artifact could actually be a form of calendar. Sadly, no evidence supports this theory.
However, some scholars write it represents the Sun which is "cruising" in the sky on a boat. In ancient Egyptian mythology, the god Ra represents the Sun, and he is also frequently depicted traveling in a boat. But let's not forget that the cult of the Sun was widespread back in those days, in every major civilization such as Greek (god Helios) or Roman (god Apollo).
6. Nebra Sky Disk (State Museum of Prehistory, Saale)
It's believed that this is the oldest depiction of the sky, so who would not like to see this? Excavated illegally in 1999 near Mittelberg hill, this bronze disk is now in the UNESCO heritage register. It shows the Sun, a lunar crescent, and stars. There have been many debates about the actual meaning of this item, whether it's a calendar or some artifact used for religious purposes.
We guess we'll not know what it was for until someone makes a time-traveling machine! Until then, we can wonder how it was made since we now know some intriguing information about the disk's origin. X-ray analysis showed us that the copper out of each one it's made of came from a region in today's Austria. Furthermore, the gold comes from somewhere in the Carpathian basin!!!
5. Berlin Gold Hat (Neues Museum, Berlin)
A calendar? A decorative hat for a priest? So many questions about this almost half a kilogram and 74,5 cm big golden hat. There have been similar finds over the years, but none is as stunning as this one. It was put on sale at the international art fair in 1995, and the following year, it was bought by the museum in which it stands today. Sadly, there's no specific information about where this exclusive item has been found.
When in Berlin, make sure to go to the Museum island where you can see some of the best archeology finds in the world. Besides the Berlin Gold Hat, in the same museum, you can see the bust of Egyptian ruler Nefertiti. This bust is considered the most beautiful one from the ancient world because of its perfect proportions and universal aspects of beauty.
4. Vix Krater (The Museum of Pays Châtillonnais, France)
This krater, a container for wine and water, is the biggest one in the western classical world, standing 1.6 m high. It was found in the "Lady of Vix" grave in Burgundy and is dated to the mid-6th century BC. Nearby the grave's location is the oppidum (Celtic settlement), a large urbanized place, probably the local center of power.
Vix krater is one of the most fascinating objects, which, back then in Celtic Europe, was a thing of luxury and status. As well as some other things, this container is an import from the ancient Greek world and shows us how much the Old continent was actually connected back then. Moreover, some items originate from the Greek world and are found all across inland Europe. That's also one of the reasons why the Greek civilization was so advanced.
This is one of the most recognizable ancient towns where life suddenly ended in 79 AD by an eruption of volcano Vesuvio. This place has been a worldwide fascination ever since it was excavated for the first time in the 18th century. In Pompeii, Italy, one of the houses unearthed was named House of the Surgeon. Why is that? Well, it was full of medical surgical tools about 2000 years old!
Those finds are a must-see! By looking at those scalpels, drills, hooks… you can not wonder how advanced their civilization was. Some of the similar tools are even in use today! Nonetheless, the whole town of Pompeii is something that anyone who comes to south Italy has to see. It's the perfect time capsule!
2. The Viking Ships (Viking Ship Museum, Oslo)
Not one, but three (!) Viking ships on display in one museum? Yes, it's true. These three perfectly crafted ships once glazed through the sea, and now they are there to conquer your imagination. If you are a fan of the "Vikings" show and Ragnar's adventures, this is the perfect place for you and the ship to set your eyes upon.
The most impressive is the Oseberg ship, found in Vestfold county, Norway. Dated back to around 800 AD, this vessel was buried in a mound as traveling equipment for some significant Viking ruler. In recent years experts successfully made a replica which sailed on the open sea!
1. King Richard III Visitor Centre, Leicester
The first choice on our list is not one particular item but more of a story of how modern science can achieve astonishing results by working together. Skeleton remains were found under a parking lot in Leicester, dated to medieval times. After the archeological work, anthropologists and historians took over. Surprisingly, they found that these are King Richard III's remains, who died in 1485.
As he had a specific bone disease, that helped to identify him. Afterward, the new burial and commemoration were organized. Hey, it's not like every day you find a skeleton under a parking lot that turns out it was a king of one of the great medieval kingdoms! Today, you can learn more about him in the new Visitor Centre in Leicester.
Archeological finds on display, here mentioned, are just one grain of sand in the whole desert of artifacts that are out there to see. From the prehistoric periods such as Copper, Bronze, and Iron Age to the Antiquity and Medieval times, humans have left footprints all over. Therefore, it's always interesting to find them. Furthermore, we suggest reading some of the best archeological books to enhance your experience.
Finally, We have to point out that professionals should always do this line of work. If it's not done with care and precision like in our top ten list, the valuable context of the finds is lost forever. Sadly, many sites are attacked by amateurs who want to find precious metals and sell them on the black market.
What are some of the artifacts you have seen in exhibitions? Which one did impress you the most?