Archeology can be really cool. Finding and analyzing artifacts to put together stories about the world before we came to be is very interesting, and every now and then, archeologists find something unbelievable and amazing.
The Rosetta Stone, The Terracotta Warriors, and King Tut’s tomb all painted a picture of history and presented us with amazing sights. My imagination was sparked!
Archeology can also be downright creepy and disturbing. Pompeii is pretty up there when it comes to disturbing archeological discoveries, but it’s not the only one.
Curious to find out about more, Redditor Numuhiki asked:
"What is, in your opinion, the most disturbing archaeological discovery?"
The Desperation Of Hunger
"Archaeology student here. Here’s one I learned in class. A pueblo village went through a horrible drought and famine. A dwelling was found with the remains of a family that had died violently and had several cut marks all over their body. They also found a human coprolite (ancient poop). It is common practice to run chemical analyses of coprolites to figure out a person’s last meal. It was human flesh. The DNA of the flesh particles matched the DNA of the family. Somebody murdered and ate the family, then pooped in the house."
"People do awful things when they are starving. Early colonists in Jamestown also ate people when they had no food during a harsh winter."
Crossing With Cruelty
"When I was visiting Savanah I did a kayak tour through Ebenezer Creek. Hundreds of freed slaves followed the Union amy on Sherman's March to the sea. The union army was being sporadically shelled by in the rear by the confederates."
"The union army built a bridge over the marshy, alligator infested Ebenezer Creek and told the freed people at the rear they could cross once his 14,000 troops had crossed first. Deciding that the freed people had become a burden however, he ordered the bridge to be cut, abandoning 600-1000 freed slaves on the western bank. The freed slaves had only death or re-enslavement behind them. Panicked, they opted for near certain death in the waters. Most of the men, women and children died attempting to cross. A few made it and tried to make rafts to help the others. Davis had no remorse for his actions and was defended by Sherman."
"Some amount of bones have been brought up, but mosty the Creek remains a watery grave."
The End Of The World
"Evidence of a second extinction event level meteor impact."
"It kind of means that extinction event meteors not only have happened, but are not all that rare of a thing when you take the age of the Earth into consideration."
Run, Run, As Fast As You Can
"There's an Ancestral Puebloan story passed down by the Navajo of a Gambler who came up from the South and enslaved the A.P.s, forcing them to build great cities where they did not want to live and perform rituals involving cannibalism. Archaeologists later discovered South American parrot feathers and human bones with stone scrapings (evidence of cannibalism) in Chaco Canyon, a civilization that showed signs of early abandonment due to it's low amount of burials and trash pits."
"Vikings' burial sites are pretty disturbing. They were often buried with their wives, slaves and horses."
"The way Ötzi the Iceman died was pretty gruesome too."
"Also, all of the mass graves of the past plagues. I live in a city where a couple of years ago a mass grave of hundreds of 19th century cholera victims was discovered. We knew they were there somewhere, we've been finding bones in the ground for years, the discovery was still a shock for people who basically live now on this graveyard..."
Take Care Of The Kids
"Infant Sacrifices in ancient Carthage. This is sort of debated because we don’t have direct evidence of child sacrifice, the is no big bloody alter labeled “burn babies here”. But what we do have is Roman accounts of child sacrifice in Carthage. On its own that isn’t super damming, the Roman’s accused everyone they didn’t like of doing human sacrifices. The part that’s disturbing is the remains of infant cremations mixed in with cremated animal remains. This may have just been a Carthaginian burial tradition, an animal sacrifice accompanying a lost child. However the odd thing is that the infant/animal cremations are found separate from other burials which suggests that these infant cremations were somehow different."
Cover Your Ears
"The Aztec death whistle. It was used to mimic the cries of a human by the Aztec possibly during rituals or in the battlefield, and it worked a little too well. It is very unsettling to hear."
"There was an ancient predecessor to the American Bison found frozen and perfectly preserved for tens of thousands of years. Naturally, the researchers took a piece of the flesh, cooked it, then ate it."
The Honest Truth
"Advent of farming made those who practiced it physically weaker, shorter, less healthy, and reduced lifespans overall. Up until recently it was assumed the opposite was true"
"The levels of violence in ancient history. I have a friend who is an archaeologist in Latin America and often mentions how many of the famous archaeological sites in the region do a lot of work to cover up many of the nastier and more violent discoveries. For example, my friend took me to the archaeological site of Monte Alban in Oaxaca many of the carvings and paintings on the temples and buildings around the site feature people with what looks like ornate flowers around their midsection. Most tour guides mention the flowery nature of the carvings and how beautiful they are. In reality, the flowers were the Zapotec people's way of depicting blood, and the scenes are carvings of forced/ritual castration."
Death And Sacrifice And Graves, Oh My!
"I have three, the first being the mass grave of over 100 children and baby llamas that were found in peru. Sacrificed by the Inca. The second being the wreck of the Empress of Ireland. The ship sank so quickly that most people couldn’t get out so the ocean liner is still riddled with human remains. The stewards cabin is well known for this. The third being the famous French catacombs. The fact that thousands of remains were dug up and moved, those who still had flesh on them were boiled and stripped before being added to the piles..edit..reading some others reminded me of the semi recent discovery of brain cells from a young man in Herculaneum having been turned into glass from the intense heat..also the story of port royal in Jamaica in general being hit with an earthquake, the ground literally liquifying then a tsunami that wiped the city off the map..plus apparently there were a lot of bodies at least partly buried after being sucked into the ground"
No Chance Of A Second Life
"Well I don’t know of many, the most recent one which has caused a lot of hoo ha is the one about a woman being accused as a vampire and being buried with a sickle around her neck so that if she comes back to life she’s killed again instantly."
Preserved In Ash
"A whole tribe or something like that was found buried under a bunch of ashes from a volcano eruption that's just covered them all and left them in the way they were when they got covered like some playing with kids on the road and family's hugging and a that"
Preserved In Ice
"I can't remember exactly where, but a group of bodies were found in a mountain range. Dead soldiers from 2000 years ago that froze and were nearly perfectlt preserved. People originally thought the bodies were from recent times."
"There are a multitude of strange coral structures in the bottom of the Red Sea, in the Gulf of Aquaba, strewn across the bottom of the gulf in a roughly belt-like manner."
"These coral structures are roughly cylindrical, with a wide, round base, a narrow haft extending vertically, and a wide round top that is roughly the same diameter as the base."
"It doesn’t take much imagination to wonder if these corals grew around the wheel and axle assemblies of overturned chariots…"
Under The Sea
"Wasn't there an ancient city built by the ocean that succumbed to the sea? If I remember correctly, they found layer after layer of lost cities over time underwater because we continued making the same mistake over hundreds of years."
"There are probably others, but much of Alexandria in Egypt that Cleopatra knew is under the sea"
"The Silurian hypothesis! Long and short is it ponders the question of what if we’re not the first industrialized species on this planet? How so? Our species has been industrialized since let’s say 1800. So only 200 years of meaningful tech, and been around for 10,000 years tops as some form of society. Imagine in 4.5 billion years, how many times could this exact scenario have happened? Even in 100 million years it’s enough time to rise as a species and die and most everything would be gone, and given enough time anything left could even be consumed by tectonic plates. The interesting thing is, the most obvious sign of industrialized civilization that we know of, spikes in carbon dioxide, have been discovered, most recently to us is 56 million years ago, but there are 6 or 7 total that have been identified throughout history. It’s kind of ominous to think an entire sources could have be born, rise to greatness, and disappear completely without a trace, multiple times. We may very well be just the 8th iteration of this happening without even knowing it."
"It's not exactly archaeological but it's somewhat adjacent. In my hometown area in Massachusetts there's a manmade reservoir called the Quabbin, several towns were eminent domained and forced to move to create a water supply for Boston. As part of the process they had to demolish houses and dig up graveyards. More than a few bodies had to be moved into new coffins and they discovered more than a few people had been mistakenly buried alive. How did they know? They found scratches on the lids of the coffins and lining material under their nails."
"There is a whole thing called Coffin Birth, too, but luckily everyone is already dead at that point. Basically, if a woman dies with her baby still in the womb or in the birth canal, as she decomposes, the gases produced force the baby out and 'birth' it. So, if you open the coffin of a woman who died in labour, you might find the remains of a baby between her legs."
An Honorable Death
"There were several child mummies found in the Andes as part of human sacrifice rituals. They were supposedly drugged, sealed into an underground room and died from exposure. I guess it’s not that disturbing if it was considered highly honorable to die that way by Incan society"
"The antivampiric burials in Poland are more fascinating than truly disturbing. Would hate to be buried alive and have my head chopped off by a sickle if I tried to escape my tomb."
"My surname is actually the name of the Polish folklore vampiric creature so I wonder how that came to be..."
And with that last one, I’ve heard enough! I’ll find out about other disturbing archeological discoveries on a different day.