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10 of the Most Interesting Archaeological Artifacts From History

archaeological artifacts

Archaeology is the soul of history since it continuously provides real artifacts and evidence, based on which historical conclusions are drawn. These artifacts are stored and preserved in museums to let people from the present as well as the future know and get fascinated by the real-life sources of the past. Here are 10 such interesting archaeological artifacts from history that are sure to satisfy your curiosity

1. A sky-blue 2,000-year-old sapphire ring. The ring is presumed to belong to the Roman Emperor Caligula. Inside the ring, there is an engraved face which is thought to be the Emperor’s fourth and the last wife, Caesonia. 

2,000-year-old sapphire ring
Image credits: Wartski/BNPS via Dailymail

The exquisite ring is made up of a single precious stone of sapphire. It is estimated that it belonged to a 37 CE Roman Emperor Caligula. The face engraved inside the ring is of Caligula’s fourth and the last wife, Caesonia.

Caesonia was said to be so beautiful that the emperor made her parade naked in front of his friends. Caligula reigned from 37 CE and was assassinated four years later. His wife could not manage to stand the grief and willingly offered her neck to the assassin so he could kill her.

Later, the ring became part of the collection of the Earl of Arundel, which had 800 beautifully engraved jewels. The collection was initiated by a politician, George Spencer, also the Fourth Earl of Marlborough.

The ring was a part of this collection from 1637 to 1762 and at this point, the Caligula ring became one of the famous “Marlborough Gems.”

The Caligula ring was also seen as a star attraction in the exhibition held by the Royal jewelers Wartski. It was sold by John Winston Spencer-Churchill, the Seventh Earl of Marlborough, in 1875 to help raise the funds for the repairing of the Blenheim Palace. (source)

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2. In the Tassili Cave located in Algeria, there is a 9,000-year-old cave painting that has prompted the theory that shamans were using psychedelic mushrooms in that period. 

shamans are dancing with fists full of mushrooms
Tassili cave painting. Image credits: Terence McKenna/Food of the Gods via Open culture

The Tassili Cave, also known as Tassili n’Ajje, is a national park situated on a vast plateau in the southeastern part of Algeria and is also a part of the Sahara Desert. The cave is especially known for its prehistoric art and was also included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 1982.

The theory that these paintings show that humans used to consume psychedelics in prehistoric times was proposed by psychedelic researcher, Giorgio Santorini, in 1989. His observation was that the painting consists of people wearing some kind of masks, and they were hieratically dressed.

His theory is used by Terence McKenna in his book named Food of the Gods published in 1992 and is also supported by Earl Lee in his book From the Bodies of the Gods.

In the painting, figures were dancing in a row and each figure was holding a mushroom-like object in its hand. But it was not limited to that.

In the painting, a line was drawn from the mushroom-like object to the head of the dancer to symbolize the association between the hallucinations caused by the psychedelic mushroom and the mind.

Later, many pieces of research came up with differing theories, but most of them agreed on the fact that these paintings do show psychedelic use. (1, 2)

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3. A second-century Egyptian head of a man with tight and curly hair made up of marble.

Egyptian head of a man with tight and curly hair
Image credits: Brooklynmuseum.org

The artifact is made up of dark gray marble, and it represents a Nubian man with tight and curled hair. The piece of art is said to belong to the ancient Near Eastern culture. The place where it was found is near Turkey and dates back to the late second century BCE, or in other words, the Ptolemaic period.

It contradicts the common belief that Egyptian artists were not open to any change or innovation in their art. The change in styles of the sculpture is thought to happen after every dynasty with the change in the chief sculptor and perhaps also because of other reasons.

The Diamond Head is one good example of such changes in sculpture style, which is well captured by the expression on its face.

The location of this artifact is in the Egyptian Orientation Gallery on the third floor, and it was also modeled on a couple of exhibitions such as Egypt Reborn: Art for Eternity and Ancient Egyptian Art. (source)

4. There was a bible that was customized to keep a gun in it. The trigger was attached to a silk thread that looked like the bible’s bookmark, and the possessor could shoot only when the book was closed. It was probably made for Francesco Morosini.

Prayer book pistol
Prayer book pistol. Image credits: Nicholas Herman via Dailymail

The book originated in Italy and is also known as “prayer book pistol.” It is said that it was custom-made for Francesco Morosini, the Duke of Venice, from 1619 to 1694. This identification of the owner of the book was revealed by English author Edward Brooke-Hitching.

He explains the gun was most probably used for personal protection, and one could only fire when the book has been closed. The trigger was concealed in a silk thread, which was designed to look exactly like a bookmark to deceive the enemy. (source)

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5. The Sistine Chapel of Ancient Egypt is the 3,200-year-old tomb of Queen Nefertari. There are paintings on literally every available surface of the tomb. These paintings are considered to be the best-preserved and most beautiful among all the paintings on Egyptian burial sites. 

The walls at the tomb of Queen Nefertari are very exquisitely decorated and the paintings are very well preserved. These paintings are 3,200 years old, the approximate time the queen was buried, and it was discovered by an Italian explorer, Ernesto Schiaparelli, in 1904.

The tomb was under destructive conditions and emergency consolidation started in 1986. The tomb was brought back into good shape again after six years with the help of GCI and the Egyptian Antiquities Organization.

The paintings were centered around the queen’s beauty, and a lot of emphasis was given to the details of eyes, eyebrows, and blush of her cheeks. Other paintings also have lines and varied basic colors such as red, blue, green, and yellow that represent exquisite directions to help her navigate from the afterlife to paradise.

Queen Nefertari was the favorite wife of Pharaoh Ramesses II. The king went as far as to call her “the one for whom the sun shines” in his writings and also built the Temple of Hathor to idolize her as a deity. He commissioned the wall paintings at the burial site and kept things that symbolized her, but all that is remaining is two-thirds of the beautiful wall paintings. (1, 2)

Read more: 10 Archaeological Discoveries From Recent Years That Will Leave You Amazed

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