10 Lost Artifacts that Were Rediscovered

by Shweta Anand2 years ago

6 In 1902, the company Gwaltney Foods cured a ham and put it in their storage. It then remained there, forgotten, for nearly two decades before its rediscovery. Later, the company’s Pembroke D. Gwaltney Jr. put a collar on the meat and called it his “pet ham.”
Pet Ham
P.D. Gwaltney Jr.’s pet ham, is thought to be the world’s oldest ham. Image credit: Isle of Wight County Museum via Wikimedia.org

The US is home to a wide variety of artifacts. But the world’s oldest ham is perhaps the most unusual of the lot.

In 1902, the company Gwaltney Foods cured a ham and misplaced it in their storage. But two decades later, much to the elation of Pembroke D. Gwaltney Jr., they rediscovered it. He then gave this pork a brass collar and called it his “pet ham.” He also paraded it around proudly to show that customers could store his company’s meat safely without refrigeration.

Experts today say that this ham is still edible, likely because the company used a dry-curing method to process it. This method involves salting the meat and draining its blood, which then gives it a long shelf-life. However, the ham may not actually be palatable.

Nevertheless, those curious to have a look at it can spot it on display at the Isle of Wight County Museum in Smithfield, Virginia.

(1, 2)


7. In 2003, a woman in New York noticed a painting nestled between garbage bags on the street. This painting turned out to be the masterpiece “Tres Personajes,” by artist Rufino Tamayo. Someone had stolen it in the 1980s, after which, it went missing.

Tres Personajes
Rufino Tamayo with lost painting. Image credit: Rufino Tamayo/Facebook.com

On a November morning in 2003, New Yorker Elizabeth Gibson stepped out to get some coffee. She then found a painting nestled between some garbage bags on the street and took it home. This artwork was actually a masterpiece by the renowned Mexican artist, Rufino Tamayo.

Tamayo had made this painting, called Tres Personajes, in 1970. Then, in 1977, a Houston couple purchased this masterpiece. But in 1987, someone stole the artwork from the couple’s storage unit, and it vanished.

However, Gibson did not realize any of this until she watched Antiques Roadshow, a TV show that featured the stolen painting. She then contacted an expert from Sotheby’s Auction House, and the news of the painting eventually reached the rightful owners.

The million-dollar artwork then went up for another auction, and Gibson received a $15,000 reward from the seller. The FBI also undertook an investigation to get to the bottom of the painting’s theft. (1, 2)


8 A 5,000-year-old piece of wood from the Great Pyramid went missing at some point after 1946. This piece of cedar may have had a role in the pyramid’s construction and could shed more light on the ancient structure. In 2020, a curatorial assistant recovered it from a cigar box at the University of Aberdeen.

In 1872, engineer Waynman Dixon discovered a piece of cedar inside the Great Pyramid’s Queen’s Chamber. This piece of wood was thought to have been used during the construction of the pyramid, making it highly significant.

Later, in 1946, Dixon’s friend, James Grant, donated it to the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. However, after arriving at the university, this 5,000-year-old piece went missing. Even thorough searches throughout the university could not locate the wood.

But in 2020, a curatorial assistant named Abeer Eladany stumbled upon the missing wood while conducting a review. She found this Egyptian relic, now in several pieces, in a cigar box marked with the country’s former flag.

Experts then carbon tested the wood and found it to be older than previously believed. They now think that it belongs to the period 3341-3094 BCE. This is 500 years earlier than 2580-2560 BCE, where historical records place the Great Pyramid. (1, 2)


9 One of Rembrandt’s earliest paintings was rediscovered in a basement in New Jersey. The family that found it contacted an auction house, which initially valued it at just $800. But after realizing its true nature, a Paris art dealer bought it for $1.1 million.

The Unconscious Patient
John and Kathy Nye of Nye & Company Auctioneers display the Rembrandt painting found in the basement of a Bloomfield home. The artwork fetched $1.1 million. Image credits: John Nye via nj.com, Wasily via Wikimedia.org

During the 17th century, Rembrandt created a series of paintings depicting the five senses. One of them, called The Unconscious Patient (An Allegory of the Sense of Smell), somehow ended up in a basement in New Jersey.

The Landau brothers who found the painting discovered it while cleaning their family home. They then contacted John Nye, owner of Nye and Co auction house in New Jersey, to sell it off.

An unimpressed Nye initially valued the painting at $800, but when bidding began, things quickly changed. Some sharp-eyed art aficionados realized the true nature of the painting and quickly drove up the price. Finally, it sold off for about $1.1 million.

Restoration of the piece later confirmed that it was indeed a Rembrandt because it carried the artist’s initials. These initials, “RHF,” stand for Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn fecit, where “fecit” means “made this.” (1, 2)


10 The “Dawson Film Find” is an intriguing event that led to the recovery of hundreds of film reels. These reels were from the 1910s and ’20s and even contained some lost films. In 2016, filmmaker Bill Morrison pieced some of these together to make a documentary film.

Dawson Film Find
About 500 film reels were unearthed in Dawson City in 1978, and became the raw material for Bill Morrison’s acclaimed 2016 documentary. Image credit: Kathy Jones-Gates via cbc.ca

In 1978, a construction crew was building a recreation center in Dawson City in Canada’s Yukon Territory. For this, they had to tear up the ground where the previous sports center used to stand. But while doing so, they came across hundreds of discarded film reels at the bottom of an abandoned ice-hockey rink. The extreme cold in the region had managed to preserve these reels with little damage.

Dubbed the “Dawson Film Find,” this discovery revealed about 533 silent-reel films from the 1910s and ’20s. Among them, authorities recovered footage of the 1919 World Series that led to the “Black Sox” scandal. Also, these reels also contained many unknown or lost films from the period.

At the time of the discovery, filmmaker Bill Morrison was one of the first few people to witness it. In honor of this, in 2016, he pieced together some of the reels and made a documentary film called Dawson City: Frozen Time. (1, 2)

Also Read:
10 of the Most Interesting Archaeological Artifacts From History

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