If it were not for the efforts of archaeologists, we would not know much about the past. Thanks to them, we have a good idea of what mankind has been through all these years. This field of study is important when it comes to understanding our history and who we are as a species. It goes without saying that anything that can shed a light on our past is priceless. However, there are certain discoveries that have proven to be more lucrative and expensive than the others! We are here to talk about archaeology digs that are considered the most valuable in the history of archaeology. Can you guess which ones made it to the list?
San Jose Galleon
This massive 3-masted 64-gun sailing ship belonged to the Spanish Navy as a part of its Spanish Treasure Fleet. The San Jose Galleon had been carrying silver, gold, and emerald when it went down during an encounter with the British navy off the coast of the Colombian coast of Cartagena in 1708. Sea Search Armada discovered it and sued the country in the local courts to claim over the 5 percent finder’s fee offered by the government. Can you believe that they wanted to tax it at 45 percent? In the end, they agreed that recovered treasure in the waters would be equally divided between the finders and the government. In 2018, it was estimated to have a total value of $17 billion.
Greywacke Statue Tribute to Isis
The Egyptian goddess Isis is thought to help the dead make it to the afterlife. She is one of the most widely worshipped deities in the pantheon and has been linked to motherhood and healing as well. This statue measures 2 feet by 4 feet. It holds the record for ancient Egyptian statues and was sold at a London auction in 2012. This was carved anytime from 664 B.C. to 525 B.C. This was reportedly publicly displayed in Alexandria, where devotees would make the trip to ask for its blessings. This had been in the possession of a French noble family from the 1840s until it was auctioned off. It had been in pristine condition at the time. Can you guess how much it is worth? Just a cool $5.9 million, that’s all.
The Sutton Hoo ship was thought to have been buried in 625. Its excavation only took place in 1939! The extravagant decorative helmet was thought to be a piece of armor and a crown at the same time. You will now find it at the British Museum in London. It is one of four complete Anglo-Saxon helmets known to exist. This was discovered in pieces since the burial chamber caved and crushed this artifact. It was found alongside gold, silver, and jewelry. The discovery is among the most important finds in England! Thanks to this piece, we learned more about the exquisite craftsmanship of the people in Suffolk. As of 2013, the piece in question had a value of $1.7 million or so. That is not bad at all!
There has been a lot of speculation about this small and hollow object. A dodecahedra has twelve flat pentagonal faces, and they each have a circular hole of different diameters. This unusual shape goes all the way back to the 2nd to the 4th century AD. There have been more than 100 of these discovered across Europe. Two of them had candle wax, which suggests that they were in use as candle holders. But other theories say that they were coin gauges or fortune-telling gadgets as well. They are seen in different sizes that range from the size of a basketball to the size of a golf ball. As you can imagine, archaeologists are eager to get to the bottom of things. Just so you know, you can get an imitation off Amazon!
Aztec Sun Stone
If you head over to the National Anthropology Museum in the Mexican capital, you will find the Aztec Sun Stone. The sculpture is massive, with a diameter of 3.6 meters, a thickness of 1.2 meters, and a weight of 24 tons or 58,000 pounds. It is full of intricate hieroglyphic carvings and is believed to have been made between the 15th and 16th centuries. In 1790, it was discovered beneath the ground while they were building a new city on top of the ancient one. The circular design of the stone has to do with the beliefs of the Aztecs. It depicts the relationship between man and god, the cosmic cycles, the passing of days, and more.
Crosby Garrett Helmet
A metal detectorist found the Crosby Garrett Helmet in the early 2nd or 3rd century AD. It was found near a former Romano-British farming area in Cumbria, England. At the time, it was split into 67 pieces that had been folded and put on top of two large stones in a pit that was then buried with stone and earth. It took 240 hours of restoration to restore it to its former glory. The process involved the reparation of every crack and hole with the use of super glue and resin. It is believed to be worth $3.6 million and was purchased by a private buyer. The helmet was probably used for ceremonies and celebrations instead of combat. Now worth $3.6 million, it was likely an antique by the time they fold it up and concealed it.
Bronze Age Cup
This Gold alloy cup was made in the early Bronze Age. It was constructed with a sheet of gold and then embedded with horizontal concentric corrugations. The handle was the only thing made with a separate gold piece and is attached with the help of six rivets. How rare is this? There are only six others from Northern Europe that are known to exist. In 2001, a metal detectorist found it and sold it to the British Museum for $520,000 or so. After the discovery, experts excavated the land for three years. They found even more items from the Early Bronze Age there! It was likely a cross-channel trading zone in the past.
The dhow is an Arabic sailing ship. This must have gone down on the way back from China in 830 CE. It was a long way away from the planned route, but no one knows what it was doing in Indonesian waters. The discovery revealed a lot of things. The ship came with one of the biggest collections of artifacts from the Tang Dynasty. In 2005, the Sentosa Development Corporation and the Singaporean Government bought 60,000 items for $32 million! The collection came with storage jars, funeral urns, bowls, and gilt-silver boxes. It also came with the biggest Tang Dynasty known to exist! If you want to check it out, all you have to do is to head to the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore. It is going to blow you away!
There is an abundance of theories about what this object is. Sadly, the truth is that no one knows when it was made and what it was used for. The 5-inch tall terracotta pot is full of mystery. It has a single iron rod and a rolled copper sheet cylinder. Found in the Khujut Rubu region of Iraq, it is possible that it was once used to store something acidic like wine or vinegar. The theory goes that this once generated an electric current. The Discovery Channel show Mythbusters made ten replicas to see if this process would work for electroplating and electrostimulation. They saw that the batteries created four volts of electricity. Upon connecting them, they managed to electroplate a small item. The only catch in this scenario is that they did not find any indication that the jars were connected in that way.
The Uluburun Treasure
In 1982, a diver found the Uluburun Shipwreck in Southwestern Turkey. It is the ruins of a Late Bronze Age ship that probably went down after a collision in the late 14th century BC. Over a decade or so, more than 22,000 dives were conducted to retrieve artifacts from the ship. Among other things, they found tools, weapons, jewelry, ostrich eggshells, and ivory. You will find them at the Museum of Underwater Archaeology in Turkey. The collection has been dubbed one of the most valuable archaeological finds of the 20th century. It has offered us a lot of insight into ancient culture and society in the Mediterranean. If it were not for this find, we would not have known this much about the Bronze Age trade.
This artifact dates back to 87 BC or so. Found in Antikythera, it is believed to have been the biggest gear in a process used to predict eclipses and astronomical positions. In fact, the mechanism has been called the first-ever analog computer! This could keep track of the four-year cycle of the Olympic Games in those days. It allegedly had 37 gear wheels and followed the movements of the sun and the moon through the zodiac. This form of technology has not been seen in Europe again until the 14th century. Google recently made a Doodle about it to celebrate the 11th anniversary of its discovery. This is a great homage to something that offers us more information about Ancient Greece.
Better known as King Tut, this ancient Egyptian pharaoh had been the last ruler from his family at the end of the 18th Dynasty. In 1922, they found his tomb in almost-complete form. It came with his mask, which has since become the quintessential symbol of ancient Egypt. His golden mask is one of the most famous works of art on the planet. You will find it in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Experts thought that his tomb would be bigger because of his status. It appears to have been robbed twice, but they also believe that it went through restorations after those invasions. Insured for a billion dollars, they have since found more than 5,300 items. The collection includes trumpets, thrones, a gold coffin, and more.
The Dead Sea Scrolls
In 1947, a group of teenagers found these artifacts in a cave northwest of the Dead Sea. It was a number of huge clay jars that had papyrus and leather scrolls inside. They are believed to be more than 2,000 years old. Around 850 manuscripts have since been excavated. They are mostly written in Hebrew, but some parts are in Aramaic as well. They contain parts of all the books in the Old Testament, save for the Book of Esther. No one knows if that part has simply decayed or has yet to be found. Among the Dead Sea Scrolls, we have the Copper scroll. It is a record mapping out 64 caves with hidden silver and gold.
The Sroda Treasure
This discovery comes with a gold crown, rings, silver coins, gold coins, and gold pendants. This is thought to have been the original items of King Charles IV of the House of Luxembourg. It is believed that he pawned them off prior to the plague. The treasure was then abandoned and buried, discovered only a few centuries later. Within the span of three years in the ‘80s, the coins were found at a building site in Sroda Slaska, Poland. Workers retrieved what they could, but it is thought that some artifacts remain in the ground. There might still be jewelry and coins down there! The government did not try to buy back all the pieces even though it is an important treasure. Overall, this is believed to be worth $120 million.
The Hoxne Hoard
After a farmer in Suffolk lost his hammer, he asked an amateur metal detectorist friend for help. When they set about to look over the field, they had no idea what they would find there. They stumbled upon more than 14,800 gold, silver, and bronze coins over there! Not only that, but they also found 200 items of jewelry and silverware. The coins come from after 407 AD, around the same time as the end of Britain as a province of the Roman empire. They were buried in a chest, but no one knows to whom the loot originally belonged. The discovery resulted in a change of the law. It says that the landowner, together with the finder, has a huge stake in the treasure. Fun fact: the stash is valued at $4.9 million.
AL-288-1 is better known as Lucy. She is a close relative of humans from 3.2 million years ago! The body has a ‘valgus knee,’ which can be taken as proof that she could walk upright. She was likely fully matured by the time that she passed away. They were able to determine that she was around 12 years old since her molars were a little worn. She is thought to be the oldest ancestor of the hominin species, which means that she was an early human and not an ape. Found in Hadar, Ethiopia, you can find her remains in the National Museum of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa. There are models of her fossils all over the globe!
The Sabertooth got its name for its canine teeth that could grow as long as 7 inches. Found in Brazil and the rest of the Americas, they went extinct during the Ice Age only 10,000 years ago. They were as big as lions, but despite the name, they were not actual tigers. You can find the biggest collection of Smilodon fossils at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. At the moment, we do not know if they were social or solitary creatures. However, we do know that they stayed in bushes or forests to make hunting an easier activity. Not only that, but they killed prey by biting them as they held them down with front limbs.
The Grave of Richard III
In his desire to claim the throne, it is said that Henry Tudor had been in a rush to go to London from Leicester. This is why he allegedly ordered King Richard III to be interred in a shallow grave. In fact, it was so small and shallow that his skeleton was placed awkwardly, with the head bent to a single side. In 2012, they discovered his remains more than 500 years after he passed away at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. The discovery of his remains made headlines across the world. It was also noteworthy because they used DNA to identify the body! He was later reburied at the steep price of $4.1 million.
You might have heard of the terracotta soldiers in the past, but did you know their purpose? They were made to protect Qin Shi Huang, the first Chinese emperor, in the afterlife! They were buried with him in Shaanxi, China in 210-209 BCE. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, local farmers first discovered the figures in 1974. It is believed that there are over 8,000 soldiers, 150 cavalry horses, 520 horses, and 130 chariots in there. Every soldier had a distinctive facial expression, and they were all arranged based on their rank. In the past 25 years, more than 600 pits have been uncovered. Despite this, the site is still mostly unexcavated as certain areas are difficult to get into. A single soldier is worth $4.5 million!
Mount Owen Moa
The extinction of this flightless bird took place in 1500 CE or so. Endemic to New Zealand, its preserved claw was discovered intact with scaly skin and flesh inside a huge cave in Mount Owen. They say that the claw looked like it came from an animal that only died the previous day. It was astounding to see it in such good condition even though it was already 3,300 years old by then. The upland Moa was among the smallest of the species at only a height of 4.2 feet. It did not come with a tail or wings even though it had feathers. The foot was likely preserved via desiccation since it died with a dry wind filling the cave. Ever since it was discovered, they were able to find a couple of other Moa remains.
The Rosetta Stone
In 1799, Napoleon’s army found the Rosetta Stone in a town called Rashid in the Nile Delta. Three years later, it made its way to England. It is now found in the British Museum, where it is probably the most famous object on display. The wall is incredibly important as it features text that has been inscribed thrice in a variety of ways. It used different scripts: Ancient Greek, hieroglyphs, and a native Egyptian one called Demotic. This incredible find helped expand what we know about ancient Egyptian culture and language. After all, this made it possible to decipher hieroglyphics and understand what the inscription was talking about.
Chamber Beneath Padmanabhaswamy Temple
Are you aware that the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple is the richest temple on the planet? They found a stash of treasure in the decadent place of worship. The truth is that it has always been shrouded in mystery. Legend even says that the chamber is guarded by two giant snakes and that anyone who opens it is fated to a doomed end. It is hard to believe that Temple B, the sixth vault, is veiled in such secrecy. At any rate, only five out of six vaults have been unlocked under the orders of the Supreme Court of India. This is considered to be the biggest gold and precious stones collection not only in Inia but in the world! Overall, the stash is believed to be worth a trillion dollars. Whoa.
Golden Hill or Tillman Tempe is also called Bactrian gold. In 1978, this site in Jowzjan, Afghanistan was discovered and excavated. The team found around 20,600 ivory, silver, gold, and other ornaments in graves that date back to the 1st century BCE. After it was discovered, the whole stash vanished from the National Museum of Afghanistan as the war raged on. In 2003, it was discovered in secret vaults in the capital. In the end, the French and the Afghan governments reached an agreement on what to do about it. The collection was displayed in a number of museums throughout the United States and Paris, but the pieces will be kept in a Kabul museum.
The Madaba Map is an intricate map that depicts Jerusalem. Found in Jordan, it was likely made any time from 542 to 570 based on the buildings missing from the mosaic. It is incredibly accurate and faces east in such a way that the places there coincide with the directions of the compass. This is also the oldest geographic map in the history of the world. It has proven to be instrumental in the verification and the localization of biblical sites. In fact, it is not a stretch to say that it played a big role in the quest to find Askalon. It also revealed the Cardo Maximus and the Nea Church in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem.
Treasure Of Childerici Regis
In 1653, it was revealed that the church of Saint-Brice in Belgium had a collection of gold coins. After further excavation, they found out that there was a tomb brimming with treasure. Among other things, it had more than 300 golden bees, coins, bracelets, and a signet ring. The last one was heavy gold and had a man with long hair and a spear in the right hand. The treasure of Childeric had been among 80 kg of stolen gold that was melted down. Isn’t it tragic that most of them have been lost? They were only able to save a couple of pieces from the entire stash. The ring vanished into thin air. We are just glad that they were able to save a libation bowl of 23-carat gold that came from the 3rd century.
Cookie Monster Geode
You might have seen this on social media in the past. A Brazilian scientist made this stunning discovery in November 2020. Can you believe that they found a geode that looks uncannily like Cookie Monster from Sesame Street? It was an agate, a type of quartz that was formed due to volcanic activity. It looks like the fictional character because of its shape and color. This took the internet by storm because everyone was able to make the connection in no time at all. What makes this even more incredible is the fact that the face is on both sides of the stone when it was divided into two.
The Library Of Ashurbanipal
King Ashurbanipal was the last king of the Assyrians. The Royal Library of Ashurbanipal was named after him and contains countless fragments of clay tablets and texts that date back all the way to the 7th century B.C. Among other things, this was where they found the Epic of Gilgamesh. Without it, there would be scarce information about those living in the ancient kingdoms of the Middle East! In 1849, it was discovered in Northern Iraq by Austen Henry Layard. Most of the fragments were then brought to England in the name of research. Most of them are now stored in the British Museum. Overall, the treasure is believed to be worth an incredible $600 million.
Ötzi The Iceman
Also called the Frozen Fritz or the Frozen Man, Otzi the Iceman was found in the Otztal Alps in 1991. This region is found on the border of Italy and Australia, near a town called Feldthurns. This is the oldest human mummy that has been naturally preserved known to exist. He offered groundbreaking insight into the Copper Age in Europe. He was not an average Joe either. They found a total of 61 tattoos on his body! Not only that, but he was likely the victim of homicide as they found an arrowhead lodged in his left shoulder. We would have no trouble treating a wound like that now, but it was deemed fatal in those days. There has been a lot of speculation surrounding the life of this fascinating mummy.
Sometimes called Easter Island, Rapa Nui is an island in the South Pacific. Archaeologists have since found 900 giant “head” statues called moai in the area. We are sure that you have seen copies of Easter Island Heads in pop culture in the past. However, the originals have been carved and erected between the 11th and 17th centuries A.D> They are anywhere from six to thirty feet tall, but an unfinished one stood at 61 feet tall! They represented the ancestors of the indigenous people in the area. Their forebears were deified in the name of protection and good fortune both in life and the afterlife. We are sure that the moai is considered priceless by the people who live there!
The Voynich Manuscript is a hand-written codex that likely came from the Italian Renaissance during the 15th and 16th centuries A.D. In reality, no one knows who wrote the manuscript. The name comes from the Polish book dealer who bought it in 1912. You will find 240 pages, and they can be read from left to right. Isn’t it sad that most of its pages are nowhere to be found? Both amateur and professional codebreakers have tried to crack it, but no one has succeeded on this mission just yet. There is even a theory that says that there is not even any code to decipher! It says that the manuscript was written based on a meaningless system, but a few words have since been translate to Latin and High German.
The Staffordshire Hoard
Did you know that the ancient Anglo-Saxons were fond of gold and silver? The Staffordshire Hoard only goes to prove this even more. This is the biggest stash of Anglo-Saxon treasure in existence. It is valued at more than $5 million! The loot comes with more than 3,500 incredible pieces like three pounds of silver, eleven pounds of gold, and thousands of garnet jewelry pieces in the cloisonne style. It was likely buried in the 7th century AD, which means that they were probably made in that century or a century before that. The items boast high-quality workmanship. On top of that, their martial nature suggests that the owner was a rich noble from the Anglo-Saxon Mercia Kingdom. What an impressive find.
Locally known as “Ubag,” Homo luzonensis is the name of an archaic human discovered in Luzon, the Philippines. Based on the remains, it is possible that it was pygmy in species. Aside from that, they likely lived in the Late Pleistocene Era. The phalanges and teeth are the most prominent features of the remains. It lived in the Callao Cave and probably dragged carcasses of deer into the cave. It would then use handmade tools to cook the meat. The local name came from a Philippine legend about a mythical caveman that was initially thought to be Homo erectus. In 2019, it was revealed that it deserved a classification of its own. This was how it received its proper scientific name!
Ayahuasca From The Bolivian Andes
In case you are unfamiliar with it, ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic brew from South America. It is made with the vine of the Banisteriopsis caapi, although the shrub of the Psychotria viridis served as a great substitute. The word means “liana of the soul,” “liana of the dead,” and “spirit liana” in the Quecha language. In 2019, a team of researchers found out that South Americans used ayahuasca for at least a thousand years. They found a millennium-old leather wad in a cave in the Andes in Bolivia that listed the ingredients needed to whip up the hallucinogenic tea! It offered dating material for those interested in the ancient compound. You have to pay $114 to $225 if you want an “ayahuasca day ceremony.”
299,999 Year Old Human Skull
Compared to others, this is a rather new discovery. A team of researchers from the London Natural History Museum and Griffith University in Australia found a skull from the early 20th century. However, it was dated inaccurately back then. The 20th century researchers thought that the Zambian skull came from 500,000 years ago! A century after that, research teams learned the truth with the help of modern technology. In 2020, researchers revealed that the skull was 299,000 years old instead. And yes, the skull was indeed formerly inside a breathing person from species of humans that resided in the area.
Original Gibson Stradivarius
In 1713, the Gibson ex-Huberman Stradivarius was crafted. The antique violin is believed to be worth $15 million, so it is not shocking to hear that it has been stolen twice in the past. An Italian craftsman from Cremona called Antonio Stradivari made the beautiful musical instrument. It has been gone through a number of owners due to the thefts. It is now owned by a violinist by the name of Joshua Bell. He sold a Tom Taylor Stradivarius to bring it home. He shelled out $4 million for it a few decades ago, and its value has since more than tripled. His first recording with it was “Romance of the Violin” in 2003.
Statue Of Egyptian God Sekhmet
In case you are unfamiliar with the Egyptian pantheon, Sekhmet is a warrior goddess often portrayed as a lioness. She is also known as the goddess of healing and the protector of the pharaoh. The deity is believed to lead the rulers in warfare and heal their injuries. She allegedly took them to the afterlife when they died. In 2013, Sotheby’s sold the head of Sekhmet for $4.1 million. The statue was believed to formerly be located in the Temple of Thebes in Luxor, Egypt. If this were through, it would have come from 1353 to 1390. The temple was built by Amenhotep III to honor a mother goddess called Mut.
Guennol Lioness Sculpture
Discovered close to Baghdad, the Guennol Lioness Statue went for more than $60 million at Sotheby’s. It is an Elamite figure that portrays an anthropomorphic lion-human. The piece is believed to go all the way back to 3,000 to 2,800 B.C. This is a historic discovery because it was made around the same time as cuneiform, the wheel, and the first cities. It shows us the Mesopotamian belief that it is possible to attain power if you combined the best attributes of different animal species. The lioness is a common idol among those that admired the feline hunting technique. As a matter of fact, it was not a rare sight at all in the Guennol!
The London Hammer
Without a doubt, this is a mysterious artifact. Also known as the London Artifact, the London Hammer is a tool made of iron and wood. It was found in London, Texas in 1936. Part of it was embedded in limestone, an odd decision since the limestone in question was 400 million years old. At the moment, no one knows how the hammer found itself encased in such an old piece of rock. There are a lot of theories about it. The list includes aliens to short petrification. You can check it out at Baugh’s Creation Evidence Museum. The museum even sells replicas of it, so you can bring a copy home with you if you want.
Santa Margarita Gold Chalice
The Florida Keys was struck by a major hurricane in 1622. It even sunk the Santa Margarita, a Spanish ship that had been 40 miles off the Western coast. It was a very wealthy ship that carried 25 cannons and 600 tons at the time. Aside from that, it was also loaded with more than 562 pounds of gold, 166,574 silver treasure coins, and 10,000 pounds of silver. There have been a number of attempted recoveries over the years, with different levels of success. When a search and recovery team from Blue Water Ventures finally went down, the first significant haul was made. The treasure is worth a million bucks. Among other things, there was an ornate gold chalice with two handles and etched scrollwork.
The Dropa Stones
Also known as Dzopa stones or Drop-ka, the Dropa stones refer to a collection of 716 stone discs that go all the way back to 12,000 years ago. Found in the Bayan Har Mountains of the Qinghai Province, the stones come with a series of markings that look like hieroglyphs. They were written in a way that had never been seen in the past. The stone discs have a diameter as big as a foot. They also come with two double-spiral grooves. In 1962, they were found by a Chinese archaeologist called Tsum Um Nui. Russian archaeologists asked to study the discs and came to the conclusion that the stones did not just have tracings of cobalt but also a faint hum! At the moment, people still argue about their authenticity.
The Boot Of Cortez
In the Western Hemisphere, the biggest surviving gold nugget is none other than the “Boot of Cortez.” Made of solid gold, it weighs 389.4 troy ounces or 26.7 pounds. A prospector found it in the Mexican state of Sonora, around seventy miles away from the Arizona border, in 1989. He did not have to resort to using anything fancy to do so. No, he simply bought a metal detector at Radio Shack. He did not find anything more than bullets, nails, and the like in the first couple of days. One morning, he started to dig as soon as it went haywire. This was how he found the Boot of Cortez, now worth over $1.5 million.
Egyptian Saqqara Glider Model
Also called the Saqqara Bird, the Egyptian Saqqara Glider Model was discovered during an excavation of the Pa-di-Imen Tomb during the late 19th century. The site is in Saqqara, Egypt. They found the bird artifact, which was made of sycamore wood. It was probably used as a ceremonial object instead of a flying toy. After all, it is much too unstable and heavy to fly. It is believed that the Saqqara is a falcon, which represented some of the most important gods in the Egyptian pantheon. This includes sun god Ra Horakhty and sky god Horus. There are other experts who think that it was instead used as a boomerang or a weathervane instead. It is hard to determine its actual value since its purpose is still unknown.
The Watlington Hoard
In the 870s, the Vikings buried a collection of silver now known as Watlington Hoard in Oxfordshire. In 2015, the stash was found. The British Museum bought it for more than $1.5 million two years later. The loot is made up of 186 coins, which includes 15 silver ingots, 7 pieces of jewelry, and some fragments. Among the pieces, there were bracelets, arm rings, and other similar items. There is also a scrap of gold in the hoard, which was buried after the Great Heathen Army of Guthrum lost to Alfred the Great in 878.
Piri Reis Map
The Piri Reis Map is one of the most historically important artifacts in Turkey. This is believed to be the map that Christopher Columbus used when he was exploring the New World. In 1513, it was compiled by an Ottoman admiral and cartographer called Piri Reis. The item is valued at more than $200,000, but we are sure that it is a priceless artifact in Turkey. Only a third of it survives, but it shows Europe, Brazil, and North Africa with great accuracy. Piri relied on ten Arabic maps and four Indian maps to make it.
The Hand Of Faith
A man called Kevin Hillier found the Hand of Faith, which is a nugget of high-quality gold weighing 875 troy ounces or 60 pounds. He discovered it close to Kingtower, Victoria, Australia. It got its name since it looks like an outstretched hand. The Golden Nugget Casino Chain bought it for over $3 million. This was the second-biggest nugget found in the country during the 1900s. The truth is that the Victorian gold rush era brought in much bigger gold nuggets, but it was a pretty short-lived period. Despite this, it is the biggest gold nugget found with the help of a metal detector. That is not a bad record to have at all.
Saddle Ridge Gold Coin Collection
The Saddle Ridge Hoard refers to a stash of 1,427 gold coins found in the Sierra Nevada in the Gold Country region of California. The face value rests at $27,980, but its actual value is instead $10 million. It consists of $27,460 in $10, $20, and $500 coins, as well as $20 in $5 coins. It is believed that the coins go back to 1847 to 1894. Did you know that the Saddle Ridge Hoard is the biggest-known cache of gold coins found in the United States? It was originally found on private property, and the owners hid the stash in an ice chest buried beneath a pile of wood. They kept it there until they decided that it was time to sell.
Clark Sickle-Leaf Carpet
The Corcoran Gallery of Art sold 25 rugs and carpets at an auction in 2013. This was done to raise funds for new acquisitions. The Clark Sickle-Leaf Carpet was among those auctioned pieces. It is a Persian carpet with swirling vines and vibrant flowers. Corcoran assumed that it would only go for $10 million to $15 million, so you can imagine their shock when its final auction price totaled $34 million. It broke the previous record, which was once held by a southern Iranian rug from the 1600s. In a post-sale interview, the auction company said that the piece was almost unrivaled in terms of “beauty and rarity.”
One of the biggest diamond hauls in history would be the Golconda Diamonds. Most of them hail from mines in Telangana and the Kollur Mine in Andhra Pradesh. The gems had all been cleaned, processed, cut, and sold in Hyderabad. Overall, the Golconda Diamonds are made up of 12 million carats and are worth $30.8 million. In 2013, they found a 118-carat perfect colorless diamond at a Hong Kong auction. This set a new world record for the highest diamond price at any auction, besting the Graff Vivid Yellow.
The Graff Pink Diamond
In the African Kingdom of Lesotho, the Graff Pink Diamond was discovered. It is remarkable because it has a “fancy intense” pink shade, which is a rarity among diamonds. The Graff Pink boasts 24.78 carats. American jeweler Harry Winston once owned it. This is considered a Type IIa Diamond, which put it in the top 2 percent of the diamonds in the world. It stayed unnamed until it made its way to the hands of Laurence Graff, who owned Graff Diamonds. This gem is worth an incredible $54.78 million.
Diorite Head Statue
The Diorite Head Statue depicts an unknown official. It dates back to the 30th Dynasty in 380 to 343 B.C. It looks a lot like other head statues from the same time period, but the person in it was not a pharaoh. There used to be hieroglyphs to identify the official, but they have smoothed over the years. The origins of the carved Egyptian head remain a mystery, but it went for $842,500 at Christie’s New York in 2010. It is made of diorite, which is an intrusive igneous rock that is dense and difficult to carve. Despite these properties, the material was important for artistic expression in various ancient civilizations in the past.
Sarcophagus Of Princess Sopdet-em-Haawt
Worth a million bucks, the Sarcophagus of Princess Sopdet-em-Haawt is one of the most iconic symbols of ancient Egypt to be auctioned off. She was a noble of Herakleopolis, the ancient Upper Egypt capital, in the 8th century B.C. Her father was the ruler of the capital, Peft-Jauawy-Bast. The piece was made with polychrome wood and shows her with a beaded collar and the winged pectoral of a goddess called Nut.
2400 BC Cycladic Marble Figure
You are looking at a Cycladic marble figure thought to be made in 2400 B.C. The carving originated from the Cyclades Islands in the Aegean Sea in Greece. This is where the Cycladic Bronze Age started in 3200 B.C. and came to an end in 1050 B.C. The marble figure with delicate detail and a lyre-shaped head was auctioned off in December 2010. Its estimated value was $4 to $5 million, but it exceeded expectations. Isn’t it incredible that it was sold for $16 million? This is one of the highest auction prices for this kind of work of art.
Egyptian Bronze Cat Statue
The bronze cat sculpture below was discovered in the Saqqara burial grounds close to Memphis, Egypt. This comes from the Ptolemaic period. Cats were deemed sacred creatures in ancient Egypt since they serve Bastet, the goddess of the home. She would keep disease and evil away from the home, especially those related to childbirth and women. It was important to be nice to felines to appease her. This is why they are featured heavily in New Kingdom period artwork. Christie’s sold this for $2 million in 2013.
These days, it is not rare to hear people use “Neanderthal” derogatorily. However, we are learning more about them through new research and discoveries. The primitive people had complex thought and made art! This was evident when they found a painted fossil shell in a cave in Northern Italy. Cavemen lived anywhere from 130,000 to 40,000 years ago. The revelation suggests that they also valued, created, and even collected art. They must be a lot more sophisticated than most people assume they were.
Chinese Bird Figurine
Thus far, the tiny bird figurine below is the earliest Chinese work of art that has been discovered. The carving was made around 13,800 years ago. It is almost eight millennia older than the East Asian animal sculpture found before it. This was discovered in Lingjing, Henan. The bird rests on a small pedestal and has been considered a gamechanger by experts. It is possible for it to have come from a different artistic tradition not connected to others from that period since the darkening method is unusual for that time.
Forrest Fen’s Treasure
A Vietnam War veteran, Forrest Fenn received a Silver Star award for his service as a U.S. Air Force pilot. In a single year, he joined 328 combat missions. After his retirement, he and his wife started an art gallery that raked in $6 million a year. It showed off forged paintings, bronze sculptures, and Native American artifacts. He was a wealthy man who hid his treasures in the Rocky Mountains. It was a good thing that an amateur treasure hunter called Jack Stuef discovered the $2 million loot, although he refuses to share the exact location of it. He believes that this was the dying wish of Fenn himself.
Bronze Shield From The UK
This bronze shield, together with a bunch of other artifacts, was discovered in a 2,200-year-old grave close to Pocklington, England. The tomb was the resting place of a significant member” of society back then. Based on the dating on the items, he passed away in his forties. It had a lot of “warrior” treasures such as two horses, a chariot, and a bronze shield. Aside from that, there were pork tibs, pig joints, a feasting fork, a glass, and two small brooches in there. The shield alone might be worth $1 to $2 million.
Towards the end of the Jurassic Period, there was a type of dinosaur called Diplodocus that lived in North America. The fossils have been found in the upper and middle regions of the Morrison Formation in the Western United States. It was as big as four elephants and primarily ate water plants along riverbanks. This fossil was likely found in the 18th or the 19th century, ushering in the sauropod age in archaeology. There has been no definitive skull discovered with an intact skeleton, so fragments are mostly found and sold separately. The skull alone is worth anywhere from $570,000 to a million bucks.
The discovery of a huge burial ground on the coast of Central Ecuador was rather grim. They found the remains of eleven people in there. This included two infants, who were likely buried 2,100 years ago. The researchers saw that they had helmets made of the skulls of other children on their heads! They even had flesh on them and were tightly fitted to the skulls of the babies. Archaeologists have never seen anything like these morbid helmets, which were probably used to protect their “souls” after death.
In the Middle Jurassic Period, there was a meat-eating theropod genus called Megalosaurus. Experts have found definitive fossils in Oxfordshire, England. However, there have been unconfirmed fossil discoveries in other areas as well. It had a height of 9.8 feet, a weight of 2,200 to 6,600 pounds, and a length of 30 feet. In 1676, Oxford professors thought that its partial femur came from a giant human. The animal was named in 1824. In 1843, the femur was confirmed to have come from them. A paleontologist called Richard Owen received credit for the identification. It is worth $30 to $40 million.
Local clay pit diggers did not expect to discover the Sungir Site in Vladimir, Russia! The Upper Paleolithic site is one of the earliest records of Homo sapiens in Eurasia. This settlement area was the burial site of the dead. They found four burial sites there. The first one held the remains of a man, while the second one had twin adolescent kids. The tombs were filled with red ochre, placed head to head, and decorated with spears, clothing, and ivory jewelry. Over 13,000 beads that represented 10,000 hours of work were interred with them. The kids were probably sacrificed, but no one knows the reason behind the ritual.
Also called Ata, the Atacama Alien is an artifact that has been the subject of much debate. It is hard to deny that it is one of the strangest entries on the list. You are looking at the six-inch skeletal remains of a fetus. In 2003, it was found in a deserted town close to the Atacama Desert in Chile. Oscar Munoz discovered and sold it to a Spanish businessman called Ramon Navia-Osorio for an undisclosed amount. While some think it was an alien, DNA analysis shows that it was a malformed fetus with scoliosis and dwarfism.
This is an ornithopod dinosaur that had an adult height of 8.9 feet and a weight of 8,800 to 11,000 pounds. The adults could reach a height of 33 feet. They probably lived 157.3 million to 93.9 million years ago. The dinosaurs had huge spikes on the thumbs to stab predators! Discovered in 1820, there was a lot of debate about the existence of dinosaurs. At the time, it was thought that it belonged to fish or rhinos. Richard Owen was able to identify this as a dinosaur, the second one after the Megalosaurus.
Chiribaya Pet Cemetery
Even cavemen are fond of dogs! Humans and canines formed a bond because of hunting. The pre-Columbian culture was a dog-friendly one in Peru. The Chiribaya Pet Cemetery had 82 dog tombs. It was located beside human mummy tombs! Mind you, the animals buried there died of old age. An anthropologist called Sonia Guillen said that they were beloved as they found blankets and treats in there. She said that they were “tanked” for their “familial contribution” and received the same respect that humans did.
This is a genius of squamate aquatic reptiles that were alive 99.6 to 66 million years ago. Mosasaurus went extinct during the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event, which is believed to be a meteorite impact. Its bones have been discovered along lake beds and riverbanks in Europe for centuries. There is insufficient research to find out what they were, so Europeans largely ignored them. It was the first fossil to be identified as having come from an extinct species. This gave the scientists the opportunity to recognize that the fossils belong to creatures from millions of years ago! The first one was found in the Netherlands and is worth $502,500.
How neat is it that Archaeopteryx translates to “Old Wing”? A bird-like dinosaur species, there are twelve specimens found so far. Scientists call it the oldest-known bird for centuries. It roamed the earth around 150 million years ago during the Late Jurassic Era. Its size is the same as that of the European Magpie, but bigger members could grow as long as two feet. The first one, called the London Skeleton, was found in Germany in 1861 and bought by the London Natural History Museum for $83,000.
Aboriginal Stone Tools
Researchers dove into freshwater springs in the Northwest Coast of Australia and found 270 Aboriginal artifacts there. Why were they submerged? The settlements in the region were built on dry land but sunk when sea levels went up. There was marine life on the artifacts, but they were identified as stone tools. There are two grinding stones, among others. It is illegal to sell aboriginal artifacts in Australia.
The Panagyurishte Treasure
It is not a stretch to call The Panagyurishte Treasure the most prized historical discovery in Bulgaria. The ancient Thracian treasure is primarily stored in Bulgaria’s National Bank. Three brothers working at a tile factory found it by accident. In 1949, it was considered the “richest treasure” in Europe since the Second World War. It comes with amphoras, rhytons, and vials made of solid gold. It has a total weight of 13.59 pounds. The golden artifacts are all decorated with humans, patterns, and animals. These things indicate a mythological and ritualistic connection. The total worth of these objects is $203,687.
With a scientific name that means “Bulky Lizard,” it is not shocking to hear that Hadrosaurus could weigh as much as 18,000 pounds. It could also grow as high as ten feet and as long as 25 feet. They roamed North America from 85.5 million to 66 million years ago. It was chunky despite the fact that it fed on plants. Discovered in New Jersey, this was the first nearly-complete fossil found in the United States. What makes it even more special is that not many are found on the East Coast. Every bone costs $4,000 to $5,000.
1st Century Statue Of Artemis And The Stag
You are looking at a statue of Artemis and the Stag from the first century! It was found close to a construction site in Rome in 1920. It has since gone through a number of owners, including both individuals and museums. The statue was made from anytime from the first century B.C. to the first century A.D. It shows the Greek goddess Artemis after shooting her arrow. It has been preserved very well, although the bow is missing. There is speculation that she once had a jumping dog at her feet. At any rate, the incredible piece is now worth $33.81 million. Whoa.