7 Mind-Blowing Ancient Attractions (That Were Discovered By Mistake)
PHOTO: The Terra Cotta Warriors were discovered by farmers in Xian. (photo by David Cogswell)
The truth always has a way of bubbling up to the surface, and some of the world’s most treasured discoveries would never have been made were it not for a series of happy accidents.
Lascaux Caves in France
These famous caves in southwestern France near Montignac were discovered in 1940 by four French teenage boys. One of the boys found the entrance to the series of complex caves and brought his three friends back with him to explore. The drawings on the walls of the cave are estimated to be 17,300 years old and are some of the best representations of Upper Paleolithic art and mostly depict large animals.
The Terra Cotta Army in Xian, China
In Xian, China, one of the must-see museums is The Museum of Qin Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses, where visitors will find a replica of emperor Qin Shi Huang’s army in terra cotta form — funerary art that was buried with the emperor. The army was accidentally discovered in 1974 by farmers who were digging a water well about one mile east from the emperor’s tomb on Mount Li.
Derinkuyu in Cappadocia, Turkey
The Derinkuyu underground city in Cappadocia, Turkey, is said to have sheltered as many as 20,000 people with food and livestock at one time. The city was built in the Byzantine era and was first used as protection during the Arab-Byzantine wars from 780-1180. But the city continued to provide protection for people during the Mongolian incursions, during the Ottoman Empire and through the early 1900s. They were abandoned in 1923 but rediscovered in 1963 when a resident in the area accidentally came across a mysterious room behind a wall in his home.
Today, visitors can take tours of this ancient underground city while visiting Cappadocia.
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Dead Sea Scrolls, Qumran Cave, Israel
Once again, intrepid teens unearthed an ancient treasure. Bedouin shepherds came across seven scrolls in a remote cave near the Dead Sea on the West Bank of the Jordan River. They kept the scrolls and were eventually told by an antiquities dealer that they were worthless. They shopped them around to a few more people before finally selling some of them for around $30. Eventually, they caught the attention of an American scholar who determined that these were the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest copies of the Hebrew Bible ever found.
Today, you can tour the excavation site in Qumran and the Qumran caves, where you’ll see pottery, banquet halls, ancient cups, bowls and plates and get a glimpse into the lives of the Dead Sea Sect that inhabited the area.
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Soldiers came across this slab of rock that holds the key to ancient civilization while strengthening a fort in Egypt a few miles northeast of Rosetta. Luckily, the soldiers had been accompanied by a group of scientists sent by Napoleon Bonaparte. They quickly determined the stone was from the 2nd century B.C. and that it contained an ancient decree written in three languages.
Today, you can visit the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum in London.
It is now one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions, but the Western world wasn’t even aware of its existence until 1911 when a Yale University expedition led by historian Hiram Bingham came across the mysterious city while exploring Peru’s Sacred Valley. The true origins of Machu Picchu are still unknown but visitors can now tour the area and hike the Inca trail on their own expedition.
More by Janeen Christoff
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