Archaeologists have helped us to understand the lives of our ancestors and in many cases have added to our knowledge of what it is to be human. And they’ve also added to our sense of wonder at the sometimes weird, sometimes gruesome and occasionally amusing habits of our predecessors. Whether it’s thousands of life-size statues of Chinese soldiers, hobbit-like humanoids or the shocking mummified child sacrifices of the Aztecs, archaeology seldom ceases to amaze and surprise.
20. Piri Reis Map
German Gustav Adolf Deissmann discovered the Piri Reis map in 1929. It was secreted in a dusty bundle of papers in the library at Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey. The Turkish admiral and cartographer Piri Reis created the map in 1513. This 16th-century map is remarkable because it is the only one we know of from that century that gives a reasonably accurate depiction of the relative positions of South America and Africa.
19. The Mount Owen Moa Foot
This peculiar-looking foot belonged to an upland moa, a New Zealand bird that became extinct about 1500. It was a flightless bird that stood about three feet tall and could weigh up to 70 pounds. Larger moa species could be as tall as 12 feet and weigh more than 500 pounds. It only took the Polynesians a couple of hundred years from their arrival in New Zealand in about 1300 to wipe out these birds. Unluckily for the moas, it seems they were good to eat.