Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Accidental Discoveries

Lascaux Cave. In 1940, four French teenagers were roaming the forests near Montignac when their dog began sniffing around a hole in the ground. After shimmying down a stone shaft, the boys encountered a vast underground cavern whose walls were adorned with some 2,000 ancient paintings and engravings. Before long, word of the Lascaux cave’s exquisite collection of animal drawings and abstract symbols spread across Europe, and it became known as the “Sistine Chapel of Prehistoric Art.”

Historians later placed the age of its paintings at around 15,000-17,000 years old, and many believe the cave was once the site of religious and hunting rites among the Upper Paleolithic.
In 1974, a group of Chinese farmers found the tomb of the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty. The seven-man team was digging a well near the city of Xian when one of their shovels struck the head of a buried statue. When archeologists conducted further excavations, they found it was one of some 8,000 life-sized terra cotta soldiers, horses and chariots constructed to guard the 3rd century B.C. Emperor Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife.

The tomb and its highly detailed soldiers—each has its own unique face—are now regarded as some of the most important treasures in China.
The Venus de Milo spent centuries buried on the Greek island of Melos. The armless statue was found in 1820, when a peasant accidentally discovered its top half while trying to salvage marble building blocks from a pile of ancient ruins. The find caught the attention of a French naval officer and in 1821 it was presented to King Louis XVIII and donated to the Louvre. Art historians have since speculated that the Venus is meant to represent the Greek goddess Aphrodite.

Napoleon Bonaparte's soldiers stumbled upon a large basalt slab while knocking down ancient walls to make improvements to a French fort near the town of Rosetta. Once deciphered, the glyphs provided scholars with the tools they needed to begin the first in depth studies of ancient Egyptian language and literature.
The Dead Sea Scrolls contain some of the earliest known pieces of the Bible. In 1947 a band of sheepherders were tending their flock near the ancient city of Jericho. A boy tossed a stone into a nearby cave and heard a shattering clay pot. When he went in the cave to investigate, he found several jars containing a collection of ancient papyrus scrolls.

When the Declaration of Independence was issued, 200 copies were printed. Only a few have ever been found. One of those was discovered in 1989 after a Pennsylvania man went into a thrift store looking for a picture frame. His $ 4 frame and picture hid copy number 25 of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. It sold for nearly $2.5m.