From buried treasures, hidden cities and secret Maya pyramids, we bring you some of the most exciting archaeological discoveries of modern times. Get out your Indiana Jones hat and read on, for an amazing insight into powerful dynasties, ancient cults and other recently discovered world wonders.
QALATGA DARBAND, IRAQI KURDISTAN, 2017
A lost city is being slowly unearthed in Iraqi Kurdistan, thanks to declassified spy footage and drone photography. Qalatga Darband is thought to have been established by Alexander the Great and built around 331 BC. The site of where the fortified city sits is believed to be in an area of what was a well-trodden route between Iran and Iraq.
Experts watched declassified spy footage that was made public in 1996 and that is how the site was originally detected. Originally, not much could be done due to the area’s political volatility. A team of Iraqi and British archaeologists, led by specialists from the British Museum, have been recently excavating. Terracotta roof tiles and Greek and Roman statues, among then one of Aphrodite, have been uncovered.
HANUMAN DHOKA PALACE TREASURES, NEPAL, 2011
This former royal palace was being renovated in 2011 when labourers happened on a treasure trove, tucked away in a store room underneath a building. A total of 661 pounds of gold and silver coins and ornaments were found within 3 boxes. It was believed the precious metals were an offering to gods and goddesses.
HOMO NALEDI, SOUTH AFRICA, 2013
In 2013 in the Dinaledi cave system near Johannesburg, a couple of cavers took the world by storm when they discovered a vast haul of over 1,500 fossilised bones inside a deep chamber. The remains were in fact those of a previously undiscovered primitive species of human, with an ape-like torso, hands, curved fingers and brains about the third of the size of ours.
Research suggests this extinct species existed 236,000-335,000 years ago, which means they may have roamed Earth at the same time as early human beings. Homo naledi, as the species is now known, used the caves as a place to deposit the dead.
THE ROSALILA TEMPLE, HONDURAS, 1989
Hidden inside a pyramid in the ancient Maya city of Copán, Honduras, a beautifully-preserved pink temple was discovered in 1989. The three-story structure was buried under mud, plaster and stone and is thought to date back to the sixth century AD.
Inside, several religious artifacts were discovered, including incense burners, stone pedestals and flint knives thought to be used in sacrifices. The inner walls of the temple were also found coated in soot from torches.
A life-size replica of the Rosalila may be found in the Sculpture Museum in Copán.
THE LOST CITY, COLOMBIA, 1972
Colombia’s Lost City was known about only by the natives living deep in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains. It remained hidden from the outside world for over 300 years. A group of bird hunters happened on an ancient stone staircase carpeted with moss in 1972 and found the ruins of a vast city, buried under thick foliage.
It’s thought that Teyuna (as the Lost City is called) was built around AD 800 and was home to several thousand Tairona people. After the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in the late 16th century, it was abandonded and stayed hidden in the jungle.
Tourists today can explore nearly an acre of of the Lost City, although a far bigger area remains hidden by thick jungle foliage. To see the Lost City is no easy feat. One can only get there via a strenuous five-day hike, culminating in a thigh-burning climb up 1,200 steps.
THE ZEUGMA MOSAICS, TURKEY, 1992
The city of Zeugma, Turkey was founded by Alexander the Great in 300 BC and some spectacular floor mosaics were discovered in this ancient city.
Roman villas were the original homes for these glass floor mosaics. One can see them at the Zeugma Mosaic Museum in Gaziantep, Turkey which is the largest mosaic museum in the world.
EL CASTILLO’S HIDDEN PYRAMID, CHICHÉN ITZÁ, MEXICO, 2016
The four sided El Castillo pyramid (or the Temple of Kukulkan) is one of Mexico’s biggest tourist draws. It has 365 magnificent steps and an imposing height. Archaeologists discovered it was hiding a secret. They already knew that there was a second pyramid lay hidden inside, they performed scanning techniques and discovered a third.
It’s the ‘Russian Doll’ effect. The latest temple to be discovered is 33 feet high, was constructed between AD 600-800, the second between AD 850-900 and the visible exterior pyramid between AD 1050-1300.