History is full of surprises. Here are five rare and revealing ancient personal items.
In Mexico, families occupied a residential site in the Oaxaca Valley called Dainzu-Macuilxochitl for nearly four centuries. They were the Zapotecs, and they still exist in the region. A ceremonial quarter was found in 2015 and contained human jawbones as well as ceramic figurines and whistles. The entire clay collection had been purposely smashed, but the skeletal remains were lovingly carved and painted.
Italian archaeologists tend to hang around the San Francesco convent in Lucca. Over 200 ancient skeletons already held their interest, but in 2016, one family tomb delivered the oldest dentures ever discovered. Consisting of five incisors and canines, the real human teeth likely originated from the mouths of different people.
The Denisova Needle
A 50,000 year old needle stunned scientists during an annual dig at Denisova Cave in Siberia’s Altai Mountains. The site is already famous for “X woman,” who only left behind a finger bone but alerted researchers to the existence of a new hominid species in 2008. Long extinct, they were called Denisovans, after the cave. Found in 2016, the 7-cetimeter (2.8 in) needle is the longest to come from the site and the oldest in the world. A Denisovan hand-crafted the tool from an unidentified bird’s bone and even shaped it with an opening for thread.
Throwaway ceramics were the vogue trend of 15th-century German elites. When archaeologists dug in the courtyard of Germany’s Schloss Wittenberg, they didn’t find the shards of a few cups; they found thousands of broken drinking vessels. The porcelain cups were richly decorated with stamps and mask-like images. To throw one of these over your shoulder after guzzling the contents was seen as a sign of affluence enjoyed only by the nobility.
Bear Cub Rattle
One particular baby was much-loved during Bronze Age Siberia. He or she received a clay rattle shaped to resemble a young bear’s head. The cute cub still rattles, and future X-rays will determine what exactly causes the sound. Experts are guessing that the maker added small stones before sealing the beautiful toy. It was found in 2016, inside one of the homes at an archaeological complex where an ancient community once lived in the Novosibirsk region.