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 Top Archaeological discoveries 2023 (1) infographic
Graphic pinpoints the best archaeological news stories from 2023.


The best archaeological discoveries made in 2023

By Jordi Bou

December 31, 2023 - The world’s most notable archaeological discoveries in 2023 include the largest collection of ancient bronze statues ever found in Italy, the world’s first book, the earliest example of wooden architecture, the first complete skeleton of a giant panda found in a royal tomb, and the Nero’s Theatre.

Archaeological highlights of the year feature the following finds:

1. PERU: New DNA analysis reveals that one-third of Machu Picchu’s caretakers – skilled workers including craftspeople and priests – came from faraway Amazonia. This suggests that part of the Amazon was more fully integrated into the Inca Empire than previously thought.

2. ITALY: The largest collection of ancient bronze statues ever found in Italy, among them the “scrawny boy” – a Roman youth with apparent bone disease – is unearthed below the San Casciano dei Bagni bathhouse ruins in Tuscany – shedding light on how Romans and Estruscans viewed the connection between health, religion and spirituality.

3. ISRAEL: Four extremely well-preserved swords – three still in their wooden scabbards – are discovered in a cave overlooking the Dead Sea. The weapons may have been hidden by Judean rebels after they were seized from the Roman army as booty.

4. MEXICO: A stone chest containing 15 figurines made by the Mezcala people between 500 BC and 600 AD is found in a layer of Mexico City’s Templo Mayor dating to the reign of Moctezuma I (1440-69) – indicating that the Aztecs excavated the objects from Mezcala sites in the southwest of the country and placed them in the temple as ritual offerings.

5. CHINA: The first complete skeleton of a giant panda to be found in a royal tomb is discovered among the remains of 400 sacrificial animals near the mausoleum of the Han dynasty emperor, Wen (180-157 BC). The find gives insights into royal burial rites going back more than 2,000 years.

6. ZAMBIA: A pair of interlocking logs dating back nearly half a million years are believed to be the earliest known example of wooden architecture. The structure predates the appearance of the first modern humans by around 150,000 years.

7. EGYPT: A fragment of what researchers believe to be the world’s first book, bound
in Egypt almost 2,300 years ago, is uncovered on a piece of papyrus, recycled as wrapping for a mummy. It records, in Greek letters, tax details on beer and oil – and pushes back the origins of bookbinding by centuries.

8. ITALY: The ruins of Nero’s Theatre are discovered during renovation works at the Palazzo della Rovere in Rome. Emperor Nero (54-68 AD) is known for his love of drama and the performing arts, but the exact location of his theatre has been a mystery until now.

PUBLISHED: 06/12/2023; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: Getty Images; Emanuele Antonio Minerva, Agnese Sbaffi © Ministero della Cultura; Shaanxi TV; Mirsa Islas – INAH;
Larry Barham – University of Liverpool; University of Graz; Soprintendenza Speciale Roma