Sometimes, an old grave is like a code. Crack one, and it might release a torrent of new information or twist a mystery even tighter. In recent years, many pivotal insights into human behavior and strangeness were triggered by grave goods, skeletal injuries, and even tomb architecture.
No grave is so universal as to forget the person within. Whether the tombs contain important officials, laborers, or infants, these final resting places can reveal emotions, daily moments, and the enigmatic games they loved to play.
10. St. Alban’s Abbot
St. Albans Cathedral was named for the first saint of Britain, who was killed at the site by the Romans. Dating from Norman times, it also holds the honor of being the country’s longest active place of Christian worship.But St. Albans has its mysteries. One of its most successful abbots was John of Wheathampstead. After his death in 1465, nobody could remember where he was buried.In 2017, archaeologists stuck their spades into the cathedral’s burial ground but focused mainly on the graves from 1750–1850. Then an anonymous skeleton showed up.The team scratched their heads until they found three papal seals from Italy. The lead artifacts were unique to archaeology and also identified the remains as Abbot John’s. During 1423, he traveled for an audience with Pope Martin V. The Pope granted him the three seals, a kind of public charter and privilege for the abbot’s monastery.The mystery of another grave at St. Albans remains unsolved. In the same year, a child was exhumed, holding what appeared to be a rosary. This indicated a Catholic burial in a Protestant graveyard, something highly unusual for the time.
9. Unknown Native American Group
In 2010, archaeologists became the first people in 11,500 years to view a buried child. The six-week-old girl was found with two other babies in the Tanana River Valley in Alaska. In 2018, researchers announced that her DNA revealed the existence of a previously unknown group of migrants.All living Native Americans descend from two ancestor pools, the northern and southern branches. The Tanana River girl belonged to neither, yet she shared genetic material with Native Americans alive today.Her genome is quite special. It is the second-oldest genome to come out of North America, and scientists have never seen anything similar. The unknown ancestral group was older than the other branches.Now called the Ancient Beringians, after a route long suspected to have brought people to the western hemisphere, their discovery strengthened two ideas—that the ancestors of all Native American tribes came from Siberia and that nobody hurried across Beringia and scattered in every direction. Instead, they lingered there and became isolated from other Asian groups for thousands of years until they formed distinct genetic groups.The Ancient Beringians did so 20,000 years ago, and the northern and southern branches split off about 4,000 years later.