A single detail can change everything about a monument, the written record, or an entire field. While not all discoveries are dramatic, every recovered piece is valuable. Even the shortest chapter of history is rarely complete.Pieces can turn up anywhere, hidden in plain sight or where none are expected. But it is not all about the ruins. Evidence of conflict during the first contact between civilizations as well as sidelined siblings of famous people can infuse history with fire and pain.
10. Looted Monastery Walls
When King Henry VIII picked a scrap with the Church, he sacked over 800 religious institutions across England. He primarily went postal on monasteries and nunneries to steal their wealth.But in 2017, a new find in the city of Hull showed that the king also poached building material.
A year after the looting spree (1536–1540), the monarch ordered the construction of a blockhouse. It was to toughen the defenses of Hull and provide safety for gunners and stored weapons.During excavations of the badly damaged site, archaeologists found the original floors beneath the one laid in the 19th century. Then they found the first walls and discovered that pieces of monasteries were included in the mix.
Found entirely underground, the walls still stood 1 meter (3 ft) high in some places. The ruins also included gun ports with side chambers.Apart from finding the traces of the demolished monasteries, the recovered blockhouse is a great historic recovery overall as it ranks among the first defenses built on Henry VIII’s orders.
9. The Nova Zagora Slab
In 2016, a fragment turned up beneath a Roman road station in Bulgaria. Marks on the surface made the 7,000-year-old piece a good candidate for the world’s oldest writing. But a year later, another Bulgarian find—this time, a complete slab—could beat that record by a millennium.
The tiny artifact was made of clay. Somebody pushed repetitive symbols into the surface. Although they look like lines and sergeant stripes to the ordinary eye, archaeologists got excited.Found near the town of Nova Zagora in an ancient riverside village, it showed similarities with other inscribed artifacts from Bulgaria. None matched its antiquity, however.Archaeologist Tatyana Kancheva said, “These symbols, these signs are widely distributed not just in Bulgaria but also in Romania, in Serbia, all over the Balkan Peninsula, but those are from the fourth to fifth millennium. [ . . . ] There are similar signs which were inscribed on all kinds of artifacts.”If this is some kind of script, the meaning of the writing remains an unbroken code. Researchers have faith that its message is important, probably something akin to a harvest calendar.