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History of Archaeology

Updated on May 29, 2013

14TH-16TH CENTURIES: The Renaissance revived interest in classical art, including ruins and buried art and artifacts.

1748: The buried Roman city of Pompeii was discovered.

1784: Thomas Jefferson dug an Indian burial mound on the Rivanna River, Virginia and wrote about it.

1790: John Frere identified Old Stone Age (Paleolithic) tools together with large extinct animals.

1899-1935: A J Evans excavated Minoan Knossos in Crete.

1879: Stone Age paintings were first discovered at Altamira, Spain.

1840s: A H Layard excavated the Assyrian capital of Nineveh.

1868: Great Zimbabwe ruins in East Africa first seen by Europeans.

1836: C J Thomsen devised the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Age classification.

1871: Heinrich Schliemann began work at Troy.

1880s: A H Pitt-Rivers developed the concept of stratigraphy (identification of successive layers of soil within a site with successive archaeological periods; the most recent at the top).

1822: Champollion deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphics

1891: W M F Petrie began excavating Akhetaton in Egypt.

1900-1944: Max Uhle began the systematic study of the civilizations of Peru.

1911: The Inca city of Machu Picchu discovered by Hiram Bingham in the Andes.

1911-1912: Piltdown skull ‘discovered’; proved a fake in 1949.

1914-18: Osbert Crawford developed the technique of aerial survey of sites.

1917-27: J e Thompson discovered the great Mayan sites in Yucatán, Mexico.

1926: A kill site in Folsom New Mexico, was found with spearpoints in association with ancient bison.

1935: Dendrochronology (dating events in the distant past by counting tree rings) developed by A E Douglas; useful when preserved timbers are found.

1922: Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt opened by Howard Carter.

1939: Anglo-Saxon ship-burial treasure found at Sutton Hoo, England.

1947: The first of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered.

1948: Proconsul prehistoric ape discovered by Mary Leakey in Kenya; several early hominid fossils found by Louis Leakey in Olduvai Gorge 1950s-70s.

1953: Michael Ventris deciphered Minoan Linear B.

1960s: Radiocarbon and thermoluminescence measurement developed as aids for dating remains.

1961: Swedish warship Wasa raised at Stockholm.

1963: W B Emery pioneered rescue archaeology at Abu Simbel before it was flooded by the Aswan Dam.

1974: Tomb of Shi Huangdi discovered in China.

1978: Tomb of Philip II of Macedon (Alexander the Great’s father) discovered in Greece.

1979: The Aztec capital Tenochtitlán excavated beneath a zone of Mexico City.

1982: The English king Henry VII’s warship Mary Rose 1545 was raised and studied with new techniques in underwater archeology.

1985: The tomb of Maya, Tutankhamen’s treasurer, discovered at Saqqara, Egypt.

1988: Turin Shroud established as of medieval date by radiocarbon dating.

1989: Remains of Globe and RoseTheatres, where many of Shakespeare’s plays were originally performed, discovered in London.


The Hutchinson Encyclopedic Dictionary

Random Century Group

London, Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, Johannesburg



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