In its history, the Earth has seen many things come and go. While much of the past is probably gone forever, other times evidence of earlier eras are discovered through search or accidentally found. Sometimes even nature uncovers and shares Earth’s past.

The history of the world dates back millions of years and, in recent times, humans have found some weird and/or pretty interesting pieces or clues from the past. Here are 10 cool finds that made the news in the last few years.

1. 3,600-Year-Old Cheese in Ancient Graveyard

In excavations conducted between 2002 and 2004 at the Xiaohe cemetery in the harsh Taklamakan desert, located in northwest China, archaeologists found actual ancient lumps of cheese. The cheese was found on "perfectly preserved mummies" found buried in China's desert. [1]

The ancient burial ground was originally discovered in 1934, and the remains date back to approximately 1615 B.C., but it wasn’t until recent years scientists were able to better excavate and examine to get more certainty about the finds. Along with the cheese, archaeologists were able to identify skin, hair and other items buried with the body, fully intact. A team of researchers took 13 samples of a yellowish material from a number of the mummies to perform an analysis. What they found was remarkable as the tests showed the substance was actual cheese that was estimated to be about 3,600 years old.

Ancient cheese making
Credit: Audrius Meskauskas via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CheeseMakingAncient.jpg

A team in Germany carried out a protein analysis and discovered the cheese found on the mummies had been made through kefir fermentation. Researchers found Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens, was used to ferment the milk. This technique is still widely used in modern times. It is theorized the kefir cheese was buried with the mummies as either food to take to the afterlife or left as a tribute. [3] While the burial ground is located in China, it is believed the graves are those of Europeans and that they brought their cheese making traditions with them to Asia.

2. Evidence of Cheese Making on Ancient Pottery

Cheese and more cheese - this time on another continent. A few years back reports came out describing 7,500-year-old pottery sieves. The artifacts, found in Kujawy, Poland decades ago, contained milk fat remains, illustrating humans have engaged in cheese-making for thousands of years. Archeologists found the milk fat remains on 34 clay vessels.

At the time it was noted the ancient relics looked like sieves and many hypothesis were made of what the items may have been used for. Previously, milk residue has been found on other ancient pottery samples, however, studies could not conclude whether or not they were used for cheese-making. The Kujawy samples are a different story. Now, with modern technology, the ability to conduct testing is available and scientists worked to see what could be found embedded in the primordial pottery. Scientists analyzed fatty acids taken from the sieve-like pottery and the testing found evidence of dairy products. Additionally, milk residues were found in some non-perforated bowls; other non-perforated bowls showed evidence of meats being cooked. [5]

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Kujawy, Poland

3. Roman Brothel Coin in the Mud

In 2012 reports emerged about an unusual find made along the River Thames. An amateur archaeologist and his metal detector found a rare and unique ancient coin. The 2000-year-old bronze token was found in the mud at low tide near Putney Bridge in West London. While the age was one interesting factor, the other attribute about the coin that drew attention was that it depicted two people in a sex act.

Historians at the time believed it was the first of its kind to ever be found in Britain, and some thought it was a token that was redeemed at ancient Roman brothels. Others suggested coins of this nature were gaming tokens. [6] Either way, experts believe the coin to be first century AD and the mud kept it from corrosion over the centuries. Historians say these types of coins were common in the Roman Empire, including places such as Pompeii, however, none had ever been found in this part of Europe.  The artifact was donated.

4. Wand with Two Faces in Syria

During archaeological digs in southern Syria from 2007 to 2009 experts discovered a unique item in an ancient graveyard. The item, described as a wand, was estimated to be 9,000 years old. It was found near the graves of about 30 people, who had been buried without their heads. [8] At the time of discovery, archaeologists believed the wand could help identify ancient rituals performed during that period of history.  The artifact was found in a region where experts believe the first farmers emerged, an Early Neolithic site known as Tell Qarassa.

The ancient relic had two human faces engraved on it; the eyes on the people are carved as being closed. It was reported to be about 4.7 inches (12 centimeters) in length and described as being constructed from the rib of an auroch. An auroch is an ancestor of the modern cow that went extinct in 1627 (and may again make a return presence as scientists seek to revive this ancient beast through genetic expertise and old-fashioned breeding).  [9]

5. Roman Eagle Statue in London

A Roman eagle statue was found on the floor of a ditch in London in September 2013. Discovered by Museum of London archaeologists, the statue's carved details included an eagle with a serpent prey in its beak. Described as being in pristine condition, the only damage the relic reportedly had was a broken wing. The incredible and find was located on the last day of excavations that were being performed before a hotel complex was to be built. [11], [12]

Eagle Statue
Credit: zeevveez via Flickr/CC by 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/29001414@N00/6880638609

A stone statue depicting an eagle

(NOT the eagle statue found in London)

At first, workers thought it was an angel or cherub, but as they continued to excavate they saw bird-like features and realized it was an eagle. The statue is described as Roman style art, but having been carved in Britain. Archaeologists say the relic is one of the best examples of Romano-British art ever discovered. The relic was carved from Oolitic limestone that came from the Cotswolds and was carefully preserved, even though the tomb it likely decorated was destroyed more than 1,800 years ago. Experts approximated the time frame of the eagle's origin to be as the late 1st or early 2nd century A.D.  

6. Ancient ‘Swamp Monster’ in Texas

In 2001 a skull was found by a fossil and field specialist at the Texas Tech Museum and over the years a team of scientists uncovered the remains of a 200-million-year-old creature that once swam the Earth's swamps during the Triassic-age.  Experts determined it belonged to a previously unidentified type of phytosaur. Dubbed the Machaeroprosopus lottorum, the “swamp monster” was approximately 18 feet (5 meters) long with a 2-foot-long (0.6 meter) snout. The "swamp monster" was likened to a modern day crocodile. Two of these amazing reptiles were found, one male and one female. The name Machaeroprosopus lottorum is attributed to the Lott family, the owners of the ranch where the phytosaur remains were found. The name "phytosaur" means "plant lizard". [14]

 Phytosaur fossil
Credit: RobTwoEagle via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Phytosaur_fossil.JPG

Author image description: "Phytosaur was an ancient crocodile like species that once were the top predators of the Triassic landscape. They grew up to 21 feet, were ferocious meat eaters that probably ambushed there prey."

7. Human Tumor in Ancient Neanderthal Bone

Archeologists a few years back uncovered the oldest tumor ever found. The bone came from the rib of a Neanderthal. Originally found in Croatia over 100 years ago, experts analyzed the bone using more modern technology than was available in the 1990s during the last scan. Experts gauged the remains to be over 100,000 years old. Many of the Neanderthal remains showed signs of trauma and "post-mortem cutting marks", said the Live Science report. The tumor is a non-spreadable kind that is not cancerous, reported Live Science (courtesy Yahoo! News). [15]

Other bones were also reportedly found in the dig site that dated 120,000 to 130,000 years ago. Mostly cancer is thought of as a modern disease, however, evidence in recent years suggests it has been around much longer. At the time of the find, this was the oldest human tumor on record.

8. 1,800-Year-Old Stone Carving Found in Ancient Garbage Pit

Archeologists working at the Binchester Roman Fort dig site in northeastern England's County Durham made a remarkable when they uncovered what was believed to be an ancient garbage dump.  Researchers were surprised to find a stone carving in the pile of rubbish. Researchers suspect the relic, constructed of sandstone, might be the head of a Roman God. The fort was dated as built around A.D. 100.

Described as being 8 inches long (20 centimeters) and estimated as about 1,800 years old, the stone head appears to have been tossed away with other ancient trash. It was also believed the trash pit was a part of an ancient Roman bath house. Some areas of the Fort are open to the public while much of this piece of ancient civilization has yet to be uncovered in the surrounding fields. What has already been learned is that the Fort had an under floor heating system, the aforementioned bath house, and that soldiers from many regions of the Roman Empire stayed at Binchester. A commander's living quarters have also been found.

9. Beeswax Filling Found in 65-Century-Old Tooth

A tooth found more than a century ago may be evidence of one of society's earliest forms of dentistry dating back thousands of years. The primordial tooth was found over 100 years ago and estimated as being about 65 centuries old. It was located in a cave near the village of Lonche, which is in modern-day Slovenia. Italian researchers seeking to X-ray a fossilized jaw bone stumbled upon the ancient dental filling by accident. The tooth, dated about 6,500 years old, contained a beeswax cap. Researchers believe the tooth belonged to a person estimated to be 24 - 30 years of age.

The researchers suggested the beeswax filling was placed into the individual's tooth just prior to or after he or she died. While a funerary ritual could not fully be ruled out, the researchers believe the beeswax was possibly used to relieve tooth sensitivity while the individual was still alive. According to Health Daily News (courtesy of U.S. News), finding confirmed evidence of ancient dentistry is rare. [20] Other rare evidence of primitive dentistry includes a 7,500 to 9,500 year-old molars found in Pakistan that showed signs of cavity work and a 5,500-year-old artificial tooth was uncovered in Egypt. [21]

bee
Credit: Leigh Goessl

10. Ancient Egyptian Iron Trinket From Outer Space?

In 1911 a bead was found in a burial site at Gerzeh, located outside of Cairo. Eight other similar beads were found at this location and experts placed them about being made about 3,300 BC. At the time, it was the oldest known Egyptian handiwork made from iron, and was made thousands of years before Egypt’s Iron Age occurred. This stirred a lot of debate. Aside from meteorite theory, which was the original theory, another theory that emerged in the 1980s was the metal was formed as a byproduct from accidental early smelting. [22]

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Cairo, Cairo Governorate, Egypt
meteorite
Credit: Urville Djasim via Wikimedia Commons/CC by 2.0 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WLANL_-_Urville_Djasim_-_Meteoriet_-_Meteorite_(1).jpg

Long in discussion about the metal's origin, the scientists in a study published in 2013 concluded components of the ancient trinket came from outer space. Experts from the two universities compiled their expertise and resources to use electron microscopy and computed tomography to examine the beads. This collaboration helped them come to settle the long-time debate of the metal's origin. After an in-depth examination, the teams concluded the metal had a celestial origin. While the scientists were not able to cut open the metal piece, there was enough weathering to get a glimpse inside to look at its makeup. What experts found was a high concentration of nickel, along with other properties that point to the types of properties found in meteorites. Iron was associated with affluence and power in ancient Egypt. Its presence was considered as a bestowal from the gods. Usually, only those in power and/or with substantial wealth would have possessed it.

Over the years many artifacts have been found. Some are identified and confirmed, others are being speculated upon and studied, and still others will keep their secrets close and forever remain a mystery.