One of the best ways we can learn about the past is through the skeletons discovered in the present. Dinosaur bones have led to some of the most important findings about the evolution of life on Earth. At the same time, the skeletons of our ancestors have taught us incredible things about humanity’s past. Without these discoveries, the stories we heard as children would be mere fantasies, grounded in nothing more than imagination. We hope you enjoying learning the truth behind history as you discover the most important bones ever unearthed by archaeologists.
You won’t believe where the “Hobbit” was discovered in 2004!
King Tut Was Just A Boy When He Died
Cleopatra and King Tutankhamen, the boy King, are the two most recognizable royals from Egyptian history. The sarcophagus of King Tut was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter and George Herbert. A positive identification on the historical figure was quick and accurate, thanks to pristine records kept by the Egyptian Empire.
Since the positive identification of the body of King Tut, archaeologists have been able to identify other mummies related to the Boy King, as well. Using DNA to create a family tree, Tut’s mother, father, and grandmother have all positively been identified and linked to the mummy found in the gold tomb.
America’s Second Governor Was Unearthed In 2018
We can’t be sure yet, but in July 2018, archaeologists dug up a skeleton they believe is George Yeardley, the second governor of America. He was one of the leaders of Jamestown before the Revolutionary War. The next task is proving the grave and skeletal remains are indeed his.
The President of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, James Horn, says he’s 90 percent sure they have their man. He also added that they won’t confirm the identification until they are 99.9 percent sure. Confirmation of the remains would be a major discovery for historians studying the history of the United States.
Next, learn about the discovery the first giant dinosaur!
The First Giant Dinosaur Was 30 Million Years Older Than Previously Thought
Another major skeletal discovery took place in 2018, when archaeologists in Argentina unearthed the fossils of Ingentia prima, the world’s first large dinosaur. Prior to the discovery, it was thought giant dinosaurs didn’t evolve until the Jurassic period, about 180 million years ago.
Ingentia prima, thought to weigh up to ten tons, was dated to 210 million years ago, at the end of the Triassic period. In the 30 million year gap, giant dinosaurs evolved to have a longer neck, a smaller head, and four thick legs. It also gained about 60 tons in weight!
Lucy Was Named In Honor Of The Beatles
The Beatles song “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” was playing in 1974 in Hadar, Ethiopia when one of the world’s most iconic skeletons was found. Named Australopithecus afarensis by science, she was nicknamed “Lucy” thanks to the song that was the soundtrack to her uncovering.
The discovery of Lucy gave scientists a link to humans’ evolutionary past. Dated 3.2 million years old, the small skeleton shows signs of a walking gait similar to humans with a skull closer to apes. Lucy became a worldwide sensation upon her unveiling and a book about her was published in 2007.
Coming up in two slides, the T-Rex storms onto fossil scene!
The Taung Child Skull Proved That Big Brains Were Second In Human Evolution
When Raymond Dart submitted the Taung Child skull as a human ancestor in 1924 he was laughed at by his peers. For years it had been believed that humans evolved their large brains before other features. The skeleton of the child had a small brain case, showing the opposite.
Ultimately, Dart was proven right after a long and exhausting battle. It was not until 1947 that the Taung child was accepted by popular science as a human ancestor, after several more skeletons were found supporting Dart’s discovery. Papers written by his peers further proved Dart was ahead of his time.
The Biggest T-Rex Ever Was Found In South Dakota
Named Sue, the largest T-Rex fossil ever was found in South Dakota in 1990. Standing 13 feet tall and 40.5 feet long, she was discovered by Sue Hendrickson during a fossil search at the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. Hendrickson noticed the bones protruding from a cliff and was given the honor of having the giant dinosaur named after her.
Amazingly, not only is Sue the largest T-Rex ever discovered, she is also the most complete specimen ever found. Just over 90 percent of the dinosaur’s body was recovered. Before then, no more than 60 percent of a fossilized T-Rex had ever been found.
The Old Man Of La Chapelle Gave Us The Primitive Neanderthal
The Old Man of La Chapelle was unearthed in 1908 during an expedition of the cave of La Chapelle by French archaeologists Amedee, Jean Bouyssonie, and Louis Bardon. The team had been charged with excavating the cave in hopes of finding bones. No one expected they would find a Neanderthal!
Three years after discovering the skeleton, an in-depth study about the Old Man was written and published by Pierre Marcellin Boule. He described the reconstructed Neanderthal as a brutish and hunched figure. Although today we know that isn’t exactly what Neanderthal’s looked like, the paper set the cultural image of prehistoric humans for years to come.
Next, the “Hobbit” becomes a reality in 2004.
The “Hobbit” Stood Under Three And A Half Feet Tall
The discovery of Flo in 2003 changed the way we understand human evolution. Found in Flores, Indonesia, the full grown pre-human stood a tiny three feet and three inches tall. In 2004, she was given the scientific name Homo floresiensisand nicknamed “Hobbit” hot on the heels of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Thanks to the popularity of the movies, Flo took on a cultural life of her own. The world was fascinated by the idea of theHomo erectusoffshoot. The modern theory is that Flo and her species arrived on the island of Flores one million years ago and quickly became dwarfed as they adapted to their new environment.
Homo Naledi Was Discovered In 2015
Hominin bones are rarely found by archaeologists. When researchers came across hundreds of complete bones in the Rising Star cave system in South Africa in 2015, it was a modern scientific miracle that introduced the world to whole new species of human.
Named Homo Naledi, three skeletons have been reconstructed, one almost entirely. This one has been named “Neo” and is giving scientists insight into humanity’s long and deep evolutionary past. The most remarkable thing about Neo is that he lived at the same time period as modern humans, a notion previously considered impossible by paleo-anthropology.
A Graveyard Of “Giants” Was Found In China
Neolithic humans were not tall, which made the discovery of a graveyard of “giants” that much more significant in 2016. The dig site, excavated in Jiaojia, revealed several skeletons reaching nearly six feet in length. One even surpassed the six foot mark by two inches.
You might be wondering why a prehistoric human that size would be called a “giant.” It’s simple, really; During the neolithic period some of these extra tall humans would have been almost double the height of their fellow man.
Ahead, the oldest dinosaur ever found is revealed!
The Oldest Known Dinosaur Is 245 Million Years Old
The oldest dinosaur fossil known to science was was discovered by archaeologists in 1930, and largely ignored until 2012. The dinosaur, named Nyasasaurus parringtoni, has been dated to 245 million years old. During this period in Earth’s history, the continents were still connected as one giant land mass known as Pangaea.
Why did such an amazing artifact sit in relative obscurity for over 80 years, though? The answer is that science wasn’t ready for it. It wasn’t until 2012 that archaeologists and scientists had the appropriate technology to accurately date the ancient bones.
The Oldest Primate Skeleton Is 55 Million Years Old
The earliest known primate, the ancestor to both ape and man, was found as a near-complete skeleton in China in 2003. The ancient ancestor, named Archicebus achilles,was encased in rock in beautiful detail. It was aged at 55 million years old and described as the “first long-tailed monkey.”
Chris Beard of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was blown away by the discover, “Archicebus differs from any other primate, living or fossil, known to science,” he said.
The Earliest Human Species Is 2.8 Million Years Old
Humans belong to a species group called Homo. Until 2015, the earliest known human species was Homo habilis, the “Handy Man.” All that changed in 2013 with the discovery of a partial jaw bone in Africa in 2015. The specimen, which shared features with Handy Man and Lucy, was 2.8 million years old, over 400,000 years older than any other Homoand 200,000 years younger than Lucy.
We understand a partial jaw is not an entire skeleton, but the discovery is far too historically important not include on this list. Did humans evolve from Homo habilis, or did we come from a offshoot of Lucy’s Australopithecus afarensis?
“Little Foot” Was Revealed To The World 20 Years After Being Discovered
“Little Foot” is one of the most complete skeletons of our prehistoric human ancestry ever discovered. Discovered in the ’90s, the member of the Australopithecus prometheuswas put on display for the first time in South Africa in 2017.
The remains are the most complete hominid skeleton ever shown and have been dated at 3.67 million years old, almost half a million years older than Lucy. Scientists couldn’t believe the DNA age results at first, “We double-and triple-checked our results, running the measurement again and again,” they said.
Coming up, there’s a reason it’s called the “sleeping dragon.”
The Sleeping Dragon Shows Us What Dinosaurs Really Looked Like
Found in 2011, the fossil dubbed the “Sleeping Dragon” is one of the best preserved fossils ever discovered. Oddly enough, the dinosaur was found on accident by machine operator Shawn Funk in Alberta, Canada. Upon investigation, the “Sleeping Dragon” was determined to a be new species of nodosaur, a plant-eating dinosaur from 110 million years ago.
The reason behind the amazing preservation is thought to be a result of its body being swept into a river by a flood shortly after death. The carcass was then carried out to sea where it sank to the bottom of the ocean and was covered by mud.
300,000 Year Old Homo Sapien Bones From South Africa Are Re-Writing History
Before 300,000 year old Homo sapienbones were found in North Africa, archaeologists believed modern humans began their lives in Eastern Africa a little under 200,000 years ago. That’s what the fossil record told us, at least.
With the 2017 discovery of older Homo sapienbones 62 miles west of Marrakesh, archaeologists are now being forced to re-write the history they were sure they had gotten right the first time. According to Phillip Gunz, “What people, including myself, used to think was that there was a cradle of humankind in East Africa about 200,000 years ago, and all modern humans descend from that population.” Not anymore!
The Turkana Boy Is The Most Complete Pre-Historic Human Skeleton Ever Found
The Turkana boy was found in Kenya’s Turkana region in 1984 and belongs to the family Homo ergaster. The ergaster is an early African population of erectusand is the most complete pre-historic human skeleton ever discovered. Shortly after being found it was dated at 1.6 million years old.
Standing five feet and three inches tall, the Turkana boy is much taller and lankier than Lucy. Archaeologists believe the boy died between the ages of seven and 11, and could have reached a possible height of over six feet tall!
Up next, the mystery behind the headless Roman gladiators is solved.
A Roman Family Gives Us Insight Into The Decline Of The Empire
In 2014, archaeology students from Bournemouth University unearthed one of the most important skeletal finds of the decade. Hoping to find clay pots or other material leftovers, imagine the looks on their faces when they found the remains of a family at an old Roman villa is Dorset field.
The family, which likely lived in the area around 350 AD, is the first clue into what the Roman population was like during the decline of the empire. The professor who led the expedition said, “We want to see what sort of changes our country went through at that time and whether the people living in Roman villas were Britons.”
Genome Technology Solved The Mystery Of The Headless Roman Gladiators
For decades the mystery behind numerous headless Roman gladiators perplexed archaeologists. Where did they come from and how did they die? In 2016, the answers were revealed when an international team used genome technology to sequence the DNA of the skeletons.
The biggest discovery made by the team was that the gladiators might not be gladiators at all. Looking at assumed age, height and healed bodily traumas, the skeletons also fit the requirements to serve in the Roman military.
Cleopatra’s Sister Shows The Queen’s African Roots
For years popular culture and popular science have represented Cleopatra as white; probably of Greek or Caucasian descent. With the discovery of Cleopatra’s sister in 2009, that story is changing rapidly. Princess Arsinoe’s remains show the family was likely part African as well.
The history-altering remains of Princess Arsinoe were found in a tomb in Ephesus, Turkey. Dr. Hilke Thuer had this to say about the discovery: “the fact that the facial reconstruction shows that Arsinoe had an African mother is a real sensation which leads to a new insight on Cleopatra’s family and the relationship of the sisters Cleopatra and Arsinoe.”