Archeologists always amaze us with their discoveries. Many of these findings are the result of many years of research. But, some of them were found accidentally by ordinary people who didn’t know that such historical treasures were only a few feet underneath them. In this article, Alex Lemaire tells us about five discoveries made by accident.

The Lascaux paintings in France. They were discovered by teenagers in 1940. Image source: Prof saxx, available  here .

The Lascaux paintings in France. They were discovered by teenagers in 1940. Image source: Prof saxx, available here.

Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter

While doing his homework, Daniel Kristiansen, a 14-year Danish boy, and his father Klaus found the wreckage of a German plane that crashed during WW2 in their family-ownedfarm.

The history teacher gave his students a school assignment about the Second World War. Daniel asked his father if he could help. Klaus wanted to teach his son about the history of the area using a different approach. He wanted his son to interact with the historical information instead of just consuming it passively.

Klaus was told by his grandfather about a German fighter that crashed in the farm in the last years of the war when Denmark was still occupied by the Nazis. He didn’t know its exact location and he didn’t expect to find anything because he thought that the wreckage was removed. However, he wantedto give it a shot.

The kid and his father used a metal detector to scan the field. And after a few moments, the device indicated the presence of some buried metal pieces. They dug for a few feet to find the plane’s engine block and the pilot’s remains. They called the authorities immediately. 

The Explosive Ordnance Disposal made sure there were no unexploded bombs and the fighter’s ammunition was safe. The archeologists examined the wreckage. They were able to identify the pilot, the date when the plane crashed and other details about its mission. The airplane’s parts were handed over to the Historical Museum of Northern Jutland Denmark.


Ötzi the Iceman

On September 19, 1991, two German tourists Helmut and Erika were walking in the mountains on the border between Italy and Austria when they found a dead body. It was well preserved; they thought it belonged to someone who recently died. They reported that to the authorities. The police came to the scene and tried to remove the body, which was buried in the glacier. But the first attempt failed due to the bad weather. The body was finally exhumed with some of the man’s belongings. Archeologists estimated that based on the axfound on the site, the dead body was four thousand years old!

Scientists examined thecorpse and the items found with it extensively. They estimate that Otzi was 45 years old when he died, was 5 feet 3 inches tall (160 centimeters), weighed 110 pounds (50 Kg), and lived somewhere between 3400 and 3100 BCE. 

The body was well preserved after all of these years because it was covered by ice moments after the death. Even the blood cells were still intact which makes them the oldest human intact blood cells ever discovered. Otzi’s body, clothes, andtools were reconstructed. They are on display on the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Italy. They offer a unique snapshot of our way of life during that era.


Hoxne Hoard

One of the most famous and precious artifacts displayed in the British Museum is the Hoxne Hoard. It consistsof 14,865 coins, 200 silver tableware,andgold jewelry. It was found on a field, in the village of Hoxne, in the UKin 1992 by Eric Lawes.

Eric’s friend, Peter, is a farmer. When he was working in his farm, he lost his hammer. He called his friend and asked him if he could give him a hand. Eric used his metal detector to look for it. Instead of finding it, he found a hoard inside a wooden box. (They later found the cheap hammer that is on display alongside the gold and silver coins and the precious jewelry in the museum).

The two men reported their discovery to the authorities. A group of archeologists unearthed the treasure and scanned the whole area with metal detectors to make sure nothing was left behind. This trove was large - the expert in the British Museum needed a month to clean and examine these relics.


Pompeii and Herculaneum

Pompeii and Herculaneum are two ancient Romancities. They were buried under feet of ash and cinder, which preserved them in very good condition for hundreds of years. They are amazing time machines that helpus visualize many aspects of Roman life 1600 years ago.

In AD 79, Mount Vesuvius erupted sending tons of ash many miles away and burying the two cities entirely and killing thousands of people instantaneously. Organic materials were carbonized. Wooden objects like doors are still in goodshape. Human bodies turned into statues. Even foodwas preserved.

The two cities were forgotten for centuries until they were discovered while digging the foundations of a newbuilding.Herculaneum is smaller than Pompeii but its residents appear to be wealthier. Colored marble was used extensively in its houses. Around 11,000 people lived in Pompeii. This estimation is based on the number of buildings in the city.

These two cities are the largest continually exacted archeological sites in the world. Many parts of the city are still buried after centuries of hard work to unearth them. However, the biggest challenge isn’t to remove the volcanic ash, it is to preserve what has been already excavated. Because the buildings are now exposed to the elements of nature, they will deteriorate faster if measures are not taken.


Lascaux Cave

The Lascaux Cave is situated near the village of Montignac in southwestern France. Its interior walls and ceiling are covered with over 600 prehistoric paintings. The paintings depictmostly animals that lived somewhere around 17,000 years ago. Many of these animals are extinct like rhinos and lions.

Four teenagers made this discovery on September 12, 1940 after looking for their dog who had fallen into a hole. They decided to explore what’s inside. So they widened the hole and threw some rocks to estimate how deep it is. They entered the cave after they made sure it was safe to get inside and they found the jaw-dropping paintings.

The cave was opened to the public on July 14, 1948. There were around 1200 visitors per day. But the heat, humidity and the deterioration of the air quality along with other factors damaged the paintings. To protect the cave, the authorities decided to close it to the public in 1963. The Lascaux Cave was enlisted in the UNESCO's World Heritagelist in 1979. For those who want to enjoy these breath-taking paintings, you can visit Lascaux 2. It is a replica of the original cave and only a few hundred feet away from it.



Have you made any amazing discoveries? Let us know below if so.

Article written by Alex Lemaire of

AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones