A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Top 10 Discoveries of 2008
Volume 62 Number 1, January/February 2009
For some archaeology buffs, 2008 will always be the year of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. And we have to admit we were glad to see Indiana back in action again after a 20-year absence (we loved it when he name-checked legendary Australian archaeologist V. Gordon Childe). But we did have some quibbles with the film; let's just say we're not big fans of the theory that aliens invented agriculture and leave it at that.
We also got more letters on our "Indy Spirit Awards" (May/June 2008), a list of archaeologists who embody the adventurous ethos of Indiana Jones, than we have for any other story in years. Most of them took us to task for failing to mention one or another larger-than-life archaeologist. We got enough background from these letters for a decade of profiles.
But as much as crystal skulls were the year's most prominent "artifacts," we're more likely to remember 2008 as the Year of the Earliest North American Coprolites (ancient human feces), or perhaps the Year of the Imperial Roman Marble Heads (two were unearthed in central Turkey). Both stories made our list of the most important discoveries of 2008.
Here you will find the other discoveries that really excited us, along with our first annual list of endangered archaeological sites—ranging from the great Indus city of Mohenjo-daro in Pakistan to the rock art of Utah's Nine Mile Canyon.
Sadly, reports of site destruction seem to be just as frequent as announcements of important finds. That's why we were heartened to learn that the world's earliest oil paintings had been identified in caves in Afghanistan's Bamiyan Valley, where the Taliban dynamited two colossal Buddha statues in 2001. Even with the world's heritage disappearing at an alarming rate, there are still amazing discoveries to be made.
Listing the top or best discoveries for any year is somewhat problematic, and 2008 is no exception. In some cases, we haven't been able to verify what could be major discoveries. In others, the findings were made over a period of years, so that pegging them to 2008 is not really appropriate. And there's the basic fact that, while there was broad consensus, all of us at ARCHAEOLOGY had favorite discoveries or breakthroughs that our colleagues on the staff were not overwhelmed by. So, here is a selection of other important stories we considered for inclusion on the list, but for one reason or another did not.