A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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ARCHAEOLOGY's annual list of the year's most exciting discoveries--from North America's earliest canals to evidence for chemical warfare at a Roman outpost in Syria--highlights sites, artifacts, and scientific studies we feel most enrich our knowledge of the past.

Archaeology is an incremental science, and "eureka" moments are rare. Often the most significant advances result from many years of research. For instance, we feature the work of archaeologists who have dug for four decades at a second-century B.C. Greek city in southern Russia. They were only recently able to identify a large structure at the site as the palace of King Mithradates VI, a legendary foe of Rome.

Two elite tombs excavated this year are on the list, one belonging to a Moche lord in Peru and the other to a family of Iron Age priestesses on Crete. Meanwhile, graves of exotic animals now emerging at the Predynastic Egyptian capital of Hierakonpolis show that the city's rulers kept extensive menageries--the world's first zoos.

We hope 2009's remarkable finds inspire you to make your own connections with the past, and whet your appetite for the discoveries to come.


Lord of Úcupe
Úcupe, Peru

First Domesticated Horses
Botai, Kazakhstan

Early Irrigators
Tucson, Arizona

Anglo-Saxon Hoard
Staffordshire, England

Popol Vuh Relief
El Mirador, Guatemala

World's First Zoo
Hierakonpolis, Egypt

Iron Age Priestesses
Eleutherna, Crete

Earliest Chemical Warfare
Dura-Europos, Syria

Palace of Mithradates
Kuban, Russia

Rubaiyat Pot
Jerusalem, Israel

As always, there were many more significant discoveries than our "Top 10" list allowed for. Here are five more of the year's most important finds. Maybe we should just call it the "Top 15 Discoveries of 2009."


Sophisticated Cave Dwellers

Orkney's Neolithic "Cathedral"

A Lost City in Istanbul

Qatna's Royal Sepulchre

Earliest Cherokee Script?

Sites Under Threat in 2009

For the second year in a row, we've included a list of endangered sites around the world, ranging from the acropolis at the Hellenistic city of Barikot in Pakistan's troubled Swat Valley to a prehistoric stone mound in Alabama that was destroyed during construction of a Walmart megastore. Go to list...

Top 10 Discoveries: 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2010