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from the trenches
Top 10 Discoveries of 2006 Volume 60 Number 1, January/February 2007

How do you know it's been an extraordinary year in archaeology? When the discovery of the earliest Maya writing and a 2,500-year-old sarcophagus decorated with scenes from the Iliad don't crack ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 list:

1. Valley of the Kings Tomb
KV63 was the first tomb to be excavated in the Valley of the Kings since Tutankhamun's in 1922. The chamber held seven 18th Dynasty coffins.

2. 3-Million-Year-Old Child
After years of chiseling tiny bones out of sandstone blocks from Ethiopia's Rift Valley, paleontologists announced the discovery of a nearly complete Australopithecus afarensis child (see "The New Face of Evolution").

3. Olmec Script
A stone block uncovered in the 1990s in Veracruz, Mexico, was shown to bear the first definitive proof that the ancient Olmec had a writing system, the oldest in the New World (see "What We Learn").

4. Irish Bog Psalms
In a peat bog near Dublin, bulldozer operator Eddie Fogarty found a book of Pslams, the first early medieval manuscript discovered in Ireland in 200 years.

5. Peru's Temple of the Fox
Dating to 2200 B.C., an Andean temple was found with unprecedented astronomical alignments, including a facelike disk that frowns at the sunset on the first day of the harvest.

6. China's "Guest Worker"
DNA analysis of bones found near the tomb of Emperor Qin Shihuangdi (r. 247-221 B.C.) shows the remains belonged to a Persian man, likely a captive forced to work on the emperor's tomb (see "Worker from the West").
Recently doubts have been raised concerning the results of this DNA analysis. See "China's DNA Debate" for more about it.

7. Tomb of the Roaring Lions
Grave robbers led Italian authorities to the oldest tomb paintings in the western Mediterranean. The seventh-century B.C. Etruscan scenes feature fanciful lions (see "Flights of Fancy").

8. Lost Kingdom of Tambora
The discovery of a modest house buried by an 1815 volcanic eruption in Indonesia presented the first evidence of the Kingdom of Tambora.

9. Scythian Mummy
A burial mound in the Mongolian Altai Mountains yielded the 2,500-year-old frozen remains of a blond Scythian warrior in full regalia.

10. Brazilian Stonehenge
A circle of some 130 granite blocks in the Brazilian state of Amapa was hailed as a possible 2,000-year-old winter solstice marker.

Top 10 Discoveries: 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010