These seven archaeological discoveries have managed to stay hot topics despite their age, appearing on magazine covers year after year and inspiring new theories for their existence along the way.
One of the largest volcanic eruptions in the past 10,000 years occurred in approximately 1620 BC on the volcanic island of Santorini in the Aegean Sea. Following the 1620 BC eruption, much of the previous island of Santorini was destroyed or submerged; this event may have been the inspiration for the legend of the lost continent of Atlantis.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team
First described by the ancient Greek historian Plato in 360 B.C., the mythological island was supposedly a great naval power before sinking into the sea over 10,000 years ago in a catastrophic event.
Archaeologists debate the actual historical existence of the island as well as its most plausible location — if it ever actually existed — among the many sunken ruins discovered around the world. But even without definitive proof, Atlantis continues to engage the popular imagination like few other archaeological mysteries out there.
The ring of megalithic stones was built approximately 4,000 years ago and was an impressive feat for the primitive people who constructed it — but that's about all archaeologists know for sure. None of the theories on the original purpose of Stonehenge, which range from an astronomical observatory to a religious temple of healing,
Negev Desert in Israel.
The chain of lines — some up to 40 miles (64 kilometers) long and nicknamed "kites" by scientists for their appearance from the air — date to 300 B.C., but were abandoned long ago.
The mystery might be somewhat clearer thanks to a recent study claiming that the purpose of the kites was to funnel wild animals toward a small pit, where they could easily be killed in large numbers. This efficient system suggests that local hunters knew more about the behavior of local fauna than previously thought.
A computer-generated reconstruction of the front and back of the Antikythera Mechanism.
Credit: Antikythera Mechanism Research Project
Found in the sunken wreckage of a Greek cargo ship that is at least 2,000 years old, the circular bronze artifact contains a maze of interlocking gears and mysterious characters etched all over its exposed faces. Originally thought to be a kind of navigational astrolabe, archaeologists continue to uncover its uses and now know that it was, at the very least, a highly intricate astronomical calendar.
It is still the most sophisticated device ever found from that period, preceding the next appearance of similar devices by 1,000 years.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/MITI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team
Archaeologists agree the enormous shapes — there are hundreds of them, ranging from geometric lines to complicated depictions of animals, plants and imaginary figures — were made over 2,000 years ago by people of the pre-Inca Nazca culture, who simply removed the red surface pebbles to reveal the lighter earth below in designs of their choice.
Just why they did it remains enigmatic, prompting conspiracy theorists to float ideas about alien landings and ancient astrology. The lines were more likely to have been a ritual communication method with the Nazca's deities, say archaeologists.
Built almost 5,000 years ago in what is now Cairo, the three-pyramid complex — with the largest, Khufu, dominating the site — is a testament to the ancient Egyptians' reverence for their Pharaohs and the intricacies of their belief in the afterlife.
Archaeologists are still discovering new tunnels and shafts built within the pyramids, and are still searching for clues on who built the great monuments, how and why, even today.
© Berthold Steinhilber
An amazing archaeological discovery made in 1994 at Gobekli Tepe, a rural area of Turkey, has blown that hypothesis apart, prompting new questions about the evolution of civilization.
Containing multiple rings of huge stone pillars carved with scenes of animals and dating to the 10th millennium B.C., Gobekli Tepe is considered the world's oldest place of worship. Yet evidence also suggests the people who built it were semi-nomadic hunters, likely unaware of agriculture, which followed in the area only five centuries later. Because of Gobekli Tepe, archaeologists now have to ask which came first. Did building projects like this lead to settlement, and not vice-versa, as always thought?