The 5 Most Half Assed Ways People Found Priceless Artifacts

Sometimes the accidental results of mundane tasks such as taking your dog for a walk or stopping by a sad yard sale wind up unearthing some of the most significant discoveries.
The 5 Most Half Assed Ways People Found Priceless Artifacts

When people do things by accident, it's usually something they'd prefer everyone forget, like the time you tried to set up a party table in your front yard and wound up dropping an entire sheet cake into an above-ground pool. But sometimes the accidental results of mundane tasks such as taking your dog for a walk or stopping by a sad yard sale wind up unearthing some of the most significant discoveries. Like ...

The Famous Terracotta Warriors Were Accidentally Uncovered By A Man Digging A Well

The 5 Most Half Assed Ways People Found Priceless Artifacts
Imagno / Getty Images

The Terracotta Warriors are 8,000 underground ceramic soldiers in battle gear with horses ready to protect the hell out of Emperor Qin Shi Huang's corpse. They were crafted by 700,000 workers beginning in 246 B.C. to guard the emperor's tomb, which makes them officially cool enough to be destroyed in a Fast And The Furious movie.

You'd imagine that an impressive cultural display like that would be one of the most-visited places on Earth, kinda like the Great Pyramids, or the Taj Mahal, or Six Flags. Instead, it just got looted by grave robbers for a bit until it was lost to time.

The 5 Most Half Assed Ways People Found Priceless Artifacts
Maros Mraz/Wiki Commons

It's the emperor's own damn fault for not hiring better guards.

That is, until Yang Zhifa came along. In China in 1974, Yang was digging a well for a nearby farm when he unearthed a casually headless life-size statue of a man. He figured he'd stumbled upon the site of an old potter's workshop and thought, "Hey, maybe I'll find some cool-ass pots I can sell."

At first, the scattered bronze items and broken statues he was digging up seemed as exciting and valuable as finding a bunch of old LEGO bricks in your backyard. But Yang kept digging, loaded up several carts full of junk, and skipped down to the nearest museum to see if he could sell them. He figured if they didn't want his haul, he could always chuck the statues into the river.

The museum recognized the samples as being from the time period of Emperor Qin, otherwise known as the emperor who united the entire country, standardized the language, and from whom China gets its name, and paid him the equivalent of three years' salary for the three carts he'd brought. Unfortunately, Yang immediately had to hand the cash over to his employers, who reduced his cut of the booty to a half-day's pay (because, y'know, communism). After that, a museum was built on top of the discovery, displacing Yang and his fellow villagers, who at this point were presumably wishing he had gone with the "Let's throw these statues in the river" option.

Heles y
VCG / Getty Images

And after seeing them sell little chocolaterracotta men in Santa hats, we wish he had too.

In a twist of fate, the museum became a huge hit. It began drawing millions of visitors a year, which ended up actually benefiting all those locals. Yang himself started signing autographs for museum-goers, which earned him up to 1,000 yuan a month (way more than he'd been earning digging holes in the ground and accidentally reclaiming lost history). He even met world leaders, including Bill Clinton.

The 5 Most Half Assed Ways People Found Priceless Artifacts
Oved / Wiki Commons

Once you get past the dozens of morons pretending to be you for the sake of a couple bucks, it's a sweet-ass gig.

Then he abruptly decided to quit that job and sort of doesn't have any income now. Maybe he found another tomb somewhere and just doesn't want to tell anyone about it.

A Little Girl Bought 50-Year-Old Original Artwork Of The Avengers At A Yard Sale

Marvel Comics

The Avengers are pretty awesome, right? Nobody hates superhero movies (except maybe Zack Snyder), and Earth's mightiest heroes have had some pretty bitchin' outings. So, if you were combing through old shoe boxes at a yard sale and happened to find an old Avengers comic for $2, you'd probably buy it. Now imagine you found an original sheet of uncolored art from one of the first-ever issues of The Avengers for $2 at a yard sale, and you didn't even have to kill anyone to get it. That's exactly what happened to 12-year-old Rasheemah Bartley.

Rasheemah and her mom are regular garage-sale browsers, and on one of their routine outings, Rasheemah spotted the sheet of black-and-white Avengers panels in a stack of some bullshit Frankenstein comics and bought the whole lot to take home and use as a coloring book.

The 5 Most Half Assed Ways People Found Priceless Artifacts
Marvel Comics

Or just scribble black splotches all over that blasphemous not-Hiddleston who claims he's Loki.

When she and her mom brought the pages home, her stepfather took a look at them and realized they seemed pretty damn old. Since "pretty damn old" in the world of comic books can occasionally mean "worth all of the money," they took the pages to get them appraised and discovered that they were 100 percent original and worth about $48,000. Unfortunately, they also learned that the pages had recently been reported stolen from the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, which apparently has a Comic Book History wing. The police came by Rasheemah's house and forced them to sign the pages over but have yet to discover who actually stole them and why they chose to fence them at a yard sale for the cost of a bag of Fritos.

A Random Farmer Stumbled Over The Venus De Milo

The 5 Most Half Assed Ways People Found Priceless Artifacts
Francois Lochon / Gamma-Rapho / Getty Images

Imagine you're a farmer. (If you are a farmer, imagine you're a farmer who can breathe fire. It doesn't really have anything to do with the story, but it's pretty sick, right? You're a dragon who has mastered agriculture.) Imagine you're out there in a field, farming it up, and you come across a niche in a wall with a beautiful, ancient-looking statue. What do you do?

The answer, of course, is absolutely do not report your discovery to an officer of the French Navy.

The 5 Most Half Assed Ways People Found Priceless Artifacts
Marie-Lan Nguyen / Louvre Museum

She loves playing hide-and-seek, but she can only hide since she can't cover her eyes.

That lesson was learned the hard way by Yorgos Kentrotas, another peasant who discovered history in a field, in the form of the Venus de Milo, one of the most famous statues ever sculpted. It's made appearances in museums, textbooks, and, most notably, Disney's Hercules.

The 5 Most Half Assed Ways People Found Priceless Artifacts
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Being destroyed in a film -- the true sign of fame.

How does a magnificent work of art like the Venus de Milo wind up in a random field? Well, you see, the sculpture dates back to Ancient Greece, and we aren't even entirely sure who made it. When Ancient Greece ceased to exist around A.D. 600, nobody really bothered to keep track of every little piece of Ancient Greek culture, and the Venus de Milo was one of the pieces that fell through the cracks for the next 1,200 years. That's when Yorgos Kentrotas stumbled upon it, nestled in some ruins on the island of Milos, in 1820.

The 5 Most Half Assed Ways People Found Priceless Artifacts
NurPhoto / Getty Images

The one and only time a reputation like "a good place to hide the bodies" isn't all that bad.

At the same time, Milos was being handsomely explored by a French naval officer, Olivier Voutier, who helped Yorgos dig the statue out of the ruins. However, rather than return the statue to the people of Greece or compensate Yorgos in any way, Voutier and another officer decided it would be a perfect gift for their king, Louis XVIII, who apparently just loved the shit out of aloof, arm-less women. They shipped the Venus de Milo directly to France for King Louis, whose heartfelt, grateful reaction was, "Neat, we should put this somewhere." That somewhere turned out to be the Louvre, where the statue has (mostly) remained to this day. So, yeah, Yorgos should've kept his incredible discovery of priceless antiquity to his damn self.

Collection du Galion D'Or

At least he didn't live long enough to read all the books about Voutier "discovering" what he discovered.

A Man Found A Box Of The Most Valuable Comics Ever In His Aunt's Closet

The 5 Most Half Assed Ways People Found Priceless Artifacts
DC Comics

Superman is one of the oldest and most famous superheroes of all time, which explains why his "costume" is a cape, his naked face, and a bunch of Brylcreem and his superpower is the ability to do absolutely everything. Superman's first appearance was in Action Comics #1, depicting him destroying a hapless motorist's car to the horror of all those around him, and is one of the most valuable comics of all time. And Michael Rorer found it in a goddamned closet.

Aaor No. 1 JUNE. 1938 CTON COMICS IO
DC Comics

"Fuck this car and fuck all of you! I'm Superman!"

You see, Michael's great-aunt had just died, and he was helping clean out her house of the decades of memorabilia that every old person is legally required to keep, when he found a bunch of perfectly preserved comics in a closet. They'd belonged to his great-uncle, who had died years before. Michael was vaguely aware of the comics' existence but had never been told about them in any detail and had no reason to think that any of them were valuable (indeed, most comics aren't).

It wasn't until he casually mentioned the collection to one of his co-workers that he decided to take a closer look. His co-worker mentioned offhand that it would be crazy if the collection contained the aforementioned Action Comics #1, or perhaps Detective Comics #27 (the first appearance of Batman). Michael went home to double-check and found that the box he had pulled from his great-aunt's closet had fucking both.

DC Comics

Good ol' great-aunt Martha.

According to some comic experts, Michael's collection, which in addition to the first appearances of Batman and Superman also contained the first appearance of The Human Torch and several early issues of Captain America, is one-of-a-kind. "The scope of this collection is, from a historian's perspective, dizzying," one said. The group of 200 comics, which had been begrudgingly shuffled from family member to family member like a hideous old desk lamp, sold at auction for $3.4 million in 2012, which is $50 million in 1938 money (the year Action Comics #1 was published).

The 5 Most Half Assed Ways People Found Priceless Artifacts
Marvel Comics

Human Torch fetched $113,525, or $113,510 more than a Human Torch solo film would likely pull in.

The Most Significant Archaeological Discovery Was Made By A Bunch Of Teenagers

The 5 Most Half Assed Ways People Found Priceless Artifacts
Universal History Archive / UIG / Getty Images

One day way back in 1940, an 18-year-old French kid named Marcel Ravidat was out for a walk with his friends and his awesomely named dog, Robot, when they stumbled upon a cave, which sounds like either the beginning of a Steven Spielberg film about adventure and friendship or a movie about under-dwelling subhumans who eat human flesh.

The 5 Most Half Assed Ways People Found Priceless Artifacts
Ralph Morse / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Judging by the shack in front of the cave, our money's on the latter.

As it turns out, the reality was more like the first thing -- the exact version of events vary (we're talking about a group of teenagers messing around in the woods, after all, so it's no surprise they didn't carefully document every part of their day), but Marcel and his buddies managed to accidentally discover the birthplace of human art.

The 5 Most Half Assed Ways People Found Priceless Artifacts
Sisse Brimberg / National Geographic Magazine

The art world was really into animals.

While cave paintings are pretty widespread throughout the world, none of them were as well preserved as the ones found by Marcel and his friends. The cave had been sealed off from the elements for over 17,000 years, so every piece of prehistoric art was more or less perfectly intact. That Minions bumper sticker you bought last summer is in worse shape than these ancient scribblings.

Dubbed the Lascaux cave paintings, the site immediately became a go-to for archaeologists and tourists, all desperate to see the 600 paintings and over 1,500 engravings contained within. While the cave was shut down for visitors in 1963 to prevent any further deterioration of the artwork, it's still regarded as one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of all time.

The 5 Most Half Assed Ways People Found Priceless Artifacts

"If science love Thag's painting so much, why science no hang on refrigerator?"

So, you know, maybe walk your dog more often. Or, at the very least, name him Robot.

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For more accidents we should all be very glad happened, check out 5 Bizarre Accidents That Helped Invent Modern Medicine and 5 Accidental Inventions That Changed The World.

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