5 Places That Could Be Hiding Incredible Archaeological and Paleontological Discoveries
You might be forgiven for thinking that at this point, most of the Earth’s land has been combed through. Whether for resources, riches or just plain human curiosity, we love to dig shit up. It seems almost surprising that there would still be significant places that we haven’t taken a backhoe to and hauled the contents of into a (probably Western) museum. Even with all of our technological advantages, though, there remain places that have either never been found or have never been fully explored, that might hold all sorts of fascinating information, and probably at least a couple of very kick-ass swords.
Here are five places in particular that could still be hiding huge discoveries…
Alexander the Great’s Tomb
I’m warning you in advance: This won’t be the last tomb in this article. It’s not that surprising, given that they often serve as basically a time capsule with a corpse in it. So it makes sense for us to start with the Big Daddy of all lost tombs — the tomb of Alexander the Great. It’s evaded researchers for centuries, like a morbid, metaphorical greased pig. Every once in a while, someone announces that they’ve found it, only to be proven wrong. It even has enough cultural cachet to have served as a plot point in Marvel’s Moon Knight.
One thing that makes it so challenging to pin down is that, when you’re looking for a great leader’s resting place, you’d usually head to the land they ruled and start digging. Alexander the Great was such a successful and prolific conqueror, however, that you can’t even choose a single continent to start with. You’re staring at a map like, “Okay, he’s either in Europe… or Asia… or Africa.”
The search continues, and probably will for a significant amount of time. When somebody does finally dig him up, you can be sure they won’t pay for another drink at an archaeological conference ever again.
The Yucatan Peninsula is already chock-full of important archaeological sites like Chichen Itza. Beneath the ground, though, there’s still a massive spread of undiscovered areas within a system of caves and sinkholes known as cenotes. Plenty have been found and even exist as exotic tourist swimming holes, but they’re only a fraction of the total network. You can only imagine what types of freaky fish and fossils of the past are hidden deep within. Honestly, it sounds so perfect for a horror movie I’d understand not wanting to go too deep.
More recently, researchers have been using ground-penetrating radar to try to more fully examine the network of cenotes so that they can be mapped and explored. Given that the cenotes were also considered to be highly important and have religious significance to the Mayans, they could give us a better picture of the life and times of the ancient Mexican people. And hey, stumbling upon a cache of Mayan gold couldn’t hurt either.
Qin Shi Huang’s Tomb
Another one of the many tombs of powerful dead men is that of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. Unlike Alexander the Great’s tomb, everybody is perfectly aware of the location of the tomb, and you’ve probably seen pictures of the outside. That’s because surrounding his tomb are the famous terra-cotta soldiers that love to grace the glossy pages of history textbooks. Given that those are the lawn decorations, you can only imagine what the inside looks like.
So if they know exactly where it is, why haven’t they cracked open this particular cold one? Well, the first, more boring explanation is that they’re afraid any method they’d use to get into the sealed tomb would damage its contents. The second, much cooler reason is that the tomb is said to be booby-trapped out the absolute wazoo. With your classic bow-and-arrow type traps, yes, but also, according to legend, it’s surrounded by rivers of toxic mercury. Which sounds like a bit of classic embellishment by a creative scribe, except that when they tested mercury concentrations around the tomb, their readings came back extremely and unexpectedly high. Sick.
Vale Do Javari
Vale Do Javari, or the Javari Valley, is a specific bit of the Amazon that’s nuzzled up against Peru. The Amazon is already a wild and incredibly biodiverse place, full of all sorts of awesome animals that seem pulled from a biologist’s best acid trip. There are plenty of undiscovered animals still in the Amazon, but maybe more surprising is that there are undiscovered humans there as well.
The valley contains more than 20 distinct tribes of Indigenous people, including some who have never been contacted by the outside population. Researchers have occasionally set out to find them, but it’s a dangerous undertaking, given that living your life in isolation doesn’t exactly make you likely to roll out the red carpet for unfamiliar faces. You wouldn’t even know what language to yell “I JUST WANT TO TALK!” in.
The Ocean Floor
Even now, less than a quarter of the ocean floor has been mapped, and much less of that has ever been actually explored. In fact, four times more people have walked on the moon than have ever been to the deepest part of the ocean. Given how messed up modern deep sea creatures look, you can only imagine what creatures and remains thereof are sitting at the bottom, beneath the part of the map that says, “Here be monsters.”