From 1.8-million-year-old hominid skulls to rewriting the Buddha's birthday to sunken Nazi subs, 2013 was another incredible year for archaeologists and historians. Here's the best the year had to offer.
A skull that could rewrite the book on human evolution: The discovery of an incredibly well-preserved 1.8-million-year-old skull from Dmanisi, Georgia suggests that the earliest known members of the Homo genus may not have been distinct, coexisting species, at all. Instead, they may have been part of a single, evolving lineage that eventually gave rise to modern humans.
The Great Library at Alexandria was destroyed by budget cuts, not fire: One of the great tragedies of ancient history, memorialized in myths and Hollywood film, is the burning of the great library at Alexandria. But the reality of the Library's end was actually a lot less pyrotechnic than that. A major cause of the Library's ruin was government budget cuts.
An incredible archaeological discovery reset the Buddha's birth date: A dig at the suspected birthplace of the Buddha led to the discovery of an unknown timber structure beneath a series of brick temples. Remarkably, it's the first known archaeological evidence linking the life of the Buddha to a specific century.
An enormous, ancient Maya city was found in Yucatán jungle: Poring over satellite photos of remote Mexican jungle areas, scientists believed they saw hints of an ancient Maya city hidden in the foliage. A group of archaeologists led by Ivan Sprajc announced they'd visited the area and made an incredible find.
A set of 1,000-year-old coins could rewrite Australia's history: Historians credit James Cook with discovering Australia back in 1770. But a long ignored discovery of five African copper coins in its Northern Territory, along with a map with an "X" on it, suggests somebody beat him to it — and by a long shot.
We finally know more about the origins of cat domestication: Researchers studying a 5,000-year-old archaeological site in China learned that wildcats first came to ancient villages to feed on rodents, which were stealing farmers' grains. The research shows, for the first time, how the process of cat domestication started.
Archaeologists at 'Pompeii of Japan' site found a 1,400 year-old warrior still wearing his armour: Archaeologists working at Japan's Kanai Higashiura site unearthed the remains of a Kofun-period warrior and infant — both of whom were killed in a volcanic eruption. The bodies were covered in a layer of volcanic ash that dates to the early 6th century. The discovery, which is a first of its kind, is particularly remarkable in that the warrior is still wearing his lamellar suit. Though 600 armoured suits have been recovered by archaeologists over the years, none were worn by its owner.
An oil worker found a nearly intact WWII-era Kittyhawk deep in the Sahara: Riddled with bullet holes and featuring the tell-tale signs of a crash landing, the remains tell a harrowing story — one with a likely tragic ending.
The Holocaust was even worse than we thought: As if we needed any more reminders as to the extent of Nazi brutality during the Second World War, a new study showed there's still lots to learn about the Holocaust. In a project that took nearly 13 years to complete, historians Geoffrey Megargee and Martin Dean catalogued some 42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps that were dispersed across Europe during Hitler's reign from 1933 to 1945. It's a figure that has shocked even Holocaust scholars.
A new photo emerged of Lincoln at Gettysburg: A Disney-animator inadvertently stumbled upon what he thinks is only the second known photograph of Abraham Lincoln taken on the same day he delivered his famous speech at Gettysburg. And an artist discovered unseen color photos of JFK's final moments: After sitting forgotten in storage for more than 45 years, the daughter of an amateur photographer uncovered a set of remarkable images taken mere minutes before President John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
The U.S. government finally confirmed the existence of Area 51: After years of speculation, the U.S. government released a classified document confirming that Area 51 is a real government testing site. As for crashed UFOs and alien autopsies? Not so much.
A 12th-century latrine was found to hold parasites from the crusaders' faeces: The medieval crusaders may be long gone, but some of them left behind something a bit personal. In a ruined castle in Cyprus, researchers discovered a latrine that still contained the fecal parasites of the European invaders.
A 1,700-year-old tablet revealed ancient magical curses: A fragment of an iron "curse tablet" was written by a magician 1,700 years ago in Jerusalem, for a wealthy Roman woman named Kyrilla. Calling upon the gods, the magician writes in this section: "Come to me, you who are in the earth, chthonic daemon, you who rule and bind…"
Early humans may have ripped off Neanderthal technology: By the time modern humans arrived in Europe, Neanderthals had already made the continent their home. What's more, they were already adopting behaviors that would later be characteristic of humans — including the development of a specialized tool still used by leather craftspeople today.
An extraordinary carving was discovered inside an ancient Maya Pyramid: Archaeologists called it a "once-in-a-lifetime find" — a 1,400 year-old frieze vividly decorated with images of gods and rulers. Considered a work of art, the carving shed new light into this ancient culture.
Inca children were drunk and stoned before ritual sacrifice: An analysis of three immaculately-preserved 500 year-old mummies found in 1999 atop a 22,000 foot volcano in South America revealed that Inca children were given increasing amounts of coca leaf and corn beer for up to a year before being sacrificed.