Amazing Artifacts from the Ancient World – Virtual Tour
Artifacts are objects shape by humans that are of archaeological, historical, or cultural interest.
Examples include tools, pottery, metal objects, weapons, and items of personal adornments, such as jewelry or death masks.
Ancient historical artifacts help shed light on the lives of our ancestors and our heritage.
A Virtual Tour of Important Historical Artifacts
- Prehistoric Stone Hand Axe – 2.6 Million Years Ago
- Narmer Palette – 3,100 BC
- The Stargazer (Statuette of a Woman) – 3000 BC
- Neolithic Painted Pottery – 2,500 BC
- Dancing Girl (Mohenjo-Daro) – 2,500 BC
- Li – Chinese Tripod Jar – 2,300 BC
- Treasure from Troy – 2,200 BC
- Gudea, Prince of Lagash – 2,120 BC
- Law Code of Hammurabi – 1,750 BC
- Nebra Sky Disk – 1600 BC
- Mask of Agamemnon – 1,500 BC
- The Sphinx of Hatshepsut – 1,470 BC
- Tutankhamun’s Mask – 1,323 BC
- Mummy of Katebet – 1,300 BC
- Book of the Dead – Papyrus of Ani and Hunefe – 1,250 BC
- Avanton Gold Cone – 1250 BC
- Relief of a Winged Genie – 880 BC
- Siloam Inscription – 700 BC
- The Lion Hunt – 640 BC
- Ishtar Gate – 575 BC
- The Curse of the Tabnit Sarcophagus – 500 BC
- Kleroterion – 470 BC
- The Parthenon Marbles – 440 BC
- The Alexander Sarcophagus – 300 BC
- The Winged Victory of Samothrace – 200 BC
- The Rosetta Stone – 196 BC
- The Pergamon Altar – 150 BC
- Antikythera Mechanism – 100 BC
- The Temple of Dendur – 10 A.D.
- James Ossuary – 1st-century
- Lindow Man – 2 BC and 119 AD
This list of Ancient Historical Artifacts is based on:
- Approximately 2,000 years old
- Exhibited n museums or Historic Sites
- Most searched for or viewed on this website.
Ancient Historical Artifacts have come to us from many different archaeological contexts and sources, including
- Burial sites
- Middens or old dump for human occupational waste
- Votive offerings
- Hoards lost in time
- Wells or caves
- Sites that have been abandoned or buried due to a natural disaster or war
- Excavations of Historical sites
Ancient artifacts from the past have served to shed light on the lives of our ancestors. The objects in this list stand out for their uniqueness, their intrigue, their beauty, and their ability to expand our understanding of history.
Virtual Tour of Prehistoric Art and Artifacts
- Ain Sakhri Lovers
- Wolverine Pendant of Les Eyzies – Prehistoric Portable Art
- Antler Perforated Baton – Paleolithic Portable Art
- Venus of Brassempouy
- Head of a Cycladic Statue, Keros-Syros Culture
- Stargazer – Sculpture of a Female Figure
- Stargazer Figurine
- Dancing Girl (Mohenjo-Daro) from the Indus Valley Civilization
- Prehistoric Stone Hand Axe
- Great Handaxe from Furze Platt
- Clovis Weapons and Tools
- Prehistoric Petrosphere – Carved Stone Spheres and Balls
- Neolithic Chinese Painted Pottery
- Korean Neolithic Pot
- Neolithic Pottery from Ban Chiang
- Li – Chinese Tripod Jar
- Comb-Pattern Pottery
- Phaistos Disc
- Sican Funerary Mask – Peru
- Greenstone Mask, Central America
- Australian Aboriginal Rock Art – Bradshaw Rock Paintings
- Indigenous Australian Rock Art – Wandjina Style
- Australian Aboriginal Bark Paintings
- Plastered Human Skulls from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic Age
Highlights of Ancient Historical Artifact
Stone tool societies and cultures made these prehistoric Stone Hand Axes from the prehistoric Stone Age. Archaeologists study stone tools to understand the cultural implications of tool use and manufacture.
Stone has been used to make a variety of different tools and weapons throughout history, including arrowheads, spear points, hand axes, and querns to grind cereals into flour.
Hand axes were the first tools to be recognized as prehistoric. The first published representation of a hand ax was drawn for a British publication in 1800. Until that time, their origins were thought to be supernatural.
They were called thunderstones because tradition held that they had fallen from the sky during storms or were formed inside the earth by a lightning strike and then appeared at the surface. They were used in some rural areas as an amulet to protect against storms.
This Neolithic Chinese Painted Pottery was found in the graves of New Stone Age people who lived in northwest China over 3,500 years ago.
The subtle shapes, smoothed surfaces, red, and black paint are typical of the Pan-Shan Pottery. The Pan-Shan culture (2500 – 2000BC) of Neolithic China had this distinctively painted pottery.
Pottery is one of the oldest human inventions, originating before the Neolithic period, with ceramic objects like the pottery vessels that were discovered in China, which date back to 18,000 BC.
The Narmer Palette is a significant Egyptian archaeological find, dating from about the 31st century BC. It contains some of the earliest hieroglyphic inscriptions ever found.
The tablet depicts the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under King Narmer and provides one of the earliest known depictions of an Egyptian king.
The Palette shows many of the ancient conventions of Ancient Egyptian art, which means that this art form must already have been formalized by the time of the Palette’s creation.
The 5,000 year-old Narmer Palette is one of the first historical document in the world.
This 5,000-year-old marble sculpture of a female figure is called the “Stargazer” because her eyes are looking up to the stars above.
Created in translucent marble, this is an unusual sculpture because her head is sculptured entirely in the round. Her body is reduced to a simple yet elegant profile. The nose is depicted as a slight ridge on a straight-line edge.
The head tilted backward; the eyes are tiny dots raised in relief. The Stargazer is similar and related to the Cycladic Art which flourished in the islands of the Aegean Sea. However, this ancient masterpiece was found in Western Anatolia.
Western Anatolia was one of the significant crossroads of ancient civilizations. Created in the Early Bronze Age, the purpose of this masterpiece is not known.
All we can do is speculate on the creative and spiritual forces that shaped this beautiful and mystical figure that symbolizes our search for the divine.
The Dancing Girl is a bronze statuette created over 4,500 years ago and is a rare and unique masterpiece. It was found in the ancient Mohenjo-Daro site in 1926.
This statue is a cultural artifact reflecting the aesthetics of a female body as conceptualized during that historical period. T
he bronze girl was made using the lost-wax casting technique and shows the expertise of the people in making bronze works during that time.
This “Li” is a Chinese Tripod Jar dating more than 4,000 years ago. Tripod vessels appear in China in the early Neolithic period of 7000 BCE.
The innovation of hollow legs, creating Li (鬲) tripods, appeared during the middle Neolithic from 5000 BCE.
Historians ascribe significance to the shape of the tripod legs as being suggestive of goats’ or cows’ udders and, therefore, crucial for rituals.
Pottery as cooking or storage vessels, made of clay and hardened by heat, was the first functional art to emerge during the Paleolithic.
This “Treasure from Troy” is part of what became called the “Treasure of Priam” discovered in the ancient site of Troy, which is in modern-day Turkey.
Ancient Troy was the setting of the Trojan War described in the Iliad, one of the epic poems by Homer.
“Priam’s Treasure” was a cache of jewelry, gold, copper, terracotta and other ancient artifacts discovered by Heinrich Schliemann in 1873.
Gudea, Prince of Lagash was the political and religious governor of Lagash, in Southern Mesopotamia, one of the oldest Sumerian cities.
This statue was discovered as two pieces, twenty-six years apart. Archaeologists found the head in 1877, then the body was found in 1903.
Many figures of Gudea, both standing and seated, have been discovered; however, none of them was complete.
Bodies without heads have been found, and the heads with missing bodies. Archaeologists succeeded in assembling the two fragments of this statue, resulting in the first and only complete representation of Gudea
The “Law Code of Hammurabi” is a Stele that was erected by the King of Babylon in the 18th century B.C. It is a work of art, it is history, and it is literature. It is a complete law code from Antiquity that pre-dates Biblical laws. A stele is a vertical stone monument or marker inscribed with text or with relief carving. This particular example, which is nearly 4,000 years old, looks like the shape of a huge index finger with a nail and imperfect symmetry.
The Law Code of Hammurabi stele is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length to be discovered. The Law Code of Hammurabi refers to a set of 282 rules or laws enacted by the Babylonian King Hammurabi, who reigned 1792-1750 B.C.
The Nebra Sky Disk is a bronze disk with a blue-green patina which is inlaid with gold symbols. The gold symbols are the Sun or full moon, a lunar crescent, and stars. The disk is dated to 1600 BC and was created by a Central European Bronze Age culture.
The Nebra sky disk features the oldest depiction of the cosmos from the currently known ancient artifacts. The UNESCO Memory of the World Register and termed it as: “one of the most important archaeological finds of the twentieth century.”
The disk is 30 centimeters (11 3⁄4 in) diameter and 2.2 kilograms (4.9 lb) in weight. The stars are interpreted to including a cluster of seven interpreted as the Pleiades.
The “Mask of Agamemnon” is one of the most famous gold artifacts from the ancient Greek Bronze Age. The Mask was discovered in 1876 by Heinrich Schliemann during excavations at Mycenae in Greece.
This remarkable historical object is a gold leaf funeral mask that was found over the face of a body in a burial shaft in the Mycenaean Citadel.
Archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann after he discovered the Mask, exclaimed:” I have gazed upon the face of Agamemnon.”
The Mask was one of five masks found, and due to its nobility and level of preservation, Schliemann claimed it to be that of the famous ancient King.
Modern archaeological research suggests that the Mask is from 1550–1500 BCE, which is earlier than tradition regards Agamemnon to have lived.
Thus scholars no longer consider it as the real Mask of Agamemnon but of a former King of Mycenae. However, the name “Mask of Agamemnon” stuck because of its early publicity and notoriety.
Hatshepsut means “Foremost of Noble Ladies.” She was one of only two female pharaohs in Ancient Egyptian history, who ruled as full Pharaoh not just as a regent for a younger male relative.
She is the first significant female ruler in documented history. Born in 1507 BC, Hatshepsut came to the throne of Egypt in 1478 BC.
Officially, she ruled jointly with Thutmose III, who had ascended to the throne the previous year as a child of about two years old. Hatshepsut declared herself King sometime between the ages 2 and 7 of the reign of her stepson and nephew, Thutmose III.
This seven-ton granite Sphinx of Hatshepsut has the body of a lion and a human head wearing a head-cloth and royal beard.
The statue has the usual symbolic, powerful muscles of the lion and the idealized face used for pharaohs. This sphinx is one of several granite sphinxes that once stood in Hatshepsut’s Mortuary Temple at Deir el-Bahri.
Tutankhamun’s Mask is the funerary mask of Tutankhamun, the 18th-dynasty Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh who reigned 1332–1323 BC.
It was discovered by Howard Carter in 1925 and is now housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. This Mask is one of the most well-known works of art in the world.
Tutankhamun’s burial chamber was found in the Valley of the Kings in 1922 and opened three years later.
It would be another two years before the excavation team, led by the English archaeologist Howard Carter, was able to open the massive Sarcophagus containing Tutankhamun’s mummy.
On 28 October 1925, they opened the innermost of three coffins to reveal the gold Mask, seen by people for the first time in about 3,250 years.
Carter wrote in his diary: “The penultimate scene was disclosed – a very neatly wrapped mummy of the young King, with a golden mask of sad but tranquil expression, symbolizing Osiris … the Mask bears that God’s attributes, but the likeness is that of Tut.Ankh.Am”
The “Mummy of Katebet” is that of a woman who was a Chantress of Amun. As a Chantress to a major ancient Egyptian deity, she would have sung and performed music during the rituals that were performed in the temples of Thebes in Ancient Egypt.
Her body was preserved and wrapped within layers of linen about 1320 -1280 BC. The painted cartonnage mummy-mask covering her head has a gilded face.
Katebet’s mummy-mask shows her wearing an elaborate wig and white earrings made from studs of calcite. Her wooden hands are depicted as crossed around her chest, wearing rings and jewelry.
Further down her mummy coverings is a small dark scarab beetle, which provided her magical protection when the gods judged her.
The “Book of the Dead” is an ancient Egyptian funerary manuscript written on papyrus consisting of magic spells intended to assist a dead person’s journey through the underworld, and into the afterlife.
The original Egyptian name for the text is translated as “Book of Coming Forth into the Light.” It was placed in the coffin or burial chamber of the deceased.
The texts and images in the “Book of the Dead” evolved from the writings of many priests over about 1,000 years. They were used from the beginning of the New Kingdom around 1550 BCE to around 50 BCE.
The Avanton Gold Cone is a late Bronze Age European artifact belonging to the group of only four Golden Hats discovered thus far.
It is made from thin sheet gold and was attached externally to long conical and brimmed headdresses, which served to stabilize the outer gold leaf.
Golden hats are a particular and rare type of archaeological artifact known as the “cone-shaped gold hats of the Schifferstadt type” named after the first that was discovered.
The gold cones are covered in bands of ornaments along their whole length and extent. The decorations, mostly disks, and concentric circles, sometimes wheels, were punched using stamps or rolls.
This Relief of a Winged Genie on gypsum depicts a recurring motif in the iconography of Assyrian sculpture. Winged genies are usually bearded male figures with birds’ wings.
The genie wears the horned crown of a deity and the elegant jewelry and fringed cloak of an Assyrian royal.
This well-preserved example comes from the Northwest Palace of King Ashurnasirpal II in Nimrud. Nimrud was an ancient Assyrian city located 30 kilometers (20 mi) south of the city of Mosul in northern Iraq.
The “Siloam Inscription” or “Shiloah Inscription” (כתובת השילוח) is a passage of inscribed text found in the Siloam tunnel, in the City of David in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shiloah.
The ancient tunnel was constructed to bring water from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam.
The ancient city of Jerusalem was located on a mountain, which made it defensible from almost all sides. Unfortunately, its primary source of fresh water was on the outside of the cliff wall.
The Bible records that King Hezekiah, concerned that the Assyrians would lay siege to the city, blocked and hid the spring’s water outside the city. He also diverted it through a channel into the Pool of Siloam.
“The Lion Hunt” is a low relief sculpture showing the Royal Lion Hunt of King Ashurbanipal with his royal entourage, together with horses, dogs on leashes, and chariots. T
he sculpture shows captured lions and lionesses being released from cages to do battle with the King. The Lion Hunt is one of the most captivating works of art from Antiquity.
The suffering lions are depicted as brave and defiant, but they are eventually defeated with arrows, spears, and swords and are shown in detailed suffering and dying in agony.
The ancient artist expertly captured the lions in motion depicting each animal as a unique individual. This intricate artistry was created over 2,500 years ago with primitive tools, and it is a masterpiece of Assyrian art.
The Ishtar Gate was a passageway to the inner city of Babylon, constructed by order of King Nebuchadnezzar II in about 575 BCE.
The gate was integral to the ancient Walls of Babylon and was considered one of the original Seven Wonders of the World.
When a Greek poet of the 2nd Century BC compiled the seven wonders of the ancient world, only one city could claim two world wonders, and that was Babylon.
Babylon was the home of the Hanging Gardens and Babylon’s city wall with Ishtar Gate.
Dedicated to the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, the gate was constructed using glazed brick with alternating rows of bas-reliefs of dragons and bulls, symbolizing the gods Marduk and Adad. Ishtar was a goddess of fertility, love, war, and sex.
Adad was a weather god, and Marduk was the chief or national God of Babylon.
The “Tabnit Sarcophagus” was created for King Tabnit of Sidon, a Phoenician ruler. Carved in the early 5th century B.C., has two separate inscriptions, one in Egyptian hieroglyphics and one in the Phoenician script.
Discovered in 1887 at a Necropolis near Sidon together with the Alexander Sarcophagus and other related sarcophagi. Tabnit’s body was found floating perfectly preserved in the original embalming fluid.
The tombs were discovered in 1887, and the curator of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum arranged for full excavation and the transfer of the sarcophagi to Istanbul.
During the excavation, the workmen opened the Tabnit sarcophagus and found: “a human body floating in perfect preservation in a peculiar fluid.”
While the curator was at lunch, the workmen overturned the Sarcophagus and poured the fluid out so that the secret of this mysterious liquid was lost forever.
This Kleroterion was a device used by the ancient Athenians during their period of democracy, over 2,500 years ago, to randomly select citizens for state councils, offices, and court juries.
Athenian democracy developed in the 6th century B.C., and the process of Sortition was their principal way of achieving fairness and equity. Sortition is the process for the selection of a few state officials, on a random basis, from a larger pool of candidates.
The fundamental principle behind the sortition process originates from the firm belief that “power corrupts.” For that reason, when the time came to choose people to be assigned to empowering positions, the ancient Athenians resorted to picking randomly by a lot. The state positions were highly accountable and only for a limited period, to minimize abuse and corruption.
Sortition was used to pick most of the magistrates for their governing committees, and their juries. Thucydides has Pericles make this point in his Funeral Oration: “It is administration by the many instead of the few; that is why it is called a democracy.”
The Parthenon was built on the Acropolis of Athens, Greece, between 447 and 432 B.C. It was created as a testament to the glory and pride of the Athenian state.
The Parthenon stands on the Acropolis of Athens, which in ancient times, as it does today, dominates the city of Athens. The Acropolis is an extremely rocky outcrop above the city of Athens.
The word Acropolis comes from the Greek, Akron, meaning “highest point” and polis meaning “city.” The Acropolis is a flat-topped rock that rises high over Athens, with a large flat area that has been used as a fortress and a religious center from time immemorial.
In ancient times, the Acropolis was used as a fortress and a religious center dedicated to the cult of the city’s patron goddess, Athena. During the 5th century B.C., peace had been made with Persia, and Athens had reached a high point in her wealth and power.
Athens was the leader of the majority of the Greek city-states, who paid tribute to Athens for protection from Persia. Under the democratically elected leadership of Pericles, Athens decided to use its wealth to build a vast new temple to Athena.
The “Alexander Sarcophagus” is a Hellenistic stone sarcophagus adorned with bas-relief carvings of Alexander the Great. Classical Greek sculptors created the marvelous Hellenistic sculptures in the Athenian idiom during the late 4th century B.C.
The most significant sculptured scene is of Alexander the Great attempting to battle the Persian King, Darius III, as Darius flees the battle of Issus in 333 BC.
The Alexander Sarcophagus is one of four massive carved sarcophagi discovered during the excavations at the necropolis near Sidon, Lebanon, in 1887. The Sarcophagus was probably created for a wealthy and influential noble or governor of the region.
This colossal monument is a statue of the winged figure of Nike, the Greek goddess of Victory. This sculpture is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of Antiquity, and replicas of this winged figure were famous in the ancient world.
The Winged Victory of Samothrace, also known as the Nike of Samothrace, was created at about 190 BC and discovered 1863 in Samothrace, a Greek island in the northern Aegean Sea.
The sculpture stood on the prow of a ship. It was erected to commemorate a naval victory by a Macedonian general.
The stone is valuable because it is inscribed with three versions of a decree issued at Memphis, Egypt, in 196 BC by King Ptolemy V. The top text is in Ancient Egyptian using the hieroglyphic script.
The middle passage is Ancient Egyptian Demotic script, and the bottom is in Ancient Greek. As the decree is the same in all three versions, the Rosetta Stone provided the key to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs.
The reason for the Ancient Greek writing is that the Rosetta Stone was carved during the Ptolemaic dynasty. Ptolemy was a Macedonian Greek who was one of Alexander the Great’s generals and was appointed the leader of Egypt after Alexander’s death in 323 BC.
He established a royal family, which ruled the Kingdom of Egypt during its Hellenistic period, which lasted nearly 300 years. The Ptolemaic rulers introduced Greek to the Egyptian government bureaucracy. The last of the Ptolemaic dynasty was Queen Cleopatra.
The Pergamon Altar was built about 150 BC on the Acropolis or the high point of the ancient Greek city of Pergamon in Asia Minor.
This colossal Altar of Zeus at Pergamon, near modern-day Izmir, Turkey, is a monumental work of Greek Hellenistic art. Built during the reign of Greek King Eumenes II, the structure is over 35 meters wide and 33 meters deep. The front stairway is almost 20 meters wide.
Like the Parthenon in Athens, this Zeus Altar constructed on a terrace of the Acropolis overlooking the ancient city of Pergamon. Unlike the Parthenon, it was not a temple but merely an altar, and designed according to the Ionic order of Greek Architecture.
The Antikythera mechanism is an ancient Greek analog computer and mechanical model of the solar system used to predict planetary positions and eclipses.
Discovered in 1902 in a shipwreck off the coast of the Greek island of Antikythera, which is located between Crete and Peloponnese.
The mechanism was designed and constructed by Greek scientists at about 100 BC to 200 BC. It has been suggested that the Antikythera Mechanism was lost in the shipwreck while being taken to Rome. It was part of looted Greek treasures, to support a triumphal parade being staged by Julius Caesar.
The device consisted of an elaborate clockwork mechanism with 37 gear wheels enabling it to follow the movements of the moon and the sun through the zodiac.
It could predict eclipses and to model the irregular orbit of the moon. The knowledge of this technology was lost in Antiquity. Technology with this complexity and artistry did not appear again until the development of astronomical mechanical clocks in Europe in the fourteenth century.
The Temple of Dendur is an Ancient Egyptian temple, constructed in 10 B.C. by the Roman governor of Egypt. The Temple is dedicated to Isis and Osiris, as well as two deified sons of a local Nubian chieftain.
The Temple was gifted to the United States by Egypt in 1965. It was then awarded to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1967 and installed into the museum in 1978.
The gift was in recognition of the United States government’s help in saving many Nubian monuments from being submerged in the flooding of Lake Nasser through the Aswan Dam project. Many monuments that were preserved were dismantled and moved to higher ground.
The Temple of Dendur was disassembled and transported in over 660 crates to the U.S.
Several U.S. museums bid for the Temple in competition and the Temple was awarded to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in 1967 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
A new museum wing was specially built to house the Temple, and the reflecting pool in front of the Temple represents the Nile River, and the sloping wall behind it reflects the cliffs of the original location.
The James Ossuary is a 1st-century limestone box that was used for storing the bones of the dead. This ossuary has an Aramaic inscription that is cut into one side of the box. The inscription is in the Hebrew alphabet, it reads: “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.”
Two thousand years ago, in Jerusalem, the dead would lie on a separate cavity in a tomb for a year of decomposition, and then the remains would be collected and placed in an ossuary.
The James Ossuary is slightly smaller than the average as compared to other ossuaries of the time. An ossuary was considered a luxury for the elite.
If the inscription on the James Ossuary is genuine, the inscription may indicate that the ossuary was that of “James the Just,” the brother of Jesus, the founder of Christianity.
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Photo Credit: By Carsten Frenzl from Obernburg, Derutschland (TUT-Ausstellung_FFM_2012_47) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Source Reference for the list of Objects: Wikipedia, Google. most visited pages on “Joy of Museums.”; Gary Todd / CC0; Matysik / Public domain