Depending on the grave, ancient lives continue to evoke respect and horror. In recent years, human remains have sewn together colorful new facts, ripped up old beliefs, and dangled tantalizing new riddles for experts to solve.
From the earliest ancestors, strange human hybrids, massacres, and memorial monuments, the dead can show unexpected rituals, DNA, and even peace when there should have been war.
10. Final Romanov Confirmation
The last royal family of Russia, the Romanovs, were executed in 1918 and hastily buried in shallow graves. The process of identifying Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, and five children took decades. In fact, it remains unresolved because not everybody agrees over the same test results.
When the royal family’s bones were recently positively identified, one institution refused to accept the findings—the Russian Orthodox Church. The royal couple and three daughters were found in 1979 and interred in Saint Petersburg almost 20 years later. The Church never gave them a full funeral because they were unconvinced of the government’s findings that the remains were authentic. The other two children were found in 2007.
In 2018, the Church ordered their own investigation and enlisted the help of geneticists. To do the tests, scientists had to exhume the father of the murdered tsar. Alexander III’s DNA and that of Nicholas II was a match; they were father and son. This could lead to the family finally being recognized and buried with full rites.
9. Foreigners At Stonehenge
Stonehenge is one of the biggest Late Neolithic cemeteries in Britain. Some 56 pits once held the cremated remains of at least 58 individuals. In 2018, scientists chose 25 burials to determine their origins.
Strontium levels (a signature based on diet) were mapped in each and compared to environments and dental material all over the United Kingdom. The result was startling. Ten were not locals and lived their last years nowhere near Salisbury Plain.
A flag went up when several of the foreigners’ strontium signatures matched that of Wales. Stonehenge has one major connection with Wales—the bluestones. Stonehenge’s pillars came from a quarry in western Wales, almost 290 kilometers (180 mi) away. The bones roughly dated to when the bluestones were extracted around 3000 BC.
These people could have been Welsh natives tasked with transporting the stones who perhaps died in Britain. Some appeared to have been cremated with wood from Wales. This means they died close to home and, for some reason, were transported and buried at Stonehenge. The discovery provided a rare look at a surprisingly vast network of traveling and trade, operating as far back as 5,000 years ago.