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A skull found in a Black Death dig site in Farringdon, London, United Kingdom.

This skull found in a Black Death dig site isn't the only strange thing to be found during construction.

Photograph by Philip Toscano, PA/AP

Brett Line

National Geographic News

Published April 11, 2013

Earlier this year, DNA tests confirmed that the bones found under a parking lot in Leicester, England, were those of King Richard III.

The skeleton is just one of many surprising discoveries unearthed at construction sites. Here's a sampling:

Viking Victims

Site: Road construction in Dorset, England

Find: Mass grave of headless Vikings

Discovery date: June 2009

Details: A total of 51 headless skeletons was found during an archaeological survey prior to road construction in southern England. The skeletons, which were tangled together in a pit, are believed to have been Vikings killed between A.D. 890 and 1034. Some of the skeletons were riddled with hack marks, probably from swords and axes. No trace of clothing was found in the pit, suggesting that the men were buried naked.

Ancient Port

Site: Subway construction in Istanbul, Turkey

Find: Ancient Byzantine port of Theodosius

Discovery date: June 2006

Details: Workers stumbled upon the remains of a port more than 1,500 years old while building a rail tunnel. The Port of Theodosius, as archaeologists call it, was built in the fourth century A.D. when Istanbul was known as Constantinople. Subsequent excavations by archaeologists have turned up a church and eight sunken ships. Archaeologists believe the ships were destroyed by a massive storm more than a thousand years ago.

Tale of a Whale

Site: Road construction in Laguna Canyon, California

Find: New whale species

Discovery date: February 2013

Details: Construction workers uncovered whale fossils that are 17 to 19 million years old. The fossils include 11 whale species, including four species that were previously unknown members of the baleen whale family. Unlike modern-day baleen whales, the newly discovered species had teeth.

Hindu House of Worship

Site: Drainage basin in Bali, Indonesia

Find: Ancient Hindu temple

Discovery date: October 2012

Details: Workers digging a drainage basin found what appeared to be remnants of an ancient building. Bali's archaeology office was notified and then excavated the site. The building is thought to be the foundation of a Hindu temple dating to the 13th to 15th century. The ancient Hindu temple may be the largest ever found in Bali, at 187 feet (57 meters) wide.

This Really Old House

Site: Bridge construction in South Queensferry, Scotland

Find: Stone Age home

Discovery date: November 2012

Details: An oval pit nearly 23 feet (seven meters) wide was found along with more than a thousand flint artifacts, which were probably used for tools and arrowheads. The site is believed to be the remains of a 10,000-year-old home—one of the earliest discovered in Scotland.

One Knight

Site: Parking lot demolition in Edinburgh, Scotland

Find: Medieval knight

Discovery date: March 2013

Details: The remains of a medieval knight were found along with a sandstone slab bearing the carvings of a cross and a large sword. Researchers believe the remains date to the 13th century. The site is also believed to be the location of the Blackfriars Monastery.

Ice Age Fossils

Site: Retention pond construction in Snowmass Village, Colorado

Find: Ice Age animal bones

Discovery date: October 2010

Details: After construction workers unearthed unusual bones, archaeologists found more than 4,500 bones from Ice Age animals, including mastodons, ground sloths, and mammoths. This fossil-rich area was nicknamed Snowmastodon following the discovery. The finds are now on display at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

Lost Royal Chapel

Site: Demolition in London

Find: Henry VIII's lost chapel

Discovery date: January 2006

Details: After a bulldozer unexpectedly scraped against brickwork while tearing up a parking lot in south London, archaeologists rushed in. They discovered a 500-year-old royal chapel, as well as fragments of stained glass and decorative stonework. Many British monarchs, including Henry VIII, are believed to have worshipped at this chapel, which was originally on the grounds of a palace.

Black Death Burial Ground

Site: Railroad project in London

Find: Skeletons of Black Death victims

Discovery date: March 2013

Details: Crews found a 14th-century burial site for people who had died of the bubonic plague. Archaeologists have unearthed 13 skeletons and believe as many as 50,000 might rest in what they call an emergency burial ground.

Old Teeth

Site: Excavation in San Francisco

Find: Mammoth tooth

Discovery date: September 2012

Details: A crane operator found a large woolly mammoth tooth from a Columbian mammoth more than 100 feet below ground. The tooth is estimated to be roughly 11,000 years old. During the Pleistocene epoch, woolly mammoths roamed in what is now the San Francisco area and much of California.

6 comments
Jana Dawson Frazier
Jana Dawson Frazier

So....just how did this tooth get 100 feet below ground?  What would cause such a cataclysm as to bury the tooth or shift the earth that much?

Jana Dawson Frazier
Jana Dawson Frazier

So....just how did this tooth get 100 feet below ground?  What would cause such a cataclysm as to bury the tooth or shift the earth that much?

D. Painter
D. Painter

How cool! My sister ran across a 'gator carcass & salvaged some teeth to send me--(Fla - Ore) and I thought I had something gnarley to wear 'round my neck.  Imagine a wooly  mammoth tooth!--o I know, they belong in a museum. Jus' sayin'.

Bellz Webster
Bellz Webster

Its wonderful that all these things are being found. I love hearing and reading of our ancient past. Thanks National Geographic.

Haley Kane
Haley Kane

@Jana Dawson Frazier 11,000 years ago the ground could, and probably would have been 100 feet lower. the dirt and other layers build up over time. 

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