5 must-see archaeological sites

5 must-see archaeological sites

The history of the world is often laying beneath our feet -- here are a few places where it's been brought to the surface
Brushing off dirt and revealing a new side of history, art and mystery. Now, is she the mesmerizing model of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa? Time and DNA will tell.

A home dating from the Mesolithic period, about 10,000 years ago, was recently uncovered in Scotland.

The home would have been built by inhabitants of the area who settled in what we now call Scotland after the last glacial period.

There are many other archeological digs happening around the world on a long-term basis, that allow visitors to get up close to history.

 

1. Convent of Saint Ursula, Florence, Italy

Final resting place for an artistic mystery?
The mystery behind the identity of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa has been around for centuries, but could the Convent of Saint Ursula in Florence unearth the secret once and for all?

Archaeologists claim they may have found the skeleton of Mona Lisa herself.

The skeleton they have unearthed is assumed to be that of Lisa Gheradini, a woman known to have posed for the artist in 1504. She was married to a rich silk merchant named Francesco del Giocondo and became a nun after her husband's death. She died and was buried in the convent in 1542.

In Italy, the Mona Lisa is also known as "La Gioconda." Hence the connection between the two ladies.

It took almost a year to uncover the remains, nealry two meters under the convent's original floor. 

Once the skeleton's identity is verified through DNA, archaeologists will compare the skull to the face of da Vinci's painting. 

Via Guelfa 23, 50129, Florence, Italy 


2. Apis tombs, Cairo

Where the sacred bull lies.
The Serapeum of Saqqara, also known as the Apis tombs, is now open to the public after a 10-year renovation.

The tomb was first discovered by archaeologist Auguste Mariette in 1851 and dates to 1400 BC.

The burial site became famous for its giant granite sarcophagus of the "Apis" bull, an animal considered sacred by the pharaohs. The tomb weigh 60 to 70 tons.

The site now has wooden scaffoldings and iron shields to protect the roof and the ancient tombs that are lined up through a massive passageway underground.

The overall restoration process was for the safety of both tombs and visitors, with improvements in ventilation, security and lighting systems in and out the site.

For more information our tourism or travel ideas to the Apis tombs, visit www.egypttourinfo.com or the official website for traveling around Egypt. 


3. The Leicester skeleton, England

Hoping for a royal reunion.
It's not 100 percent confirmed yet, but scientists and archaeologists claim there is strong evidence that a skeleton found in Leicester, central England, is that of Richard III, the king of England from 1483-85.

The dig started in August 2012 by archaeologists in search of Richard III's last resting place. That place just happened to be a parking lot, which was apparently covering the remains of a church. The skeleton was found in the choir area of the church.

According to Richard Taylor from the University of Leicester, the skeleton has been of "great interest" based on various factors, including the spinal condition, burial place and the fact that the skull suffered a deathly trauma by a bladed implement.

The evidence seems to speak for itself, but for the time being, further analysis and confirmation is required. Travelers can visit the site, but don't expect any royal welcoming. Yet. 

For more information, visit the Leicester University website


4. Large Jewish Courtyard, Germany 

No parking -- unless you have a small spade and a fine brush.
On October 28, 2012, Berlin celebrated its 775th birthday and with it came interesting gifts from history. 

Foundations of 17th-century houses at the Grosser Juedenhof, which literally means "large Jewish courtyard," have been uncovered, while various archaeological events and exhibits also took place around the city. 

The courtyard used to be a parking lot, but now archaeologists have found the remains of a synagogue and a mikveh that dates back to the Middle Ages. 

An interesting discovery was made on the southern part of Schlossplatz on Berlin's Museum Island this year too.

The area revealed the old foundations of St. Peter's Church, the remains of Colln, the sister town of Old Berlin, plus nearly 4,000 skeletons, known to be the remains of the town's first inhabitants.  

For more information, click here. 


5. Mayan warrior queen, Guatemala

Something like this, but with more spears and blades.
Archaeologists recently discovered the tomb of an ancient Mayan warrior queen in Guatemala, changing the perception of women's political role during the Classic Maya period. 

The queen, believed to be Lady K'abel, is considered to have been the military governor of an Ancient Maya city, experts say. 

"Lady K'abel was buried 11 meters down from the surface in a temple near a stairway," head anthropologist David Freidel said. "K'abel was not a regular person. To put her in that location means that it was important; it means that people continued to worship her after the fall of the dynasty."

The burial site also included other evidence that backed up the skeleton's social status, such as ceramic vessels, jade jewelry and a large stone with carvings referring to Lady K'abel. 

Due to its remoted location, it is difficult to travel directly to the tomb at the moment, but for more information and updates, visit www.archaeologywaka.com

Interested in archaeology and have a specific site keeping your eyes on? Share it with us in the comments below. 

Rachel Sang-hee Han is a freelance writer for CNN Travel. 

Read more about Rachel Sang-hee Han
CNN Partner Hotels