1960s Era Archeology, Anthropology, Paleontology, and Antiquities Timeline


  • Louis & Mary Leakey describes first fossil remains of earliest known human, Homo habilis (tool maker) after its discovery by their son, Jonathan, in the Oldavai Gorge in Tanzania.  Dated to 2,000,000 years old, this discovery followed the fossil find the previous year of the earliest known hominid whose species has come to be called Australopithecus.
  • George Bass starts the excavation of oldest submerged ship found to date: a Mycenean freighter in 90’ of water near Cape Gelidonya, Turkey dated to 1200 BC with copper, tin ingots, bronze, and pottery on board.
  • The only known Viking settlement in North America discovered at L’Anse-aux-Meadows, Newfoundland.  Site excavations of eight large houses started in 1961 and continued until 1968. 
  • Sir Alistair Hardy announces his “aquatic ape hypothesis” that asserts swimming and diving for food exerted an evolutionary effect responsible for the divergence of humans and other great apes.
  • Jacques Ruffié invents hemotyping to study the history of peoples, including their migration and breeding patterns.
  • Largest residential Roman building in Britain or perhaps north of the Alps excavated in the village of Fishbourne, West Sussex by Sir Barrington Cunliffe; dated to late first century; larger footprint than Buckingham Palace.
  • Large tomb of the seventh daughter of Tang Emperor Zhongzong discovered; excavated throughout 1960s. 


  • Recovery of the 1628 four-decked Swedish warship, Vasa.
  • James Mellaart and colleagues begin four-season excavation of the Neolithic proto-city settlement of Çatalhöyük in southern Anatolia.
  • Archaeologists dredge the Sacred Cenote at Chichen Itza in the northern Yucatan Peninsula for objects; in 1967, attempts to drain partially successful.


  • The oldest surviving example of the Christ Pantocrator icon, preserved at St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai, cleansed of its overpainting and determined to be produced in 6th-century Constantinople.
  • Excavation of the Skuldelev Viking ships in Denmark.
  • Chinese neolithic site discovered at Jiahu in Henan Province near Yellow River and dated to 7000 BC; finally excavated in 1980s.
  • Ancient papyrus roll found in the Greek Macedonian town of Derveni; having to do with the philosopher Anaxagoras, said to be Europe’s oldest manuscript; dated to 350 BC.
  • The tomb of eighth-century Mayan king Jasaw Chan K’awiil I discovered by a University of Pennsylvania team under the Temple of the Great Jaguar, one of several temple structures at Tikal in northern Guatemala.


  • Yigael Yadin excavates the fortification rock plateau, Masada, on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea.
  • Called the “Warrior of Hirschlanden,” a nude ithyphallic sandstone statue found in a burial barrow in Baden-Wurttemburg, Germany; said to be the oldest life-size Iron Age statue found north of the Alps; est. 600 BC.
  • Through the study of the very fine striations on corals, Cornell paleontologist John West Wells confirms an astronomical idea: the earth is slowing in its rotation through the moon’s tidal friction 


  • Physical scientists Lloyd Berkner (1905-1967) and Lauriston Marshall propose in an article in Discussions of the Faraday Society that levels of oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere was a principal cause for the Cambrian “explosion of life” about 600 million years ago when most invertebrate life began to appear.
  • UNESCO begins four-year project to relocate the Abu Simbel temple complex in the Nile Valley threatened by flooding from construction of the Aswan High Dam; one of the greatest projects in archeological engineering.
  • Archaelogists in the ancient trading town of Sardis (modern Turkey) uncover the fire-resistant pots in which the Lydian King Croesus separated gold from silver in the common alloy of both metals called electrum, by a process that heated the alloy with a lead and salt mixture. Creates bimetalism; enables minting of the first coins with high purity & uniform measure. Part of a Harvard U. excavation started in 1958, supervised by G.M.A. Hanfmann (1911-1986).
  • Archaeologists dredge the Sacred Cenote, the well where pre-Columbian Maya offered human and non-human sacrifices to the rain god Chaac; Chichen Itza in the northern Yucatan Peninsula; in 1967, attempts to drain partially successful.
  • Discovery of thousands of bird bone piles on the island of Hane in French Polynesia.
  • “Victorious Youth,” magnificent 5’ bronze sculpture in contrapposto of athlete found off the coast of Fano (south of Rimini) on the Adriatic Sea; caught in trawling nets of fisherman, c. 200 BC.
  • Mummies found on the side of the inactive Andean volcano of Pichu Pichu.
  • Excavation of the ancient Mayan city of Atun Ha (Belize) begins under the directorship of David Pendergast of the Royal Ontario Museum; continues to 1971.
  • American & Israeli researchers start first excavation in 50 years of the first positively-identified Biblical city – the Solomonic city of Tel Gezer (Book of Joshua) – in the Judaean Mountains bet. Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Involves Harvard and Hebrew Union College, w/archeologists G. Ernest Wright, Yigael Yadin, William Dever, and Joseph Sever over the life of the dig to 1974.
  • Pool of Bethesda (Gospel of John) excavations in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem uncover Crusader churches and a temple of Hadrian to Asclepius.


  • Elwyn Simons, known as the father of modern primate paleontology, discovers a 30,000,000 year-old skull of an ape in the Faiyum, Egypt, which he names Aegyptopithecus, the earliest known primate to date in the hominid line.
  • Discovery of early 4thcentury BC Greek merchant ship by Greek Cypriot diving instructor off northern coast of Kyrenia.


  • Largest hoard of medieval gold coins and jewelry ever found in England uncovered in Nottinghamshire in a place in the 1450s known as “Fishpool.”
  • The Mayan site of Chinkultic in Chiapas excavated.
  • Protodynastic (Naqada) through late Roman period cemetery site excavated at Minshat Abu Omar in northeastern Nile Delta; finds such kings as Narmer.
  • Large and varied trove of Hellenistic coins found in Qabala, Azerbaijan; first of these collections in 1964.
  • Farmers discover a series of chambers called Balamku (The Cave of the Jaguar) beneath the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza in Yucatan State; investigated by archeologist Victor Segovia Pinto who wrote a non-extant report & ordered the entrance sealed; cave system rediscovered in 2019 by National Geographic explorers.
  • A Harvard graduate student discovers red pottery shards by accident in Ban Chiang, northeast Thailand; formal excavations start in 1967 and establish one of the most important Bronze Age sites in Southeast Asia dated to c. 2100 BC; becomes UNESCO site in 1992.


  • The three extant cuneiform fragments of the Chaldean [Babylonian] creation story, long separated, are joined together and form Epic of Atra-hasis containing the familiar flood story so similar to Genesis.
  • Paul Martin proposes the “blitzkrieg hypothesis” that asserts that hunters who traveled to North America about 9,000 BC killed so many megafauna (mammals & birds) that these species became extinct.
  • Greek archeologist Spyridion Marinatos discovers the ruins of Akrotiri, a Bronze Age city, on a remnant of the island of Thera (now known as Santorini) after the great volcanic explosion in the second millennium BC.
  • Gillett Griffin, Carlo T.E. Gay, and Michael D. Coe carry out the first rigorous investigation of Olmec cave art and iconography at Juxtlahuaca, said to be the oldest in Mesoamerica; a mystery find since location is miles away from the Olmec heartland.
  • The Temple Scroll, longest of the Dead Sea Scrolls (28 feet long), found on the western shore of the Dead Sea, at Khirbet Qumran, eight miles south of Jericho.


  • Norse settlements confirmed in North America at a place called L’Anse aux Meadows in the northern peninsula of Newfoundland.
  • Ashley Montagu edits the work of 14 scholars and publishes Man and Aggression in 1968; answers Robert Ardrey’s 1966 The Territorial Imperative: Animal Origins of Property and Nations that argued that man, like songbirds, is territorial, a thesis that Konrad Lorenz had forwarded in his On Aggression of 1963.


  • W.E. Wendt discovers quartzite “Apollo 11 Stones” in the Huns Mountains of southern Namibia; est. dating to 25,500 years ago during Middle Stone Age; remain oldest figurative art known from Africa.
  • Ethnographer, zoologist, adventurer Thor Heyerdahl makes first attempt to cross from Morocco to the Caribbean with papyrus boats of ancient Egyptian design; proves reed boats could withstand ocean travel; possible transfer route of knowledge spurring pyramid structures that appear in Mayan sections of central Mexico; the first “Ra Expedition” fell short of its goal; the second (Ra II) succeeded in landing in Barbados after 57 days and 3763 miles in 1970 using the Canary Current.



  • Douglas Lawson discovers the largest flying animal (pterosaur) to date in a sandstone outcropping at Big Bend National Park in Texas; calls it Quetzalcoatlus northropi.
  • Remains of HMS Culloden found off Montauk, NY, which ran aground in 1781.
  • Immense tomb of noblewomen Lady Dai found in Changsha, Hunan, China; buried with number of goods and artifacts; body exceptionally well-preserved; important for techniques of human remains preservation.


  • Tomb artifacts of King Tut leave Egypt for the first time; exhibited at the British Museum as The Treasures of Tutankhamen from March to September.
  • Before flooded by Lake Assad, emergency excavations at Tel Abu Hureyra by Andrew Moore on the south bank of the Euphrates in Syria; yields remains of oldest known farming on earth; transition from hunter-gatherers to Neolithic illustrated; site occupied from 9,000 – 13,000 years ago.
  • Varna necropolis excavated in Bulgaria.
  • Niles Eldridge (b.1943) & Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) publish their landmark paper in evolutionary biology on “punctuated equilibrium,” questioning Darwin’s idea of strict gradualism.


  • Hopkins paleontologist Stephen M. Stanley forwards a theory for the Cambrian explosion in diversity of life using the counterintuitive notion of “the cropping principle,” whereby a predator feeding on a dominant species in a given environment reduces that species, and allows the level below (the former prey) to thrive and diversify. Based on ideas of 
  • George Bass founds The Institute of Underwater Archaeology at Texas A&M University.
  • Donald Johanson discovers the first knee joint of any prehuman hominid, and provides the first hard evidence for an upright stance.
  • Dinosaurs Are Not Dumb! Harry J. Jerison finds dinosaurs do not have small brains but maintain the right-size brains for reptiles of their dimensions; confirmed by J.A. Hopson (b. 1935) in 1977 who broke dinosaurs into various brain sizes but still within the reptile range.


  • In March, a collection of 9000 terracotta sculptures, now known as the Terracotta Army, is found near Xian in east central China; part of a large necropolis of 38 square miles honoring the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang (259-210 BC).
  • Donald Johanson and French geologist Maurice Taieb find in Ethiopian region of Hadar a 40% complete 3½ foot tall female skeleton dated to 3,330,000 years ago.  Australopithecus afarensis (“Lucy”) represented an unknown species of early hominid, exhibiting smaller canines and molars, relatively small brain, and a prognathic face.
  • Derek J. de Solla Price and Greek nuclear physicist Charalampos Karakalos publish a paper in Transactions of the American Philosophical Society called “Gears of the Greeks” detailing their treatment of the 82 fragments of the Antikythera Mechanism by X rays and gamma rays; dated to between 1st and 3rd c. BC, found originally as part of a shipwreck off the island of Antikythera in 1901; considered ancient Greek computer used for astronomical calculations.
  • Paleontologist Thomas J.M. Schopf (1939-1984) tests the idea that the Great Permian “Die Off” of 233 million years ago resulted from the elimination of shallow seas as the continents coalesced into the supercontinent Pangaea; the rich ecosystem of Permian times lacked space to support all its former members. 


  • Team headed by Donald Johanson discovers a large group of Australopithecus afarensis remains, with tools, in the Afar triangle of Ethiopia which it calls the “First Family.”
  • Tel Aviv University excavates a site of a fortress-like structure in the northeast Sinai/Negev Desert called Kuntillet Ajrud containing many Syriac/Phoenician script fragments, and religious iconography referring to Yahweh and to various Hebrew cults. 


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