Did you know that some of the world’s most famous archeological discoveries were found by accident?
In 1974, for example, Chinese farmers stumbled upon pieces of a clay figure, which led to the discovery of thousands of terracotta statues, marking one of the most famous finds of the twentieth century.
Thirty years earlier, a shepherd boy looking for a stray goat found the Dead Sea Scrolls—over 900 Jewish and Hebrew Scripture manuscripts dating back to at least 68 BC and possibly hundreds of years earlier.
Two hundred years prior, a group of French soldiers were rebuilding a fort in Egypt when they came across the Rosetta Stone, which has since served as a crucial interpretive tool for ancient texts and languages.
These stories tell themselves. But one reason they are so intriguing is how uncommon they are in the broader world of archeology. Most notable discoveries result from archeologists spending several years—even decades—following a series of tiny clues until finally achieving the payoff they must have felt would never come.