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9 Unusual Items Found in Rivers Around the World

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What do a brothel token, ice cream trucks, and an ancient Egyptian portico have in common? They've all been found at the bottom of some of the world's most famous rivers. But the treasure trove doesn’t end there. Here are nine unusual items that have surfaced from well-known rivers across the globe.

1. A SHIPWRECK ON TOP OF ANOTHER SHIPWRECK // NEW YORK CITY'S WATERWAYS

A cabin cruiser located at the bottom of the Hudson River near Yonkers (the exact location is kept secret) sits atop an older, flattened shipwreck—"probably a nineteenth century sailing ship," according to New York Magazine.

Other bizarre NYC discoveries include "gribbles" (Limnoria tripunctata), wood-eating isopods that gnaw on the pilings holding up the FDR Drive, ice cream trucks, and just a little further out, the remnants of an early 20th century amusement park. There's also a $26 million collection of silver bars from a 1903 shipwreck lying in the Arthur Kill area, but those have yet to be recovered.

2. ROMAN BROTHEL TOKEN // THAMES RIVER

In 2012, an amateur archaeologist discovered a Roman brothel token near the Thames's Putney Bridge. The bronze token depicts a graphic act of passion; experts believe this “sex token” was hidden beneath the mud for around 2000 years. 

3. NILE CROCODILE // RIVER SEINE

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In case the grit and grime doesn’t deter you, here’s another reason to forgo a dip in the Seine: In 1984, a 31-inch Nile crocodile was found crawling in a sewer near the popular Pont Neuf bridge. Sanitation workers stumbled upon the reptile while on the job, and called in a zoo vet. It eventually found its way to the Aquarium de Vannes. While its life pre-sewer remains a mystery, the veterinarian estimated the croc spent one to two months living in France’s sewer systems before its discovery.

Over the years, the Seine has seen its fair share of terrifying creatures. Sightings of snapping turtles, snakes, and pacu—relatives of piranhas with an almost uncertainly undeserved reputation for biting off testicles—have all been reported.

4. 15,000 BICYCLES // AMSTERDAM CANALS


Amsterdam, a city of 780,000, has been estimated to have around 2 million bicycles. But as canal cleaners have discovered, bicycles fill more than just streets: Approximately 15,000 bikes are pulled up from Amsterdam’s canals each year.

“Bike fishing” has actually become a popular Amsterdam tourist attraction. The local water company (Waternet) has perfected the activity with a claw and crane device that sits atop a barge.

5. ANCIENT EGYPTIAN PORTICO // NILE RIVER

In 2007, a team of Egyptian archaeologists embarked on the Nile River’s first underwater excavation, hoping to uncover antiquities and shipwrecks from the river’s deep past. Surveying the Nile’s dense, intensely muddy waters wasn’t easy, and required specific gear, including side scan sonar to find artifacts beneath the mud and a GPS, according to Daily News Egypt.

Despite the tough conditions, the historic dive did not disappoint. Archaeologists discovered a portico (covered entryway) for an ancient Egyptian temple. According to a 2008 National Geographic report, the entryway led to the temple of fertility god Khnum. The stone featured inscriptions that date back anywhere from 945 to 525 BCE. The archaeologists also found parts of an ancient Christian church during their dives.

6. SOVIET FIGHTER PLANE AND PILOTS // VISTULA RIVER

In 2015, Poland’s Vistula River reached historically low levels, which unearthed rare World War II artifacts, including a Soviet fighter plane and the remains of its pilots. According to the Associated Press, the plane crashed in January 1945 when Germany’s army was retreating back toward Berlin. The plane was hit while flying low across the Vistula, and ultimately crashed through the ice into the river.

Explorers also found parts of the pilots' uniforms, boots, parachutes, a sheepskin coat collar, and radio equipment with Cyrillic controls.

7. COMPUTER TOWER // RIVERS OF AMERICA



When Disneyland visitors raft over to Tom Sawyer Island, they don’t just drop gum or cellphones in the river (although hundreds do that every year). In 2010, Disneyland employees uncovered a desktop computer tower during a routine maintenance draining.

8. MACHETES AND A SAUNA // LOS ANGELES RIVER

Every spring, the Friends of the Los Angeles River organization hosts a city-wide river cleanup that draws thousands of volunteers, who pick up 70-plus tons of trash and an assortment of unusual trinkets and treasures. Findings from the group’s more than two decades of cleanups include machetes, a sauna, and a phone booth.

9. 18TH CENTURY CANNONS // DETROIT RIVER

According to experts, the Detroit River's muddy waters obscure numerous museum-worthy relics. Between 1980 and 2011, divers pulled up six separate cannons dating back to the 1700s, according to a recent story in the Detroit Free Press. And those cannons, which were likely part of a stash kept by British soldiers before the War of 1812, represent just a small portion of the treasures on the river's bottom (which, given the visibility issues, divers can usually only locate by touch). In November, a 6000-pound anchor belonging to Greater Detroit—a 2100-passenger steamship which traveled the Great Lakes from 1924 to 1950—was recovered; there are also rumors of Prohibition-era vehicles, like a Model T, on the river's Canadian side. (Divers need a federal permit to explore there.)

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Peter Pfälzner, University of Tübingen
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Archaeologists Finally Identify a 4000-Year-Old Lost City in Iraq
Peter Pfälzner, University of Tübingen
Peter Pfälzner, University of Tübingen

In 2016, archaeologists excavating in the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan in Iraq discovered the remnants of a Bronze Age city near the modern village of Bassetki. It was large, and it appeared to have been occupied for more than 1000 years, from around 2200 to 1200 BCE. Ancient Mesopotamia, home to the earliest civilizations on Earth, had many cities. So which one was it?

The mystery remained until recently, when a language expert at the University of Heidelberg translated clay cuneiform tablets unearthed at the site in 2017. The archaeologists had discovered Mardaman, a once-important city mentioned in ancient texts, which had been thought lost to time.

The inscriptions were likely written around 1250 BCE when Mardaman (also called Mardama) was a part of the Assyrian Empire. According to the University of Tübingen archaeologists who unearthed the tablets, they describe the "administrative and commercial affairs" between the citizens of Mardaman and their Assyrian governor Assur-nasir. The account led the researchers to believe that the area where the tablets were recovered was once the governor's palace.

Excavation site in Iraq.
Peter Pfälzner, University of Tübingen

Situated on trade routes connecting Mesopotamia, Anatolia (modern Turkey), and Syria, Mardaman was a bustling commercial hub in its day. It was conquered and rebuilt several times, but after it was toppled by the Turukkaeans from the neighboring Zagros Mountains sometime in the 18th century BCE, it was never mentioned again in ancient texts. Experts had assumed that marked the end of Marmadan. This latest discovery shows that the city recovered from that dark period, and still existed 500 years later.

"The cuneiform texts and our findings from the excavations in Bassetki now make it clear that that was not the end," lead archeologist Peter Pfälzner said in a press statement. "The city existed continuously and achieved a final significance as a Middle Assyrian governor's seat between 1250 and 1200 BCE."

This lost chapter of history may never have been uncovered if the clay tablets were stored any other way. Archeologists found the 92 slabs in a pottery vessel that had been sealed with a thick layer of clay, perhaps to preserve the contents for future generations. The state in which they were found suggests they were stashed away shortly after the surrounding building was destroyed.

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Ben Curtis, AFP/Getty Images
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
King Tut's Tomb Doesn't Contain Hidden Rooms After All
Ben Curtis, AFP/Getty Images
Ben Curtis, AFP/Getty Images

When Howard Carter first entered King Tut's tomb in 1922, there was a lot to uncover. Unlike most royal tombs of the ancient Egyptian kings, Tut's had remained sealed and untouched for centuries, providing a pristine treasure trove for those who would eventually stumble upon it. Now, nearly a century later, archaeologists are accepting the idea that King Tut's tomb may have no more secrets left to reveal: New radar scans show that there are no hidden rooms beyond the main burial chamber, NBC News reports.

The theory that Tut's tomb contains secret rooms first emerged in 2015. British archaeologist Nicholas Reeves claimed that high-definition laser scans conducted by Japanese and American scientists hinted at the existence of a second tomb on the other side of the chamber's walls, and that the hidden tomb possibly belonged to Queen Nefertiti, Tutankhamun's stepmother. The theory sparked excitement in Egyptology circles, but its popularity was short-lived. Radar experts cast doubts on the research saying that what appeared to be a wall or a room could easily be a geologic feature. Archaeologists and Egyptologists began calling for more evidence.

The newest study on the matter will likely debunk the hidden tomb theory for good. According to findings by Italian researchers presented at the fourth International Tutankhamun Conference in Cairo, ground-penetrating radar shows conclusively that there are no hidden rooms or corridors adjacent to Tut's tomb. The new scan represents the most comprehensive radar survey of the area ever conducted.

Even without hidden rooms, Tut's tomb and the artifacts it contained make up one of the world's most impressive archaeological sites. The public will be able to view 4500 of the young ruler's possessions when they go on display at a new museum in Cairo in 2022.

[h/t NBC News]

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