Indiana “Joe”: 40 Fascinating Finds Ordinary People Uncovered In Their Own Backyards
Most of us probably do not properly acknowledge the importance of historical geology and archaeology. We tend to view them solely as professions through which we uncover thousand-year-old relics from times long ago. These discoveries shed light on times we have forgotten while also broadening our understanding of the history of this world.
What is definitely taken for granted is just how much the physical geography of the world has changed over the millenniums. Physical changes to the landscape hide most of these celebrated archaeological discoveries in the first place. Well, this article will be delving into this interesting topic. Journey with us as we look at some extraordinary finds that people found in their very own backyards and gardens. This just goes to show that you never truly know what is hidden beneath the surface.
Ancient Church Bells
Kicking things off, we have a pair of 400-hundred-year-old church bells that a Czech man found buried on his land. These almost half-millennium-old-bells had, unbeknownst to the locals, apparently been stolen from the area’s local church only a decade earlier.
We guess that the thieves were in way over their heads and decided to bury the bells instead of keeping them. What makes this whole story even weirder was that, apparently, the theft was never reported to the local authorities.
A Cold War Shelter
Back in 2010, the Zwick family from Neenah, Wisconsin, decided to explore their land a little more thoroughly. There was one thing in particular that they hoped to investigate further — a mysterious metal hatch located in their garden that they just couldn’t ever seem to open.
Having had enough of the mystery, the family sought to open the hatch by force. Once open, they found a perfectly intact Cold War-era bomb shelter equipped with food, supplies and clothing. We can only imagine how surprised they must have been.
A Lost Horde of Golden Coins
When we think of discovering something hidden underground, most of us probably hope to find some buried treasure — in particular, something shiny and valuable. Well, that is just what a lucky Californian couple unearthed when they noticed something sticking out of the ground.
What they found were ancient-looking canisters that were filled with a total of close to 1500 gold coins. Upon getting the coins evaluated and appraised by experts the couple learned that they were worth $10 million! Wow, what a find!
The Claw of a Moa Bird
Back in the early days of the 20th century, a group of adventurous scientists underwent an expedition to New Zealand. While traversing the land they stumbled upon and uncovered a startling discovery in the form of a giant clawed foot.
The preserved claw belonged to a now-extinct species of giant 3.6-meter-tall flightless bipedal birds known as Moa birds. The Moa bird looked very similar to that of an ostrich or New Zealand’s iconic Kiwi bird, only much bigger, of course.
Egypt’s Largest Known Obelisk
One of the things Ancient Egypt is known for is its many architectural wonders that decorate the country’s vast and sandy old plains. Besides the pyramids, the second most iconic feature has to be the obelisks. Although some are more famous than others.
Still, the lesser-known ones are no less incredible. What we’re talking about is a gigantic and abandoned obelisk that was unearthed in the quarries of the city of Aswan. It is believed to have been abandoned due to the granite cracking apart.
A 1940s Cash Register
While having a relaxing day off and fixing up his garden, an American man discovered something buried underground. Letting his curiosity get the better of him, he decided to see what was laying beneath the surface. And what a surprise it was.
What he ended up finding were several mysteriously discarded car batteries and more importantly, an authentic 1940s cash register. While the register didn’t have any cash left in it, we’re sure a collector would still pay a pretty penny for the device.
A Buried Ferrari
Back in 1978, a pair of kids were playing in one of their neighbor’s gardens. Supposedly, they chose to explore there because they were told that there was something buried within the garden. But that “something” wasn’t what anyone expected.
The kids eventually persuaded their neighbor to help them take a look. They saw something that looked like a car…and they weren’t wrong. What was ultimately unearthed was a Ferrari Dino 264 GTS that was in amazing condition and is currently worth $381,000.
Digging for Dinos
Discovering dinosaur bones is not a new phenomenon, but Jurassic Park made it an object of desire for many amateur explorers. One such fossil hunter, Bill Shipp, got lucky when he was exploring his ranch in Montana. However, the bones didn’t stay on his property for long.
Shortly after making the discovery, the Canadian Museum of Nature took over. After some careful analysis, which lasted nearly ten years, the professional paleontologists determined that Shipp found a new species, Spiclypeus shipporum, a species closely related to the Triceratops.
World War II Rockets Buried Under a School
Okay, this one is both scary and interesting. Back in 2008, a middle school in Florida became a hot news topic when 400 pounds of explosives were uncovered. Yes, 400 pounds of WW II-era bombs and explosives were found buried beneath a middle school.
Apparently, the area the school was built on used to be a bomb testing site for the US army. Thankfully no one was harmed before the discovery was unearthed, and the bombs were later safely detonated by the Army Corps Engineers.
A Centuries-Old Ring
In 2007, an Austrian man, known only as Andreas, was doing some gardening when he saw something that caught his eye. Buried beneath the soil of his garden lay a centuries-old jeweled and ornate ring of an unknown age and value.
If that was not cool enough, that was not the only thing he found. Buried further down, he dug up other decorative rings and even brooches. For the time being, we don’t the true value or history of the jewels, as Andreas chose to remain anonymous.
A Meteorite Shower
In the small country of Bosnia, a local man found a similarly strange albeit different discovery in his garden. Radivoje Lajic has described his house and property as a meteorite magnet due to the many extraterrestrial rocks scattered about it.
The chances that a meteorite will even hit the Earth intact is incredibly rare. The speed and temperature at which they fall often burn up the meteoroid. This fact makes Lajic’s situation so fascinating, seeing as he’s found five meteorites in his garden over the years.
An Ancient Whale Fossil
Back in 1978, an American man by the name of Gary Johnson stumbled upon an odd-looking rock in the ground. As he started to dig it out of the dirt, he soon released that this was no ordinary rock, but something far more precious.
And he was right. An expert confirmed his suspicions and told him that what he found was actually a whale fossil. A 14-million-year-old whale fossil to be exact. It is believed that the fossil likely belonged to a species of baleen whales.
Dr. Owen Johnson was doing some yard work with the help of a contractor. The latter had just dug a hole, but Johnson spotted something that put the project on hold. The two had uncovered a piece of pottery on the English man’s land.
After careful extraction, the pottery was found to contain roughly £54,492 in coins. The treasure, which likely dates back to the 17th century, is thought to be from the English Civil War. The collection now resides with the Pontefract Museum.
A Giant Earthworm
Many years ago, a farmer in China was going about his business and fixing up his garden. Overall, it was just an ordinary day for him. That is until he unearthed a startling discovery while hanging out his wet laundry to dry.
What he discovered was a giant 20-inch-long earthworm that he first mistook to be a snake (and rightly so). The discovery soon caught the attention of local biologists, who were absolutely fascinated by it. They were particularly struck by how it grew that long.
Buried Treasure Worth €900k
In 2014, three builders were contracted to repair a property in Normandy, France. Though it started off rather mundane, they later literally strike gold. While digging up the area, the builders came across old-looking glass jars that were filled with gold coins and bars.
Upon inspecting the gold coins and bars they dated back to the early 1920s and were likely forgotten during WWII. It is estimated the buried stash was worth over €900k! Unfortunately, we don’t know what became of the found treasure.
Put a Ring on It
While most of the finds are relics from cultures long past. This one, however, was a personal re-discovery. Mary Grams was weeding her garden and lost her engagement ring. She was devastated, but frantic digging yielded nothing, and she gave up.
Thirteen years later, her daughter-in-law picked up where Mary left off. While harvesting vegetables in the family garden, a bizarre-looking carrot was plucked. Around the orange vegetable was wedged the diamond ring Mary Grams had lost all those years ago.
A 65 Carat Emerald
Speaking of buried treasure, years ago, 53-year-old Terry Ledford dug up a fascinating find on his North Carolina property. What he ended up finding was a 65-carat emerald! How or when it ended up there, no one can really say.
The emerald was said to be so large that it could rival the jewels that decorated the crowns of monarchs. Apparently, the farmland is known for hiding quite a few buried treasures. Something which has made it popular with treasure hunters.
An Ancient Buried City
Back in 1922, an Indian archaeologist by the name of R.D. Banerji excavated an ancient, buried city in neighboring Pakistan. The city in question is now known as Mohenjo-Daro, a name which disturbingly translates as “Mound of the Dead Men.”
The actual original name of the city is, sadly, unknown. The city has been a source of fascination to experts for decades since it was discovered. The main reason for this is that no one really knows how the city was destroyed.
Bolivia’s Sun Gate
This next one, like the previous entry, was not technically found in someone’s backyard. That said, it was just too cool not to mention! This is the Gate of the Sun, a stone monolith located in Bolivia and near Lake Titicaca.
The archway was built by the Tiwanaku, the native inhabitants who occupied the area before the arrival of the Spanish. The arch is estimated to have been built between 500 AD and 950 AD with a presumed weight of over 10 tons.
The Field of Stone Spheres
While we are still in Latin America, let’s take a little trip north to the small country of Costa Rica. On Costa Rica’s Isla del Caño and Diquis Delta, you will find over 300 giant and perfectly spherical stone balls.
What makes these stone spheres so fascinating is that no one really knows how or why they were made. The stones of Diquis, as they are known, are regarded as a UNESCO Heritage Site. It is believed by archaeologists, that they represented solar systems.
Japan’s Under-Water Monuments
Way back in 1986 a local Japanese man and director of Yonaguni-Cho Tourism Association, Kihachiro Aratake, found something very interesting. It was a discovery so fascinating that it attracted the attention of Ryukyus University’s geology department and, in particular, professor Masaaki Kimura.
What they found were giant segments of limestone that created the impression of a mystical sunken city. It is believed that these giant slabs were naturally formed, though the discovery is often incorrectly said to be a city by various online sites.
Mystery Stone in Canada
Two Canadian sisters from Kitchener were going for a relaxing stroll when their eyes spotted something unusual in their garden. They approached the mysterious object with suspicion and curiosity as they dug it out, finding something seemingly from another world.
Well, not really; what they did find was a great yellowish rock that they have still been unable to identify. While this strange object might remain a head-scratcher for experts, we are sure the sisters will find the answer someday.
A Fortune-ate Day
Back in 2011, Wayne Sabai was digging around in his garden, enjoying a peaceful day and harvesting his homegrown veggies. It was pleasantly ordinary, that is, until he spotted a mysterious black nylon bag just lying on the ground near his broccoli patches.
Wayne opened the bag and was shocked as he found close to $150,000 inside it! Wayne, being a man of morals, quickly called the police to come to investigate. The money apparently belonged to his neighbor, who thought it was cursed.
Stone from the Bronze Age
In 2001 England, Stephen Davis had been consumed by curiosity over the strange giant stones that lay in his garden. Having finally had enough of not knowing, Stephen decided to call his good friend Clare, who was a professional historian.
After Clare and her colleagues spent some time studying the rocks, they came back to Stephen with some fascinating answers. It turns out the rocks actually date back to the Bronze Age some 2500 years ago! What a cool find!
There seems to be a trend of British families digging up their gardens and uncovering old treasures. With England’s long history, this isn’t all that surprising. In 2020, one family was tending to their garden and unearthed a piece of history.
They found over 60 gold coins dating to the reign of Henry VIII and Edward IV. At the time of their minting, these coins would have been worth the equivalent of £14,000 by today’s standards. But their historical value is priceless.
A Lump of Gold
Back in the mid-19th century, California was a very different place from what it is now. One of the most known events to have taken place at this time was the famous California Gold Rush. An event mentioned in many Westerns.
Well, it seems like not all of the gold was dug up back then. For instance, this modern Californian chap decided to scan his property with a metal detector. With which he found a 4 kg lump of gold valued at $460,000!
Ancient Human Remains
So far, for the most part, most of these discoveries have either been really cool or super valuable. Unfortunately, not everyone is that lucky when it comes to their discovery. Sometimes you’ll find something a little more unsettling and disturbing.
This family from Utah for example who, in 2014, found human remains! But don’t worry, it’s not as disturbing as you think. Upon getting the remains tested, it turned out the body belonged to a Native American who died thousands of years ago.
Speaking of remains, a group of friends was tending to their vegetable garden before digging up something totally unexpected. What they found looked like a giant bone from an unknown animal. So, they decided to contact Michigan University’s paleontology department.
The department quickly started on the task of figuring out what the bone was. Well, it turns out that the bone was a femur that belong to a mammoth that lived 15000 years ago. Department decided to name the mammoth after the farmer.
A British man named Ken Allen sought to create a pond in his yard. The Thornbury resident began digging when he uncovered a find much more valuable than a water feature. Waiting on his property was a collection of nearly 11.5k coins.
These coins are thought to come from the 1st century AD, between 260 and 348 AD. With a large collection dating back so far, it’s safe to say that this collection is priceless. It now resides in the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery.
A buried 17th-century Graveyard
In 2011 a man was in the process of planning to build an outdoor swimming pool in his backyard. As he was starting to dig up the area, he stopped when he realized that his property was built atop a 17th-century graveyard.
The graveyard contained 12 caskets all filled with human remains! We can only imagine how much a fright that must have been to find. We do not know what has since become of the graveyard, nor the man’s pool plans.
Another Mastodon Bone
It seems like it is not as rare to unearth animal fossils as we thought. A number of years ago, two young boys decided to build a dam along a nearby riverbed. As they dug, they stumbled upon a mastodon vertebra.
According to John Zawiskie, the geologist who analyzed it, this particular fossil was said to be 13000 years old. It is believed that the species to which the fossil belonged became extinct 10000 years ago. No doubt the boys were very surprised.
Dinosaur Bone in Britain
In 1997 in Suffolk, England, a retired banker hired builders to work on his property. A simple and ordinary task at first glance. That is until they happened to unearth the limb bone remains of the ancient and aquatic pliosaur.
Surprisingly, it took the banker 16 years before he had it examined. The pliosaur is said to have lived between 60-250 million years ago. It is theorized that it also had the strongest bite of any animal that has ever lived.
China’s Longyou Caves
In China, there exists the famous Longyou Caves, an intricate system of 24 sandstone caverns close to 2000 years old. The caves were long thought to have been only just a myth, that is until they were discovered in 1992.
Located near the Qu River, a group of farmers came across the caves while they were draining their fields. What is more interesting about the caves is that one really knows who made them or why. Another mystery for the ages.
Cannonball from New Orleans
Most of you probably won’t know this, but interestingly enough there was a battle in New Orleans in back 1815. The battle was fought between the British and United States armies. There are even still some relics of the battle.
A great one was an actual cannonball that a local found buried deep in his fishpond. These cannonballs are said to have weighed around 15 kg! We’re sure that there are more finds like this scattered about the area; perhaps this find inspired his neighbors to start digging.
Medieval Gold Coins
In 2015 a group of Israeli divers was exploring the coastline around the ancient port city of Caesarea. While scouring the deep waters, they happened to find a 6 kg container filled with golden coins — coins they initially thought to be fake.
Well, you can only imagine their surprise when they were told that the coins were not only real but extremely old. The coins dated to the 11th century and likely belonged to a Mediterranean merchant ship that sunk beneath the waters.
Ancient European Tunnels
China isn’t the only country to have had extensive tunnel networks. In fact, it’s likely a shared feature with countries and nations all over the world. Sadly, the tunnel network we wanted to mention is rather embellished. Let’s see why.
An erdstall is a type of tunnel that can be found all across Europe and dates to the Middle Ages. What’s false about the tunnels is that they stretched from Scotland to Turkey — a reminder to not blindly trust every on the internet.
Norse Settlement in Canada
This is L’Anse Aux Meadows, an archaeological site that was first excavated in 1960. The site is home to the surviving remains of a Norse settlement that survived over 1000 years. This was a discovery that added to the theory of Norse explorers.
Located on the island of Newfoundland, the settlement stands as the only undisputed site of Norse occupation in the Americas. It is theorized that this settlement is linked to and represents the settlement mentioned in the Norse tale, Vinland Sage.
South Africa to England
Here we have another story of old coins, though the origin of the currency and the location of discovery don’t match. In 2020, one person was, you guessed in, digging in their garden in England. There, they found 50 old coins.
These 22-carat gold coins were minted in South Africa in the 1970s. This collection holds several mysteries, starting with how they got to England. The status of the estimated £1,500-£2,000 collection is currently unknown. Reportedly, the British Museum attempted to track the heirs.
Star of Murfreesboro
On one normal March afternoon, a man named John Pollock was wandering in a state park in Arkansas — the Crater of Diamonds State Park, to be specific. This might not have been his literal backyard, but his discovery was worth sharing on our list.
As you can tell by the location’s name, diamonds have been uncovered there countless times before, but it’s rare for a visitor to stumble upon one. Pollock was particularly lucky that day when he found a 34.25-carat diamond, valued around $95000 by 2006.
An Unexpected House Guest
So far, we have seen people uncover valuable pieces of jewelry, luxury cars, and other strange, buried peculiarities. But what we have not seen was anything that was still living. Well, that is just what one little boy from England discovered.
One morning Toby Taylor from Cambridgeshire, England, found an adult cheetah just relaxing in his garden. This discovery was made even stranger when you consider the geography. The cheetah had apparently escaped from their local zoo, where it was quickly and safely returned.