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December 24, 2012 04:00 ET

What Lies Beneath: Hidden Discoveries of Turkey and Egypt

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - Dec. 24, 2012) - It's been a fantastic year for archaeology: archaeologists in south-eastern Turkey made a chance discovery in August 2012 as they excavated a site near the city of Mardin in the Kiziltepe district.

The dig enjoyed early success when the team unearthed a toy cart diligently carved from stone, complete with two wheels and a working axis. Archaeologist Mesut Alp confirmed his suspicions that the cart dates back to the Stone Age, making it at least 7,500 years old and proving an early knowledge of the wheel. Following the discovery of the cart, the team also found several fully functional whistles between 5,000 and 6,000 years old.

Spurred on by their success, the archaeologists went on to unearth something completely unique to the region. Several theatrical masks of Roman origin were discovered at the site, reportedly the first of their kind to be discovered on Turkish soil.

The masks date from approximately 2,000 years ago, and as no known theatre was established in the Mardin province during that time, experts believe they may have come from a travelling theatre troupe from Rome. Despite much speculation, a concrete explanation as to why the masks were left behind is yet to be reached.

Meanwhile, 2012 marks 90 years since the discovery of Tutankhamun's breath-taking tomb, almost perfectly preserved after over 1,500 years. The 19-year-old Pharaoh was buried in a tomb smaller than usual for his royal status, perhaps indicating that his death was unexpected. While a few small items appear to have been removed from the tomb since its burial, experts deduced that the robbery most likely occurred immediately after the tomb was sealed.

Discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter and George Herbert, Tutankhamun's tomb inspired a fresh wave of interest in the country of Egypt and its fascinating ancient civilisation. The Pharaoh's ornate golden burial mask has become a symbol of Ancient Egypt. The tomb was not out of the ordinary for a leader of that time, receiving little attention following the Pharaoh's burial, and it was eventually lost, buried under piles of stone chips from other constructions. However, its discovery 90 years ago continues to spark debate today - and to draw thousands of tourists every year to visit this spectacular historical site.

Inspired by this year's archaeological highlights? Get to Turkey with Cosmos, with great package holiday deals starting from just £210 per person. Egypt holidays are also on offer with Cosmos, with trips to Luxor starting from just £274 per person. For more information on affordable holidays to Turkey, Egypt and other fantastic destinations worldwide, visit cosmos.co.uk.

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