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The Talmud records an (apparently failed) archeological attempt at establishing a particular point of rabbinic law: Rabbah b. Bar Hana related: We were once travelling in a desert and there joined us an Arab merchant who, [by] taking up sand and smelling it [could] tell which was the way to one place and which was the way to another. We said unto him: 'How ...


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St Augustine, in the City of God, citing Livy A certain one Terentius had a field at the Janiculum, and once, when his ploughman was passing the plough near to the tomb of Numa Pompilius, he turned up from the ground the books of Numa, in which were written the causes of the sacred institutions; which books he carried to the prætor, who, having read the ...


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In his commentary on Beowulf, Tolkien makes the point that the dragon's hoard of gold in his barrow represents an ancient view of archaeology, of an attempt to explain remnants of older civilization: The scene in the barrow passes at once into an elegiac retrospect on the forgotten lords who placed their gold in the hoard, and then died one by one until it ...


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This depends on definition. Surely people who were interested in buried treasure or religious relics existed all the time. But they mostly were looking for valuables for personal gain or religious insight than were motivated by scientific interest. During the time of Jesus, for instance, there was one would-be-prophet who was leading people around claiming ...


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In the biblical book of 2nd Kings chapter 22, there's the story of Josiah repairing the temple and his high priest discovering an old scroll of the Torah. They have it read out to the court, realize how far they've strayed, and tear their robes and recommit. [Josiah to servants] “Have these men pay the workers who repair the temple of the Lord — the ...


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As I remember, the Babylonian sequence of the movie Intolerance (1916) describes Prince Belshazzar in charge at Babylon while King Nabonidus is away doing archeological excavations. I think that the title cards used the word archaeology or archaeological. From Wikipedia, Nabonidus (who reigned from 556–539 BC): Nabonidus is known as the first archaeologist....


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They were interested, at least when this interest could serve some political purpose: Herodotus in Book 1, Chapter 68 describes how the Spartans uncovered in Tegea the body of Orestes which was seven cubits long -- around 10 feet. In his book, 'The Comparison of Romulus with Theseus' Plutarch describes how the Athenians uncovered the body of Theseus, which ...


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The true cross is supposed to have been found in an excavation in the 4th century CE. Not so much related to archeology, but historical sightseeing, at least for propaganda purposes, definitely was a thing. E.g. Xerxes, Alexander the Great, Caracalla and Julian the apostate all visited (what they thought to be) the ruins of Troy.


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