Japanese officials say they have found a mass grave on the island of Iwo Jima that may contain up to 2,000 bodies according to AOL News. Iwo Jima was the site of one of the bloodiest battles of World War II when U.S. Marines attempted to take and hold the island. Known as “island hopping”, U.S. forces increasing tried to get closer and closer to the Japanese main islands so they could conduct bombing raids. Iwo Jima was considered a step closer to reaching that goal. Over 6,500 Americans and 21,000 Japanese lost their lives on Iwo Jima which today is occupied by Japanese Self-Defense Forces.
Iwo Jima was an icon for World War II in the United States. With so many deaths on the battlefield the discovery of a mass grave shouldn’t be a surprise. When compared to great archaeological finds over the past decade this discovery on Iwo Jima may not seem so significant.
In June of 2007 archaeologists announced an astonishing find. They had finally located the mummy of one of Egypt’s most important queens. Hatshepsut was one of the most powerful queens in Egyptian antiquity. The tomb in which the mummy was found was discovered in 1903 but the body was not identified as Hatshepsut until 2007 according to BBC News.
National Geographic has a photographic spread you can view. The evidence linking the mummy to the queen was a missing tooth which matches a preserved tooth engraved with Hatshepsut’s name. The tomb was located in the Valley of the Kings along the Nile.
Ancient Hebrew Alphabet
In 2005 a portion of a wall in a building south of Jerusalem was found to have been inscribed with letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The building was dated to the 10th Century BCE and the inscription was in the traditional order of the alphabet.
Dr. Ron Tappy of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary made the discovery on the last day of a dig at the ancient site of Tel Zayit according to Israel National News. The find has helped archaeologists understand just how long ago humans developed writing systems.
Civil War Prison
The Civil War prisoner of war camp at Andersonville is the most infamous but another large site was recently discovered in August 2010. Students at Georgia Southern University were conducting a dig at Magnolia Springs State Park in Georgia when many Union artifacts and a stockade were found at what is believed to be the Lawton prison camp.
Lawton replaced Andersonville and existed for six weeks during the Civil War according to CNN. Its exact location wasn’t known until the discovery as the camp was abandoned when Union forces approached. Between 725 and 1,330 men died at the prison camp.
Iwo Jima’s Find
The most reassuring thing about the find of a mass grave at Iwo Jima is that family and descendants of those soldiers can now finally have some closure as to what happened to their loved ones. The generation who fought in World War II is disappearing very quickly now that all of those people are in their 80s and 90s.
The find probably won’t change our perspective on what happened at Iwo Jima. However the mass grave will bring to light the sacrifices made of the soldiers in order to win one of the most important wars in world history.
Collins, Hugh, “Grave Containing Up to 2,000 Bodies Found on Iwo Jima”, AOLNews.com.
BBC News, “‘Find of the century’ for Egyptology”, BBCNews.co.uk.
National Geographic, “Photo Gallery: Mummy of Egypt’s ‘Lost Queen’ Found”, News.NationalGeographic.com.
Ratzlav-Katz, Nissan, “A Series of Dramatic Archaeological Finds”, IsraelNationalNews.com.
Gast, Phil, “Major archaeological find at site of Civil War prison”, CNN.com.