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History Stories

This Year in HISTORY: 2015

As we close the book on 2015, take a look back at some of the remarkable stories that made history this year.


Seventy years after the end of World War II, we commemorated the Allies’ final push to Berlin and the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, explored Mussolini’s final hours, looked back at how the world celebrated V-E Day, met a Japanese engineer who survived two atomic bombs, and found out how physics helped solve the mystery of one of history’s most famous kisses.

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This was a busy year for Egyptologists, with news of the discovery of two ancient burial sites, and the revelation that Queen Nefertiti may be buried behind a secret door in King Tut’s tomb. We also took a look inside Egypt’s famed animal mummies, explored the unusual history of a 4,000-year old manuscript, and learned some surprising facts about Cleopatra. Not all was well in in the land of the pharaohs, however, thanks to the accidental damage caused to King Tut’s legendary mask, and the discovery that the “Meidum Geese,” a painting known as the “Mona Lisa” of Ancient Egypt, is likely a fake.

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The Buddha alongside an image from an earlier CT scan.

The Buddha alongside an image from an earlier CT scan.

What were some of 2015’s most bizarre discoveries? How about the mummified monk found inside an ancient Buddha statue? Or the 17th-century “war camel” discovered in an Austrian cellar? And then there was the medieval remedy being used to kill a modern superbug. And the bizarre hybrid animal remains found in an Iron Age grave in Britain. And we were fascinated by the CT scan that revealed the body of a baby buried at the feet of a mummified Swedish bishop? This year really had it all.


Leif Eriksson statue in Reykjavik, Iceland (

Leif Eriksson statue in Reykjavik, Iceland (

Vikings, Vikings and more Vikings! Among the Norse-inspired news this year was the construction of a new Viking temple in Iceland, the accidental find of a 1,200-year-old Viking sword by a Norwegian hiker, the 9th-century grave that shed light on a unique link between Vikings and the Islamic world and the December discovery of a hoard of 1,100-year-old coins and Viking jewelry that could rewrite English history.


Itai with the head of the statuette he found on Tel Beit Shemesh. (Credit: Courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority/the Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Itai with the head of the statuette he found on Tel Beit Shemesh. (Credit: Courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority/the Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

In 2015, we were in awe of the 8-year-old boy with dreams of becoming a real-life Indian Jones who uncovered a 3,000-year-old relic, and the teenaged girl who proved historical scholarship isn’t solely the realm of tweedy academics. And we can thank serendipity for its role in some of the year’s most unlikely finds, including a treasure trove of letters that have remained unopened for more than 300 years, the prehistoric wooly mammoth bones unearthed by a Michigan farmer, the medieval skeleton that rose from a grave thanks to a violent storm, and the construction worker’s discovery of a mass grave for victims of the 1918 flu pandemic. A tip of the HISTORY hat to all!

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A decade after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, we caught up with several of the survivors featured in our exclusive video series, “I Was There: Hurricane Katrina,” and asked them to reflect on the changes they’ve seen in the past 10 years, and the importance of rebuilding New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Katrina’s destruction.

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America’s colonial history was big news this year. In January, one of the nation’s oldest time capsules was opened, revealing artifacts originally planted by Samuel Adams and Paul Revere in 1795, and this summer saw the discovery of new clues to long-lingering mysteries surrounding Jamestown and the “lost colony” of Roanoke. We explored the real-life haunts of the Sons of Liberty, drank up the sudsy story of Samuel Adams’ career in the beer business, got the scoop on the lives of Revolutionary leaders such as John Adams, Joseph Warren and the Marquis de Lafayette, and brushed up on some Revolutionary war facts and figures.

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This was also the year we learned the saucy stories behind famous films the censors tried to kill, explored the life of Hollywood’s forgotten first movie star—and the death of one of its legends, found out what happened the day Dylan went electric and when Disneyland had a disastrous opening day, discovered the real history that inspired “Star Wars and the true story of the “Sound of Music”, checked out surprising facts about the “Peanuts comic strip and the “Wizard of Oz”, and untangled the bizarre legal history of one of the world’s most famous songs.

gone with the wind


As the sesquicentennial of the end of the American Civil War and the Lincoln Assassination approached, we retraced the war’s final days with a look back at the civilian who had a front row seat to some of the conflict’s most dramatic moments, explored six battles that were fought after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, got the story behind the tragic maritime disaster that claimed the lives of the war’s veterans  and found out why the Confederate’s final surrender happened in the most unlikely of places. We checked out 10 surprising facts about the Lincoln assassination, learned what Abraham Lincoln said in his final speech, found out more about the the other targets of Booth’s conspiracy, went inside the hunt for Lincoln’s killer, found out who received the reward offered up for Booth’s capture and even explored the bizarre story of the John Wilkes Booth “mummy” that toured America.

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We shed some light on the surprising history of some favorite holiday traditions, including the origins of Oktoberfest and Black Friday, the Puritan’s colonial-era ban on Christmas, why we leave out cookies and milk for Santa Claus and whether or not the first Thanksgiving was actually held in Florida. And we wrapped up the year with a look back at Christmas through the decades, remembering the 1968 Apollo 8 Christmas Eve broadcast, and exploring the history of some of the holiday’s most popular toys.

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