Civilizations | People tend to imagine the past as grandiose, more spectacular than the present, and to think that the ancients had knowledge that we can not reach. This trend was fed by the archaeological finds of important cities whose existence was not even known. Today it seems absurd that something as big as a city can be lost. But the cities have always fallen, abandoned for various reasons, and have remained unknown to history for centuries or even thousands of years.
These 10 cities are some of the most famous lost cities. But they are not alone; examples are countless. And maybe there are still other lost cities that we have not yet discovered.
Any discussion of “lost cities” will undoubtedly be mentioned in Atlantis. But we have no concrete evidence to support the idea that Atlantis Civilizations really existed outside Plato’s allegory. But there are other cities that have had the fate of Atlantis, as the Greek philosopher presents us, namely cities swallowed by the waters.
Pavlopetri was a pre-classical Greek town, founded in the Stone Age. The fact that the city came under the waters provided archaeologists with unique information about their lives at that time. Other sites were partially destroyed by further construction, but Pavlopetri remained uncontaminated. Perhaps the city has gotten under the water as a result of rising water levels and earthquakes.
“The Palace of the Rock,” Colorado
The Pueblo Civilization, from the southwestern United States of America, take their name from the villages (pueblos in Spanish) that they build. Communities pueblo exist today, but one of the most fruitful epochs in the history of this community is that of the ancient Anasazi society from the years 900-1200. The rock palace was built in this golden age of the Anasazi tribe.
According to dendrochronological analyzes, most of the buildings in this site were built around 1200. The site was inhabited only for a short period of time and was abandoned until 1300, remaining hidden until it was rediscovered in 1888. Looking for lost cattle, Richar Wetherill, Charles Mason, and an American from the Ute tribe found the old buildings protected by a rock wall.
There is no reason why the site was abandoned, but the theory accepted by most specialists is that the first of the major droughts that affected the American continent in the centuries before the arrival of the Europeans destroyed agriculture throughout the region and the populations had to move.
Civilizations Akrotiri, Santorini
Minoan civilization in Crete owes its name to the legendary King Minos, who built the famous labyrinth. Written sources are very few, so we do not know what the name they had adopted for themselves. The whole civilization disappears from the knowledge of the people until the beginning of the 20th century. With the rediscovery of the great palace of Knossos, the glory of Minoan civilization reborn.
Although Knossos is a lost city, there is another, as interesting: Akrotiri, on the island of Santorini, was an outpost of the Cretans. Today it is believed that the eruption of the volcano Thera, on the same island, in 1600 BC would have led to the collapse of the Minoan empire. The discovery of the Akrotiri Fortress in 1967 revealed very well-presented frescoes, three-storey houses and a well-organized settlement. The water supply system suggests that the inhabitants of the fortress had access to both cold water and hot water, with the warm water being provided by the volcano that caused them to perish.
The Mayan city of Tikal was once the capital of a Mayan kingdom and one of the largest cities in the New World. The site was inhabited between the years 200-900. Due to the exceptional conservation status of the city, today we know many things about the grandeur of Tikal in the years of its peak. Like other New World ruins, this site is thought to have been suddenly abandoned mysteriously, but research has shown that the land could not have accommodated a large number of people who were known to live there anyway.
It seems that the city has been gradually abandoned for many years, being abandoned to the jungle. However, some locals would have known of its existence: over the centuries there have been many rumours about a lost city. The first organized expedition found the city in 1848. The explorers came across the largest of New World’s archaeological sites, with pyramids of 70 meters high here, royal palaces and show arenas.
Timgad, or – for Latinists – Colonia Marciana Ulpia Traiana Thamugadi, is, by excellence, the lost city of the adventure novels. Once an effervescent city, founded in the desert at the orders of Emperor Trajan, Timgad survived the collapse of the Roman Empire and became an important commercial point.
After being betrayed in the 5th century, he reborn as a Christian centre. A second big robbery took place in the 7th century, the vandals’ opera, and this led to the city’s definitive abandonment. Over time, the sand of the Sahara desert has covered the city and contributed to preserving the city. It was rediscovered in 1881.
Today, the ruins of Timgad offer an astonishing view of the Roman cities of the African provinces. Trajan’s Arch, typical Roman baths and the Temple of Jupiter can be seen today. The temple is as large as the Pantheon in Rome, and this is a proof of the importance that the Romans gave to Timgad.
Machu Picchu Civilizations, Peru
No list of lost cities would be complete without Machu Picchu. This old Inca city, located on top of the Andes, has been inhabited for a relatively short period of time, probably between 1450-1572, before being abandoned as a result of the Spanish conquest. How Spaniards have never found the city and the natives did not reveal the secret of the Incas, Machu Picchu was known to the West until the twentieth century.
American archaeologist Hiram Bingham is the first foreigner to come here until 1911. There are still debates about city functions – if it was a good fit, a royal city or a religious sanctuary. Today it is very easy to get to Machu Picchu, with a regular bus line leading tourists to the top of the mountain.
Civilizations Mohenjo-Daro, Pakistan
Together with Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilization, the one in the Indus Valley is considered to be one of the earliest great civilizations of the world. Sciences, writing, commerce, crafts, religion and agriculture have seen remarkable progress in this civilization that peaked sometime around 2000 BC. Its advanced nature can be seen in the ancient city of Mojenjo-Daro, with its tidy streets and complex drainage system. Unlike the cities mentioned above, there is no palace or temple to stand out. Therefore, some scholars believe that the civilization of Indus Valley would have been an egalitarian one.
As we know too little about this ancient society, such an assertion is quite bold. The floods caused by the Ind River are apparently the basis for the destruction of the city at least six times. Every time, new cities were built directly over the ruins of the old ones. The cause of the definitive abandonment of the city – about 1800 BC – is unknown. Mohenjo-Daro was rediscovered only in 1922.
Petra Civilizations, Jordan
The inclusion of Petra in this list can be considered controversial since we can not say that it was indeed lost. It has been abandoned, that’s for sure, but it is likely that the locals knew of its existence. In any case, the city of Petra has been unknown to the West for at least 1000 years. Pliny the Elder mentions Petra as being taken over by Romans in the year 103. The desert city flourished until an earthquake destroyed the vital water supply system.
With other nearby towns, it was easier for the population to move than to begin reconstructing the destroyed ones. Since then, the site has been left to the desert, attracting only adventure travellers or grave thieves. Today, the city of Petra is one of the most important archaeological sites in the Middle East. Half-built and half-dug in stone, Petra is certainly one of the architectural wonders of Antiquity.
“Sing to me, goddess, the wrath that ignited Achilles Peleus” … so begins Homer’s Iliad, one of the fundamental texts of Western civilization. For a long time, it has been thought that Troy is a legendary city, like Atlantis. Then, in 1871, a self-taught classicist, Heinrich Schliemann, financed excavations on the site of a mound in Hisarlık, Turkey. There – where antiquity was a city called Ilium, after the Iliad – the archaeologists found huge defensive walls similar to those described by Homer.
Besides the walls of Troy, Schliemann also found gold jewellery that he presented as the jewels of Elena. The treasure, known as the Priam Treasure, was considered lost after disappearing from Berlin in 1945, but it was known that it had come into the hands of the Soviets. They “seized” the treasure as compensation for the destruction caused by the USSR by Germany during the Second World War.
Research has revealed that the city was founded close to 3000 BC. and that it was destroyed several times. After each destruction, it was built directly on ruins. There is a debate about which of these layers belongs to the besieged city of the Greeks. In any case, the imposing walls of the city, archaeologists say, would have far outpaced any siege weapon available to the Greeks. It seems, then, that reality confirms Homer’s story and the need to use a trickster like a Trojan horse.
“Some were so afraid of dying that they were praying to die,” wrote Plinius the Young about the eruption of the Vesuvius in the year 79. His uncle, the famous Plinius the Older, had left with the Roman fleet to save those stuck at the foot of the volcano. The expedition cost him his life.
The ash that took so many lives in the 70’s preserved the two cities instead of 1700 years. Many think of Roman cities as a perfect world of white marble, but Pompey brings to light a city with many features that we recognize today. There are even political slogans on the walls: “Vote for Lucius Popidius Sabinus.” The city became a real goldmine for archaeologists in the 20th century and is an important tourist attraction.