Top 10 Civilizations that Disappeared Mysteriously

Updated on 23 Jan, 2014 at 7:52 pm


Civilizations began emerging in the Neolithic times and since then there have been various settlements all over the world the existence of which shaped the times that followed to the present day. Cities developed leading to stable agriculture and animal domestication; and, these settlements went on to become civilizations. But great civilizations, flourishing and prosperous cities, too, were reduced to rubbles for reasons unknown till date. History has been witness to several such civilizations which rose to prominence during their time but disappeared suddenly often leaving behind no clue as to what caused such a thing to happen. Sometimes historians are able to explain the cause of disappearance which makes us wonder how an advanced civilization of its times could be forced into oblivion. With the top 10 civilizations that disappeared mysteriously we travel back to the times.

10. Civilization of Nabta Playa:

It was the seat of a civilization which, today, is the western Egyptian desert. But it wasn’t so around 7000 and 6500 BCE, when it is believed to have been a humid period. Above ground and below ground stone construction, villages designed in pre-planned arrangements and deep wells that held water throughout the year were some of the main features of this civilization. Perhaps change in climate caused the civilization to decline but no one can tell for certain.

Civilization of Nabta Playa

9. Anasazi civilization:

The Anasazi or Ancestral Puebloans were an ancient Native American culture who lived in a range of structures, including pit houses, pueblos, and cliff dwellings designed so that they could lift entry ladders during enemy attacks, which provided security.  They are believed to have emerged on the scene in and around the 12th century BCE. The civilization is believed to have fallen victim to repeated droughts in the American Southwest. Overpopulation is also attributed to its decline.

Anasazi civilization - Top 10 Civilizations that Disappeared Mysteriously

8. Minoan Civilization:

It was a Bronze Age civilization that arose on the island of Crete. It is believed to have developed from 27th century BCE to the 15th century BCE. Though inhabitants settled in Crete as early as the Middle Paleolithic age, the first signs of advanced agriculture appeared only around 5000 BCE. The Thera eruption is believed to have been catastrophic to the culture leading to its collapse making it one of the prominent civilizations that disappeared almost mysteriously.

Minoan Civilization

7. Civilization of Angkor:


What is today the Angkor Wat in Cambodia was actually a part of a glorious civilization. Angkor was the seat of the Khmer Empire which was at its peak between approximately the 9th and 15th century. The ruins of Angkor are located amid forests and farmland to the north of the Great Lake and south of the Kulen Hills in Siem Reap Province. The temples of the Angkor area are said to be the world’s largest single religious monument. Natural disasters like disease, earthquakes, inundations or drastic climate changes are attributed as probable causes for the rapid decline and disappearance of this great civilization.

Civilization of Angkor - Top 10 Civilizations that Disappeared Mysteriously

6. Civilization of Catalhöyük:

Catalhöyük is the largest and best-preserved Neolithic site found to date. It existed from 7500 BC to 5700 BC and was a very large Neolithic and Chalcolithic settlement in southern Anatolia. The interesting aspect of this civilization was that there were no roads. Houses were instead built in a hive like structure where the entrance was through the roofs. Nothing much is known about Catalhöyük except that it was an agricultural civilization that disappeared mysteriously.

Civilization of Catalhöyük

5. Mycenaean civilization:

Mycenaean Greece was a cultural period of the Bronze Age. It was named after the archaeological site of Mycenae in southern Greece. The cradle of much of the ancient Greek literature and myth, it was around 1100 BC that the civilization collapsed and the region entered a dark age. Historians believe that invasion, natural calamities like earthquakes or droughts or uprising by the Dorians was responsible for its disappearance.

Mycenaean civilization

4. Rapa Nui civilization or the Easter Island:

The Easter Island is a Polynesian island in the south-eastern Pacific Ocean. It was in the first millennium CE that Polynesian people settled here. The famous stone statues with human heads known as the Moai situated along the island’s coastline add to the legendary stature of the place. It is said that the civilization declined gradually due to overpopulation which led to gradual deforestation and extinction of natural resources.

Rapa Nui civilization

3. Civilization of the Olmec:

The Olmec was the first major civilization in Mexico along the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico. It was between 1500 BCE to about 400 BCE, known as the Mesoamerica’s formative period that the Olmec flourished. It was the first Mesoamerican civilization with ritual bloodletting. Mesoamerican ballgame is some of their contributions to future civilizations. Environmental changes like tectonic upheavals or subsidence which rendered the land unsuitable for farming is likely to have caused the eventual extinction of the Olmec culture.

Civilization of the Olmec - Top 10 Civilizations that Disappeared Mysteriously

2. Mayan civilization:

The Mayans was a Mesoamerican civilization founded during the Pre-classic period. Apart from its art, architecture and astronomical systems, the Mayans are known to have used a fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas. They are even known to have fully developed advances like writing, epigraphy and the calendar. Around 100 AD, however, there was widespread decline of Mayan cities which is known today as the Preclassic Collapse. Climate change, overpopulation, foreign invasion, peasant revolt, and the collapse of key trade routes are often attributed to the deterioration.

Mayan civilization - Top 10 Civilizations that Disappeared Mysteriously

1. The Indus Valley Civilization:


The greatest of all civilizations that disappeared mysteriously was the Indus Valley Civilization. It was a Bronze Age civilization which flourished around the Indus river basin in the Indian subcontinent. It is one of the largest known ancient civilizations having had a spread of over some 1,260,000 km². At its peak, the Indus Valley civilization is believed to have had a population of well over five million. There are several theories relating to its sudden disappearance staring from invasion by an Indo-European tribe from Central Asia called the “Aryans”, drought, decline in trade with Egypt and Mesopotamia and more. None of them is, however, conclusive.

The Indus Valley Civilization