War, natural disasters, migration of inhabitants etc. are a few of the relevant causes that can cause a city to be denoted as “lost”. All those cities which are lost and discovered later have been observed to have left a complete civilization frozen in history. Discovery and re-discovery of such lost treasure and civilizations have always been fascinating. Here is a list of ten most talked about lost cities from around the world.
Memphis is one of the most important cities throughout ancient Mediterranean history. With the arrival of the Romans, like Thebes, the city lost its place permanently in favor of Alexandria, which opened onto the empire. The rise of the cult of Serapis, a syncretic deity most suited to the mentality of the new rulers of Egypt, and the emergence of Christianity taking root deep into the country spelled the complete ruin of the ancient cults of Memphis.
Tikal is a ruined Mayan city in Guatemala. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been since 1979. Tikal is perhaps the most famous Mayan site outside of Mexico and is one of the largest cities in the Classical Mayan world. Tikal is an absolutely monumental site, with literally thousands of structures in the park, the majority of which haven’t even been excavated, in spite of more than fifty years of archeological work in the area. The visual highlight of Tikal is the collection of six step pyramids, with their temples adorning their summits. The highest of these pyramids are more than 200 feet (60m) high, and they create the iconic images people have come to associate with the Maya.
Ur was once the greatest cities in the world but was abandoned in the 4th century BC. Its magnificent royal tombs and other sites were excavated by archaeologists in 1922-34 and many treasures discovered.
Troy was once thought to have existed only in legends but its site was discovered in the 1870s. The archeologists agreed that the city was destroyed around 1250 BC and resembled closely the city of Troy as described in Homer’s legends. The ruins could still be seen in the sixteen feet thick towers and walls of the city that was discovered.
The entire city was buried by volcanic ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79. Nearby Herculaneum was buried at the same time. Excavations began in 1748 and many treasures have been uncovered, including beautifully preserved murals (wall paintings). Plaster casts have been made of the bodies of inhabitants who were buried beneath the debris.
The ruins of Machu Picchu, rediscovered in 1911 by Yale archaeologist Hiram Bingham, are one of the most beautiful and enigmatic ancient sites in the world. While the Inca people certainly used the Andean mountain top (9060 feet elevation), erecting many hundreds of stone structures from the early 1400’s, legends and myths indicate that Machu Picchu (meaning ‘Old Peak’ in the Quechua language) was revered as a sacred place from a far earlier time. Whatever its origins, the Inca turned the site into a small (5 square miles) but extraordinary city.
The native American Indian city was built on a cliffside but was abandoned during a long drought in the late 13th century. It lay unknown until 18th December 1988, when Richard Wetherill, a local farmer, spotted it while looking for stray cattle.
Chichen Itza was once the center of the Mayan empire. It was built in about AD 400 and had many buildings used in Mayan rituals. The city was abandoned in AD 1200.
Some people believe that there were a city and island of Atlantis, perhaps in the Mediterranean, that was destroyed by an earthquake and flooding almost 12,000 years ago. No one knows exactly where it was or even whether it really existed.
Angkor was once the largest city in the world and more than a million people lived there. The city had an area of more than 78sq km and was surrounded by a water-filled moat. It was abandoned in about AD 1100. French naturalist Henri Mouhot was the first westerner to discover the city in 1861.