Nowadays, with the development of science and technology, the quality of life has been improved. Nothing seems to be able to limit human intelligence. When we reach the peak of knowledge, it is also time to return to our roots. Destroyed by war or buried by the sea, these legendary places have been forgotten by the world for millennia. If you are interested in discovering ancient civilizations and historical values, you should not miss information about famous lost cities in human history.
In this post is 25 lost cities of the world that surely you will find interesting to explore and learn more.
Lost Cities in Africa
1. Timgad – Algeria
Timgad was once a flourishing city in Algeria. It was under the domination of the ancient Roman empire. In fact, Emperor Trajan built the city around 100 AD.
The location of this ancient city is in the Aures Mountains. It was named in memory of the mother of the emperor Trajan, Marcia. Timgad became an abandoned place after the Vandals and Berbers repeatedly ravaged and plundered in the 5th and 7th centuries. A while later, it was permanently buried by sand from the Sahara.
Fortunately, archaeologists still found and unearthed one of the remaining ancient cities in the world. Timgad was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1982. Today, people know about this place as an ideal example of the great urban planning ability of the ancient Romans.
2. Great Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe
Great Zimbabwe is the name of an abandoned medieval city from time immemorial. The city’s location was in the mountains of southeastern Zimbabwe, near the town of Masvingo. During the last years of the Iron Age, it was the capital of the powerful Kingdom of Zimbabwe.
The Batu people built this city between the 11th and 15th centuries. In addition, they were the first to rule Zimbabwe for 300 years. The highest population this city has ever recorded is estimated at up to 18,000 people.
Later, this place became an abandoned city for various reasons. From unfavorable trade problems, unstable political situations, constant hunger, and especially the scarcity of fresh water becoming more and more serious. In 1871, the first time this city was recognized and officially excavated again.
3. Heracleion – Egypt
Heracleion is an ancient city in Egypt. The city was founded around the 8th century BC at the mouth of the Nile River. Also, it is known as the busiest and most important trading port of the Egyptian empire. In the 8th century AD, a series of natural disasters suddenly fell and engulfed the entire city to the bottom of the sea.
Until 2000, during an investigation of the coast of Egypt, Heracleion was rediscovered. Divers have found many giant statues of gods, golden manuscripts, animal mummies, shipwrecks, and a lot of gold coins of the prosperous period in this city.
Lost Cities in Asia
4. Angkor Wat – Cambodia
As the world’s largest complex of temples and religious monuments, Angkor Wat is considered the embodiment of the mighty Angkor empire. Covering an area of 162.6 hectares (1,626,000 square meters), Angkor Wat was originally built as a Hindu temple of the Khmer Empire. Then, it gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple at the end of the XII century.
Angkor Wat’s architecture is amazing. The temple is a complex of 5 towers with a central tower and four towers at four square corners. Unlike other Angkor-style temples, this place’s view is mainly to the west. Currently, there is still no reasonable explanation for how the ancient Khmer built the temple.
5. Dvārakā – India
Dvārakā has been recently excavated. The lost city is a well-known sacred city to Buddhism, Kinas, and Hinduism. Besides that, it was once one of the seven spiritual cities of Islam, commonly known as Sapta Puri. It is also the hometown of the famous god Krishna.
According to legend, the city was destroyed in a battle between Lord Krishna and King Salva. The fierce attacks of the two sides severely damaged this city. After that, the city was abandoned and gradually disappeared from the map of the country.
It took thousands of years till the 1980s for scientists from Italy to unearth the ruins of the urban area. The excavation was all based on the descriptions in the legends left behind. The scientists estimated that the lost city was built 9,000 years ago. If this is true, Dvārakā deserves to be considered the oldest city the world has ever known.
6. Ctesiphon – Iraq
Built around 500 BC, the city of Ctesiphon was the bustling capital of the Parthian and Sassanid empires. Furthermore, it was one of the largest cities in Mesopotamia in late antiquity.
Influenced by time and through historical events, today Ctesiphon only remains the archway. Impressively, that is the largest unreinforced brick arch in the world. Indeed, the gate was the pride of the whole Parthian community before the US occupation.
7. Petra – Jordan
Deep in the sandstone hills of the southwestern desert, Jordan, the city of Petra was unknown to the world until 1812 thanks to the travels of Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. The remains here show that the Nabataeans created a flourishing and artistic oasis in the desert. In specific, Petra consists of about 1,000 tombstones, a monastery, and an area for performing ritual sacrifices.
To get here, visitors have to go through a nearly 1.6km narrow gorge. With a history of nearly 9,000 billion years, the city of Petra has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Middle East. Moreover, in 1985, UNESCO recognized Petra as “one of the most valuable cultural assets of mankind”.
8. Mohenjo-Daro – Pakistan
Built-in 2500 BC, Mohenjo-Daro was one of the largest settlements of the Indus valley civilization. After the depression, the city fell into oblivion and was abandoned for about 3,700 years.
Until one day, the Indian archaeologist Banerji accidentally found the lost city during an investigation mission. The precision and sophisticated layout of the houses in the city reflected the developed, advanced society of the Pakistanis at the time. Later, Mohenjo-Daro was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1980.
9. Taxila – Pakistan
Taxila, also known by its full name Takshashila, is an ancient city recently excavated in Pakistan. This historic site locates not far from the present-day city of Taxila in Punjab province, Pakistan, about 35 km northwest of Rawalpindi capital.
It was Darius the Great who first captured Taxila in 518 BC. Subsequently, the city was presented to Alexander the Great. Through many different generations of leaders and rulers, Taxila gradually became a sacred place for Buddhists.
Many people believe that this place was officially built around 1000 BC. It then became the most important city in the region thanks to its favorable geographical position, which is close to the Eastern-West trade route.
After a period of recession, Taxila was finally ravaged and plundered by the Xiongnu in the 5th century AD. In the middle of the 19th century, it was excavated again thanks to the work of Mr. Alexander Cunningham.
10. Sigiriya – Sri Lanka
Sigiriya is a city in Sri Lanka that dates back to the 5th century AD. This city is special as its location is on a giant stone slab up to 200 meters high. Built by King Kasyapa, the only way to enter the city is through a gate made of brick and plaster shaped like a lion’s mouth.
According to ancient Sri Lankan legend, King Kasyapa had been looking for a new place to build his capital. Afterward, he decided to place his palace on top of a large stone slab. Around this stone was decorated with frescoes of different shapes.
Since many hostile forces constantly harassed and occupied the city, Sigiriya’s prosperity did not last long. For a few years, it was once a Buddhist monastery before being abandoned and forgotten. Fortunately, archaeologists from Europe have found the ruins of this ancient city.
11. Palmyra – Syria
Palmyra was an important city in ancient Syria. It was located in an oasis on the northeast 215km from Damascus, and about 120 km southwest of the Euphrates. In the past, the city was a primary stop for long caravans traveling through the Syrian desert. Even, it was considered the bride of the desert.
12. Ani – Turkey
The ghost city’s location is in a valley in the Turkish province of Kars. It’s hard to believe the ruined city of Ani was the capital of the Armenian kingdom in 1045 in the Middle Ages. Once known as the “City of 1001 Churches,” there are only a few ones left. For hundreds of years, Ani was forgotten by the world after being conquered by Mongolia, Georgia, and Turkey. In 1892, the city of Ani was found and the first excavation took place.
13. City of Troy – Turkey
Troy (also known as Troia) is a ruin located in the Anatolia province of Turkey. According to legend, this was the place where the famous conquest took place. From that, it demonstrated the Greek wisdom in using the “Trojan horse” strategy to approach and destroy this city.
In 1870, thanks to the excavation of the site of Hisarlik in northwestern Turkey by German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, the ancient Troy was rediscovered. With its unique architecture and invaluable historical value, the ancient citadel of Troy was recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage site in 1998.
14. Gordium – Turkey
Gordium, or Górdion in Turkish, was the capital of the ancient Phrygia empire. Located in Asia Minor, it is 75 km southwest of Ankara city. This place is famous because it was once ruled by a legendary donkey-eared emperor, King Midas. In 800 BC, the city became a desolate place after Cimmerians devastated it.
According to legend, Alexander the Great once visited this ancient city to solve the famous Gordian knot problem. To explain, whoever can undo this knot will have the right to rule all of Asia. With Alexander, he simply chose to use his sword and cut the knot in half.
Gordium was first excavated by Gustav and Alfred Korte in 1900. Later in between 1950 and 1973, a team of scientists from the Pennsylvania Museum discovered the rest of the city.
15. Hattusa – Turkey
The ancient Hittite capital Hattusa is located near the city of Boğazkale, Turkey. Yes, it has been forgotten for millennia. With the end of the Bronze Age, the city suffered from constant plunder. As a result, the Hittite Empire fall in 1200 BC. The people known as “Sea Peoples” are the culprits behind this invasion. Even, they are also the arch enemies of the ancient Egyptian people. Since that event, the city of Hattusa became an abandoned place and gradually sank into oblivion.
At its peak, Hattusa was once home to more than 45,000 people. By the 20th century, German archaeologists had publicly excavated the lost city. What they found was a whole fortune containing clay tablets, on which were depicted the contents of law to literature.
Lost Cities in Europe
16. Skara Brae – England
Skara Brae is one of the most well-preserved and densely populated areas from the Stone Age in Great Britain. Actually, it is not large enough to be called a city. Yet, it is still an interesting place for tourists from all over the world.
This place was once buried by sea sand for thousands of years before reappearing in 1850 after a big storm. Surprisingly, Skara Brae’s works are preserved intact by the huge sand layer. At first glance, no one would think that these stone works are thousands of years old.
Based on radiocarbon dating, it is predicted that the site was buried between 3200 and 2200 BC. The reason for Skara Brae’s abandonment may result from the erosion of sea sand, plus the amount of garbage from the residential community causing heavy pollution.
17. Stonehenge – England
Stonehenge is a megalithic monument located in Amesbury, England, just outside the city of Oxford. First found in the 1620s, Stonehenge was built around 3,000 BC. It consisted of earthen fortifications surrounding a ring of rock. Especially, each of them is said to be capable of making a sound when being attacked.
Every year, many tourists from all over the world come here to admire the beauty of Stonehenge. They constantly wonder how these stone pillars were arranged properly while there was no supported equipment or any technique in this period. Indeed, the origin of the Stonehenge monument is still a mystery to archaeologists and historians. Tell me if you think it’s made by aliens!
18. Helike – Greece
Have you ever heard of the legendary city Atlantis sinking deep in the Atlantic Ocean? Then, perhaps Helike is the most authentic proof for that story. According to Greek mythology, because of anger at the expulsion of Ionian tribe members from this city, the supreme god Poseidon decided to drown all Helike in the deep sea. In fact, the Helike officially disappeared in 373 BC. It has been forgotten ever since.
It took more than 10 years, thanks to the efforts of two archaeologists who wanted to discover traces of this once city. As a result, Helike was officially excavated back in the 80s of the last century. Many believe that its disappearance is the result of the liquefaction of rocks caused by an earthquake.
19. Pompeii – Italy
Pompeii is the ruins of a partially buried Roman city-state. It’s near the present-day Naples, Italy, in the Campania region of the Pompei commune. Along with Herculaneum, its sister city, Pompeii was destroyed and completely buried. That resulted from a two-day eruption of the Vesuvius volcano in AD 79.
Truly, the Vesuvius volcano collapsed on its high roof and buried Pompeii under 60 feet of ash and pumice. The site totally disappeared for 1,700 years before it was suddenly discovered in 1748. There are thoughts that the eruption washed away all artifacts and works in Pompeii. However, it was the opposite. Because it was frozen by lava and buried underground in conditions of lack of air and humidity, the remains were preserved almost intact. Since then, the excavation of Pompeii has offered a very detailed inside look at life in a city at the height of the Roman Empire.
Currently, Pompeii is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy, with 2,571,725 visitors in 2007.
Lost Cities in North America
20. Hvalsey – Greenland
Located on the island of Hvalsey, Greenland, the Hvalsey stone church is one of the few remaining ruins of the Vikings of Northern Europe. Dating back to the 12th century, it was built by the Erik family – the first Norse household in Greenland. Generally, the church consists of two stone halls and 14 individual houses.
21. Clay Village in Mesa Verde National Park – USA
Once inhabited by the ancient Pueblo people of North America, this village of clay houses and 600 stacked cliff dwellings are located in the caves of Mesa Verde National Park. Today, they become one of the most important archaeological remains to be preserved in the United States.
Lost Cities in South America
22. Tikal – Guatemala
Covered by green forests for more than 1,000 years before being discovered in the 19th century, Tikal is a remnant of the Mayan civilization. This city has about 4,000 buildings with 90,000 residents once lived. In 1848, ancient pyramids and settlements were discovered by Guatemalan politicians and German journalists.
Tikal is the ruins of an ancient city found in a rainforest in Guatemala, which was part of the Mayan civilization.
23. Palenque – Mexico
Dating back to 226 BC, Palenque (Bàak’) is one of the most famous “lost” Mayan cities in the world. The city’s location is on the banks of the Usumacinta River in the Mexican state of Chiapas. It’s 130 km east of the port city of Ciudad del Carmen and 150 meters above sea level. In fact, Palenque is smaller than the nearby cities of Tikal and Copán. This city is proud to be home to a number of architectural works and sculptures of the Maya civilization. To illustrate, the most famous structure in the city is the tomb of Pakal the Great, which is also known as K’inich Janaab’ Pakal. The mausoleum was built in a simple style, lower than other Maya tombs. The two sides of the stairs going up to the tomb are very delicately carved. On either side are statues of gods, most of them are Quetzalcoatl.
Recently, archaeologists have only discovered 10% of the settlement. The rest of Palenque so far remains an unsolved mystery. Indeed, much of the site is now covered with dense forest. In 1987, UNESCO recognized Palenque as a World Heritage Site.
24. Caral – Peru
Astonishingly, Caral is the oldest city that ever existed in the Americas. Also, the city’s known as Caral-Chupacigarro. It was once a forgotten municipality in the Super Valley, Peru, about 200km to the north of the capital Lima. This lost city is believed to have been inhabited between 2600 and 2000 BC.
With an estimated population of over 3,000, Caral is considered the most populous city of the Norte Chico civilization. In 1948, Caral was officially excavated again by Dr. Paul Kosok and his colleagues.
In 2009, UNESCO declared Caral a World Heritage Site.
25. Machu Picchu – Peru
Built-in the 1400s, Machu Picchu is known as the “Lost City of the Inca”. Really, it is a well-preserved pre-Columbian Inca site at an altitude of 2,430m on a mountain. The city’s location is in the Urubamba Valley in Peru, about 70 km northwest of Cusco.
Actually, it was once the resort town of the pre-Columbian Inca nobility. The city was occupied 100 years before the Spanish conquest. It is hard to believe that Machu Picchu was lost until explorer Hiram Bingham found it in 1911. Today, the lost city of Machu Picchu is recognized as a World Heritage Site. Additionally, the city is one of the typical pieces of evidence for the best form of Incan architecture.
The ancient world is always an interesting thing that people want to explore. In which, legends and stories about abandoned cities always give us a strong attraction. Many people have gone on adventures in search of lost ancient cities. How about you? Are you on your way to explore those lost cities?
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