Over the centuries many cities were built and lost. Many even lost without leaving any trace or leaving the bare minimum, which is found only in some scholarly literature. Some may have been there and some are myth only until they are discovered again to tell the tale. Many become legends. Now after thousands of years, they have turned into ruins that exhibit the unique architecture and some of the finest craftsmanship of history. They throw some light upon the culture, religious belief and depict the heroic stories of the long gone. There are many of them. Here is the list of the top 10 lost historical ancient cities.
10. Mohenjo-Daro, Pakistan
Known to the world as the Mound of the Dead and probably the most advanced city of its time with remarkably sophisticated civil engineering and urban planning, Mohenjo-Daro is one of the most famous archaeological sites known today. It is located in the province of Sindh, Pakistan around 3km from Indus River. It was one of the largest settlements during the ancient Indus Valley civilization. Now a major UNESCO World Heritage site after 1980, this place is renowned for its magnificent structure The Great Bath. It was built around 2600 BCE and was abandoned around 1900 BCE. Mohenjo-Daro was rediscovered on 1922 by Rakhaldas Bandyopadhyay. Numerous measures have been taken by several organizations including UNESCO, but still this site is now threatened to erosion.
9. Ephesus, Turkey
The world renowned heritage site, once the trade center of ancient world and an early Christianity religious center, Ephesus is now a major tourist attraction in turkey. The current archaeology site is located around 3 km southwest of Seluck town of Seluck district in the Izmir province of Turkey. This ancient Greek lost city has seen some of the most important periods of history including the Bronze age, the Roman period and the Byzantine era to name a few. It contains largest collection of Roman ruins. This city holds ‘The Temple of Artemis’, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Other major works like the library of Celsus and the house of the Virgin Mary also found here.
8. Babylon, Iraq
One of the glories cities of ancient era, now lost in the river of time, Babylon is located in the present-day Hillah, Babil Governorate, Iraq. It used to be one of the most important cities of ancient Middle East. Founded about 4,000 years ago, this city became important when Hammurabi made it the capital of his kingdom of Babylonia. Today this place is famous for the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world (the only one whose location has not been definitely established yet). It is suggested that the Hanging Garden may be a purely poetic creation due to lack of documentation. This lost city of Babylon is now a place of major tourist attraction after the Iraqi authorities opened it for tourist. Even then due to neglect and conflict, the Babylon scarcely brings the images of illustrious history.
7. Akrotiri, Santorini
One of the beautiful cities of history, Akrotiri is a Bronze Age settlement in Santorini, a volcanic Greek island. This lovely city was destroyed around 1500 BC due to Santorini eruption which is recorded as one of the largest and most destructive eruption on Earth and remains buried under volcanic ash until around 1860 when workers quarrying the volcanic ash for Suez Canal brought it back to light once again, followed by a systematic excavation in 1967 till 2005 under the leadership of Prof. Syridon Marinatos of University of Athens, a renowned Greek archaeologist. This city had a sizable settlement during the Middle and Early late Bronze age (20th -17th centuries BC) and gradually developed in to one of the main urban center and port of Aegean with sophisticated multistory building, amazing wall paintings and elaborate drainage system. Now days the city provides a rare view glimpse of the urban life of Minoan period and their high level culture. The excavation brought the preserved fine Frescoes and many other art works back in to life.
6. Troy, Turkey
Everyone in the world knows this city as the place of the famous Trojan War. The ancient Greek poem ‘Iliad’ which traditionally attributed to Homer begins with the line “Sing, O Muse, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus…” is what made Troy famous. Troy was a once-legendary city located in modern day Turkey. This city stood on a hill near the Scamander River which made it a strong naval power and excellent land for farming. It was long thought to be a myth only until 1865 when Frank Calvert, then an English archaeologist starting excavating and continued by Heinrich Schliemann in 1868 who found that there were actually numerous cities on the site built one on the top of another. Modern excavations suggest that the city was founded in around 3000 BC and destroyed multiple times only to build another new one on the ruins of the last. This makes sense of using the Trojan horse as the many layered mighty walls kept the city well protected from any siege weaponry then available to the attackers, which is just what Iliad describes in the epic poem. Now a Famous tourist place, Troy made it to the 1998 UNESCO World Heritage list.
5. Memphis, Egypt
This historic city Memphis was the ancient capital of Aneb-Hetch, the first nome of Lower Egypt. According to the legend it was founded around 3000 BC by the pharaoh Menes. It was the capital of Egypt during the Old Kingdom and was one of the powerful and important cities in both Egypt and the Mediterranean region as a whole. Because of its strategic position at the mouth of the Nile, it was once the hive of trade industry. During its glories period, Memphis is estimated to have had a population of more than 30,000, which would have made it one of the biggest cities of antiquity. Over the years it lost its glory, believed to be due to loss of its economic significance. Also the rise of coastal Alexandria with the arrival of Romans is the reason for it being completely abandoned and along with the ancient cults of Memphis also lost in time due to the emergence of Christianity and cult of Serapis. After being lost for centuries it saw the light of the day when it was rediscovered by a Napoleonic expedition in the late 1700’s which even lead to serious study of the city’s sphinx, statues and temples there. It is also included in the world heritage list of UNESCO in 1979.
4. Petra, Jordan
Popularly known to the world as the “A rose-red city half as old as time” and arguably one of the most beautiful among its kind, this archaeological city Petra is located in the southern Jordanian governorate of Ma’an. It is famous for having many stone structures carved into the rock. It is believed that this city was Established as early as 312 BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans, it’s a symbol of Jordan. This long lost city was brought back to attention of world by the great Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812. Petra is an important UNESCO heritage site which describes it a “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage. Today it is a great tourist destination and one of the most important archaeological sites in the Middle East. Evidence suggest that it was constructed with many technologically advancements like dams and cisterns. The architecture of Petra is a fine blender of Roman and Greek with Nabataean.
3. Angkor, Cambodia
Angkor served as the seat of the Khmer empire. It flourished during the 9th– 14th century A.D. The ruins of Angkor are located amid forests and farmland to the north of the Great Lake and south of the Kulen Hills, near modern-day Siem Reap city of Siem Reap Province. The place was neglected after slow declination and its fate ended with the invasion by a Thai army in 1431. It was left untouched until 1800’s, when a French archaeologists group began to study and restore it. Today it is preserving the art and architecture of the Khmer Kingdom. The most important monument standing today is probably the Angkor Wat which was built between 1113 and 1150 by King Suryayarman II. This archaeological site is home to the ruins of over 1,000 temples. These temples reflect Hindu Cosmology. The 2007 study by a group of international researchers have revealed the fact that Angkor and its surroundings had been the largest preindustrial city in the world. Just like others this historical city, is also threatened of its preservation due to its popularity among tourist.
2. Machu Picchu, Peru
“The lost city of Incas “, now a world heritage site after 1983, this great lost city is located at 2430 m altitude on a mountain ridge above Urubamba valley in Peru, Near Cusco. It was built around 1450 by the Incas and inhabited for a short period and then abandoned by Inca rulers at the time of the Spanish Conquest. This place remains hidden till 1911 when the American historian Hiram Bingham brought it to the international attention. Fortunately it was not known to the Spanish during their conquest and hence believed to be relatively intact cultural site. It is a classics example of Inca style with polished dry walls. Of all the lost cities discovered and studied, this city is a mystery till date as what was it used for? Some believes it was a regular settlement while others suggest it was a religious sanctuary. After its discovery, it became one of the best popular tourist destinations.
1. Pompeii and Herculaneum, Italy
Among all the lost cities of world, undoubtedly the one which caught most attention is Pompeii and its neighbor Herculaneum (Some call them the twin city). These cities were destroyed by the catastrophic Mount Vesuvius volcanic eruption spanning 2 days on 24 august 79 AD which buried the entire community under 60 feet of ash and rock. Once the premier vacation place for the upper class Romans, it was hidden from the world for 1,700 years until its rediscovery 1748. Although the volcano has destroyed everything, to the surprise, the city’s architecture with the famous countless frescoes and invaluable sculptures have been preserved perfectly. These lost cities have been a great source of understanding of the life and culture of ancient Rome. The views of plaster casts of the dead bodies dotted throughout the city gives a picture of the holocaust. Today, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Italy and a UNESCO World Heritage. It receives a great number of tourists from worldwide which also makes it prone to damage. Several modern conservation efforts have been more successful. It’s the best city the world had lost.