Lost city  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
lost history

In the popular imagination lost cities were real, prosperous, well-populated areas of human habitation that fell into terminal decline and whose location may have later been lost. Most lost cities at known sites have been studied extensively by scientists. Abandoned urban sites of relatively recent origin might be referred to as ghost towns; this article, however, includes places where people lived that were important local centres, without applying a specific test of size.

Lost cities generally fall into three broad categories: those whose disappearance has been so complete that no knowledge of the city existed until the time of its rediscovery and study, those whose location has been lost but whose memory has been retained in the context of myths and legends, and those whose existence and location have always been known, but which are no longer inhabited. The search for such lost cities by European explorers and adventurers in the Americas, Africa and in Southeast Asia from the 15th century onwards eventually led to the development of the science of archaeology.

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How are cities lost?

Cities may become lost for a variety of reasons, including geographic, economic and social (e.g. war).

An Arabian city named Ubar (Iram of the Pillars) was abandoned after much of the city sank into a sinkhole created by the collapse of an underground cavern, which also destroyed its water supply. The city was rediscovered in 1992 when satellite photography revealed traces of the ancient trade routes leading to it.

Other settlements are lost with few or no clues to guide historians, such as the Colony of Roanoke. In August 1590, John White returned to the former English colony, which had housed 91 men (including White), 17 women (two of them pregnant) and 11 children when he left, to find it completely empty, with no indication of struggle or any visible reason for the mass disappearance.

Malden Island, in the central Pacific, was deserted when first visited by Europeans in 1825, but ruined temples and the remains of other structures found on the island indicate that a small population of Polynesians had lived there for perhaps several generations some centuries earlier. Prolonged drought seems the most likely explanation for their demise. The ruins of another city, called Nan Madol, have been found on the Micronesian island of Ponape. In more recent times Port Royal, Jamaica sank into the Caribbean Sea after an earthquake.

Many cities have been destroyed by natural disasters and rebuilt, sometimes repeatedly. But in other cases the destruction has been so complete that the sites were abandoned completely. Classic examples include the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, buried with many of their inhabitants under a thick layer of volcanic ash after an eruption of Vesuvius. A lesser known example is Akrotiri, on the island of Thera, where in 1967, under a blanket of ash, the remains of a Minoan city were discovered. The volcanic explosion on Thera was immense, and had disastrous effects on the Minoan civilization. It has been suggested that this disaster was the inspiration that Plato used for the story of Atlantis.

Less dramatic examples of the destruction of cities by natural forces are those where the coastline has eroded away. Cities which have sunk into the sea include the one-time centre of the English wool-trade, at Dunwich, England, and the city of Rungholt in Germany which sank into the North Sea during a massive storm surge in 1362.

Cities are also often destroyed by wars. This was the case, for instance, with Troy and Carthage, though both of these were subsequently rebuilt, and the Achaemenid capital at Persepolis was accidentally burnt by Alexander the Great.

Various capitals in the Middle East were abandoned; after Babylon was abandoned Ctesiphon became the capital of the new Parthian Empire, and this was in turn passed over in favor of Baghdad (and later Samarra) for the site of the Abbasid capital.

Some cities which are considered lost are (or may be) places of legend such as the Arthurian Camelot, Russian Kitezh, Lyonesse and Atlantis. Others, such as Troy and Bjarmaland, having once been considered legendary, are now known to have existed.

Lost cities by continent

Pacific Ocean

  • Hawaiki, The mythical land to which some Polynesian cultures trace their origins. It may also refer to an underworld in many Māori stories.

Africa

Asia

Far East Asia

Southeast Asia

South Asia

Central Asia

Western Asia/Middle East

South America

Inca cities

Other

North America

Mexico and Central America

Maya cities

incomplete list – for further information, see Maya civilization

  • Chichen Itza – This ancient place of pilgrimage is still the most visited Maya ruin.
  • Copán – In modern Honduras.
  • Calakmul – One of two "superpowers" in the classic Maya period.
  • Coba
  • Naachtun – Rediscovered in 1922, it remains one of the most remote and least visited Maya sites. Located 44 km (27 miles) south-south-east of Calakmul, and 65 km (40 miles) north of Tikal, it is believed to have had strategic importance to, and been vulnerable to military attacks by, both neighbours. Its ancient name was identified in the mid-1990s as Masuul.
  • Palenque — in the Mexican state of Chiapas, known for its beautiful art and architecture
  • Tikal — One of two "superpowers" in the classic Maya period.
Aztec Cities
Olmec cities
Other
  • Izapa – Chief city of the Izapa civilization, whose territory extended from the Gulf Coast across to the Pacific Coast of Chiapas, in present day Mexico, and Guatemala.
  • Guayabo – It is believed that the site was inhabited from 1500 BCE (BC) to 1400 CE (AD), and had at its peak a population of around 10.000.

United States

Canada

  • L'Anse aux Meadows – Viking settlement founded around 1000.
  • Lost Villages - The Lost Villages are ten communities in the Canadian province of Ontario, in the former townships of Cornwall and Osnabruck (now South Stormont) near Cornwall, which were permanently submerged by the creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1958.

Aultsville - Dickinson's Landing - Farran's Point - Maple Grove - Mille Roches - Moulinette - Santa Cruz - Sheek's Island - Wales - Woodlands

Europe

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Lost city" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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