Top 10 Lost Cities Throughout History

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

A city becomes “lost” when it is abandoned by its inhabitants and left to decay. This can be the result of war, migration, or natural disaster, but in each case these cities can act as a sort of time capsule, leaving a civilization frozen in history and waiting to be discovered. While many of these cities have indeed been rediscovered, others have never been found and have taken on the status of legend. Whether real or mythical, the following are the ten lost cities that have most captured the imaginations of historians, archeologists, and adventurers.

10. The City Of The Caesars

patagonia

Also known as the Wandering City and the City of Patagonia, The City of the Caesars is a mythical city that is believed to have been located on the southernmost tip of South America in the region known as Patagonia. The city has never been found, and at this point it is considered more legend than anything, but in its time it was quite sought after by colonial explorers. It was said to have been founded by survivors of a Spanish shipwreck, and was believed to possess huge amounts of gold and jewels. Over time, a number of legends have formed around the City of the Caesars, with some saying that it was populated by 10-foot tall giants, and others claiming that it was a city of ghosts that could appear and disappear at will.

9. Troy

Troy1

Made famous in the epic poems of Homer, Troy was a once-legendary city located in modern day Turkey. Best known for being the site of the Trojan War, ancient Troy was a strongly fortified city that stood on a hill near the river Scamander. Its coastal location allowed it to be a naval power, and nearby plains provided excellent land for farming. Troy was long considered by many to be the stuff of myth until it was first excavated in the 1870s by Heinrich Schliemann, who discovered that there were actually numerous cities on the site, which over the years had been built on top of one another. Although it was once a towering seat of power, the modern-day Troy excavation site is said to be relatively unimpressive, the result of years of digging and frequent looting by tourists.

8. The Lost City Of Z

fawcett01

Supposedly located deep in the jungles of Brazil, the lost city of Z was said to be an advanced civilization with a sophisticated network of bridges, roads, and temples. Speculation about Z began after a document was found in which a Portuguese explorer insisted he had visited the city in 1753, but otherwise no evidence of its existence has ever been uncovered. The city of Z is most famous for attracting the interest of explorer Percy Fawcett, who in 1925 vanished without a trace while in search of it, and over the years a number of other adventurers have died or disappeared while on its trail. In recent years, a city known as Kuhikugu was discovered in the Amazon Rainforest that showed evidence of sophisticated fortifications and engineering, leading many to speculate that it may be the source of the Z legend.

7. Petra

Petra1

Arguably the most beautiful of all the cities on this list, Petra is located in Jordan near the Dead Sea and is believed to have once been the center of the Nabataean caravan trade. Its most striking feature is its exquisite stone architecture, which is carved out of the rocks of the surrounding mountains. This helped make Petra a naturally fortified city when it was established as a capital in 100 B.C., and evidence suggests that it featured many other technological advancements like dams and cisterns, which helped the inhabitants channel the region’s flash floods and store water for use in times of drought. After hundreds of years of prosperity, the city went into decline after the Romans conquered the region, and in A.D. 363 an earthquake destroyed several of its buildings and crippled its infrastructure. Petra was eventually abandoned, and it stood for years in the desert as something of a curiosity before being revealed to the world at large in 1812 by a Swiss explorer.

6. El Dorado

Muisca_raft_Legend_of_El_Dorado_Offerings_of_gold

The Zipa used to cover his body in gold dust and, from his raft, he offered treasures to the Guatavita goddess in the middle of the sacred lake. This old Muisca tradition became the origin of El Dorado legend.

One of the most famous of all the legendary cities, El Dorado was a mythical empire supposedly found in the jungles of South America. Literally meaning “The Golden One” in Spanish, the city was said to be led by a powerful king and hold untold riches of gold and jewels. In the time of the conquistadors, the city was a subject of constant fascination, and several disastrous expeditions were launched in search of it. The most famous of these was headed by Gonzalo Pizarro, who in 1541 led a group of 300 soldiers and several thousand Indians into the jungle in search of El Dorado. They uncovered no evidence of the city or its treasures, and after the group was decimated by disease, famine, and attacks by natives, the expedition was abandoned. This model is on display in the Gold Museum, Bogotá, Colombia

5. Memphis

a101_memphis1

Founded in 3,100 B.C., Memphis was the capital of ancient Egypt, and served as the civilization’s administrative center for hundreds of years before being abandoned with the rise of Thebes and Alexandria. At its height, Memphis is estimated to have had a population of more than 30,000, which would have made it the biggest city of antiquity. Over the years, the location of Memphis became lost, and it was a subject of much debate among archeologists before it was rediscovered by a Napoleonic expedition in the late 1700s, and it was then that the city’s sphinx, statues and temples were first seriously studied. Unfortunately, stones from the ruins had been appropriated to build nearby settlements, and many important parts of the site remain lost to historians.

4. Angkor

Angkor-Wat

The Angkor region of Cambodia served as the center of power for the Khmer Empire from 800 AD well into the 1400s. The region was abandoned after a slow decline that ended with an invasion by a Thai army in 1431, leaving the massive city and its thousands of Buddhist temples to be reclaimed by the jungle. The city lay relatively untouched until the 1800s, when a group of French archeologists began to study and restore it. Angkor and its surroundings– which rival Los Angeles in size– have since been recognized as the biggest pre-industrial city in the world, and its famed temple of Angkor Wat is commonly considered to be the largest religious monument in existence.

3. Pompeii

pompeii-victim

The Roman city of Pompeii was destroyed in AD 79 after the nearby volcano Vesuvius erupted and buried the entire community under 60 feet of ash and rock. The city was estimated to have had around 20,000 inhabitants at the time, and it was considered one of the premier vacation spots for the upper class of Roman society. After the eruption, the ruins stood for 1,700 years before being accidentally rediscovered in 1748 by workmen building a palace for the King of Naples, and since then Pompeii has been the source of constant excavations by archeologists. Ironically, the devastation caused by Vesuvius also helped preserve the city’s architecture, which along with countless frescoes and sculptures, have helped make Pompeii a key part of modern historians’ understanding of life in ancient Rome.

2. Atlantis

The-Lost-City-of-Atlantis

At this point it is fairly easy to write Atlantis off as nothing more than a myth, but this legendary city has been a source of speculation ever since the philosopher Plato first wrote about it in 360 B.C. Described by Plato as an advanced civilization and formidable naval power, Atlantis is said to have conquered much of Europe before sinking into the sea as the result of some kind of environmental disaster. While Plato’s story is seen by most as a work of fiction, his description of a massive civilization years ahead of its time technologically has captured the imaginations of countless writers and would-be adventurers, and there have been numerous expeditions launched in search of the city. Perhaps the most infamous occurred at the beginning of WWII, when the Nazis supposedly organized a journey to Tibet with the hope of finding remnants of Atlantaen culture.

1. Machu Picchu

machu-picchu

Of all the lost cities that have been found and studied, perhaps none is more mysterious than Machu Picchu. Isolated near the Urubamba Valley in Peru, the city was never found and plundered by conquistadors, and it was not until historian Hiram Bingham visited it in 1911 that it became known outside of the region. The city is divided into districts, and features over 140 different structures bordered by polished stone walls. It is said to have been built in the 1400s by the Incas and abandoned less than 100 years later, most likely when its population was wiped out by smallpox brought over from Europe. There has been much speculation as to what Machu Picchu was used for, as well as why the Incas chose such to build it in such a strange location. Some have said it was a holy temple of sorts, while others have maintained that it was used as a prison, but recent research suggests that it was probably a personal estate of the Inca emperor Pachacuti, and its location was chosen because nearby mountains figured prominently in Inca astrological mythology.


Share.

32 Comments

  1. atlantis should be #1 and el dorado #2…machu picchu isn't *that* interesting…i'd choose chichen itza over machu picchu just because of the mystery of the mayan civilization collapse.

  2. Very nicely put together.

    I stumbled on this quite by accident. Someone who re-tweeted me on twitter was subsequently re-tweeted and I found myself trolling through the post of a twice-removed re-tweeter on a completely unrelated subject. Ah… gotta' love the internets!

    cheers,

    Chris

  3. chase personal loans on

    As I know the City of the Caesars is a mythical city which is located on the southernmost tip of South America in the region known as Patagonia. I hope I will read more info about this city by archeologists, and adventurers.

  4. chase personal loans on

    As I know the City of the Caesars is a mythical city which is located on the southernmost tip of South America in the region known as Patagonia. I hope I will read more info about this city by archeologists, and adventurers
    http://chasepersonalloans.org

  5. recently came across your article and have been reading along. I want to express my admiration of your writing skill and ability to make readers read from the beginning to the end. I would like to read newer posts and to share my thoughts with you.

  6. What about Prypiat by Chernobyl? Not exactly lost but under the stated requirements for this list "A city becomes “lost” when it is abandoned by its inhabitants and left to decay" – definitely abandoned and left to decay and is a great insight into the 1980 in the USSR with dolls and the such still lying about after the rushed evacuation.

  7. For real lost cities, you should add Knossos, the heart of the Minoan empire– quite fabled in Myth, most notably the Theseus myth.

    For "fabled" lost cities, you should add Shambala– most well known for the fictional version, "Shangri-La".

  8. Made famous in the epic poems of Homer, Troy was a once-legendary city located in modern day Turkey. Best known for being the site of the Trojan War, ancient Troy was a strongly fortified city that stood on a hill near the river Scamander. Its coastal location allowed it to be a naval power, and nearby plains provided excellent land for farming. Troy was long considered by many to be the stuff of myth until it was first excavated in the 1870s by Heinrich Schliemann, who discovered that there were actually numerous cities on the site, which over the years had been built on top of one another. Although it was once a towering seat of power, the modern-day Troy excavation site is said to be relatively unimpressive, the result of years of digging and frequent looting by tourists.

  9. These are some really nice pictures. I really like lost city of Z photo and angkor. It’s impressive that you took the time to put this all together.

  10. i think that Angkor was the most beautiful, not Petra. both are immensely intricate designs, but i will say that Petra is more amazing in how it was built

  11. Over the years, the location of Memphis became lost, and it was a subject of much debate among archeologists before it was rediscovered by a Napoleonic expedition in the late 1700s, and it was then that the city’s sphinx, statues and temples were first seriously studied. Unfortunately, stones from the ruins had been appropriated to build nearby settlements, and many important parts of the site remain lost to historians.

  12. What an excellent blog! Its coastal location allowed it to be a naval power, and nearby plains provided excellent land for farming. Troy was long considered by many to be the stuff of myth until it was first excavated in the 1870s by Heinrich Schliemann, who discovered that there were actually numerous cities on the site, which over the years had been built on top of one another.

  13. Download Ebooks on

    A city becomes â??lostâ?? when it is abandoned by its inhabitants and left to decay. This can be the result of war, migration, or natural disaster, but in each case these cities can act as a sort of time capsule, leaving a civilization frozen in history and waiting to be discovered. While many of these cities have indeed been rediscovered, others have never been found and have taken on the status of legend. Whether real or mythical, the following are the ten lost cities that have most captured the imaginations of historians, archeologists, and adventurers.

  14. What an excellent blog! I stumbled on this quite by accident. Someone who re-tweeted me on twitter was subsequently re-tweeted and I found myself trolling through the post of a twice-removed re-tweeter on a completely unrelated subject. Ahâ?¦ gotta’ love the internets!

  15. The interesting information, the tonic on a note! Some have said it was a holy temple of sorts, while others have maintained that it was used as a prison, but recent research suggests that it was probably a personal estate of the Inca emperor Pachacuti, and its location was chosen because nearby mountains figured prominently in Inca astrological mythology.

  16. Rather actually! Troy was long considered by many to be the stuff of myth until it was first excavated in the 1870s by Heinrich Schliemann, who discovered that there were actually numerous cities on the site, which over the years had been built on top of one another.

  17. -_-; It’s really bothersome that no one here has done *any* even vaguely-realistic research on Atlantis. There is *zero* debate at to whether or not it existed. It was, until recent times, understood that it was a hypothetical concept. Atlantis never existed. Period.

  18. As a side-note, Heinrich Schliemann did not find the damned city. He assumed he did, but was proven wrong.

  19. Machu Picchu on

    The Inca citadel of Machu Picchu (Now one of the new 7th wonders of the world) is one of the most important tourist attractions in Peru. Discovered in 1911 by the American explorer, Hiram Bingham, this city is considering one of the most extraordinary examples of scenic architecture in the whole world. If you want to enjoy more pictures about Machu Picchu you can visit the next link.

    http://www.yesperu.com/En/Machupicchu.aspx

  20. Whatever happened to shangri la? that is interesting a city lost never to be found should we forget that the cintimani stone is there? there are many cities not mentioned that are way “cooler” and should be on this list but this is just conformity at its best! people copying other sites about the most interesting or the best lost cities. It actually shocks me when people say lost cities when what do we have photographic proof of these lost cities, atlantis no proof el dorado no proof those are the ones that should be number 1 and 2 and so forth!

  21. Christos Djonis on

    In regards to Atlantis, I truly believe that Plato created a moral fable around a real setting and a prehistoric civilization known to ancient Greeks, just as Homer did before him with the “mythical” city of Troy. Obviously, the fact that we still question whether this story is real, is due to the fact that no theory (amongst hundreds of the them) or past “discovery” produced tangible evidence, or a matching site for that matter, to convince us that Atlantis was ever real. Until NOW!
    In 2013, after more than 4 years of research, and rather accidentally, I was able to locate a sunken island that flawlessly matches Plato’s Atlantis. The chronology, every physical aspect of the topography, the volcanic geology, the flora and fauna in that period, the island’s destruction by a “great flood”, archaeological remnants of an unknown prehistoric civilization in the immediate area, and most importantly DNA evidence, all point to a genuine discovery.
    For a short description on this find, please click on the link below and go to our INDIEGOGO campaign (currently fundraising for a documentary) and see why there is plenty credence behind this claim.
    https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/atlantis-revealed
    Of course, for more information, you can also look for my book “Uchronia? Atlantis Revealed”, which offers more in depth coverage on the subject. Looking forward to your thoughts.

Leave A Reply