Everyone knows, even if only from having seen them in television broadcasts or in photography, the most important “lost” cities in the world; the ancient ruins immediately come to mind when you hear names like Pompeii, Petra, and Angkor Wat : they are tourist destinations and important archaeological sites, visited by millions of people.
But there are, of course, many, many more “lost cities” around the world. These stone relics sometimes date back thousands of years , and are striking, not only for their state of preservation, but also for their resemblance to modern cities. Perhaps you have never heard of some of these 20 cities …
Its current name translates precisely to “Lost City” , but these mysterious ruins, which are found in Colombia, in the Sierra Nevada, they are also known as Teyuna, which is the name given by the natives, and Buritaca, the name of the river that flows nearby. Founded in 800 AD, it is about 650 years older than the Inca city of Machu Picchu. It was rediscovered in 1972, by hunters of ancient treasures, who sold some precious artifacts on the black market, and in 1975 its existence was revealed to the public by local authorities. It appears to have been the main city of a network of villages built by the native Tairona people. It is formed by a series of terraces carved into one side of the mountain, and by a network of tiled streets and circular squares, and could have hosted up to 8,000 inhabitants.
On the largest of the Orkney Islands in Scotland, there is the Neolithic settlement of Skara Brae, the most complete in all of Europe. It predates both the Great Pyramids in Egypt and Stonehenge in England. It remained buried for thousands of years, until a violent storm unearthed the stone dwellings in 1850. Skara Brae was occupied from about 3180 to 2500 BC, until the increasingly colder climate brought to light. forced the inhabitants to abandon it.
In this photo, the city of Caral looks like nothing more than a continuation of the arid Peruvian landscape . But these are actually the remains of one of the largest cities of the Norte Chico people . It is considered to be one of the oldest urban centers in the Americas, inhabited between 3000 and 2000 BC, and may have welcomed around 3,000 inhabitants.
Taxila, located in northwestern Pakistan, has gone through a dizzying number of cultural changes. It is a very ancient city, belonging to the Kingdom of Gandhara, which prospered between the 4th and 1st centuries BC It was first conquered by the Persian king Darius the Great in 518 BC. About 200 years later, it became a Hellenistic Greek city, under another “Great”, Alexander. It was then conquered many more times by different peoples, until it became a Buddhist center, and according to legend, it was also visited by the apostle Thomas in the first century. The city always remained important, as it was the hub of three important trade routes. Taxila was eventually destroyed by the Huns in the 5th century. The ruins of the city include Hindu, Buddhist, and Greek temples, which are reminiscent of the large and diverse heritage of the site.
This Roman colony in Algeria was founded by the Emperor Trajan in 100 AD, in honor of his parents and older sister. Now there are only ruins, but it is still possible to see the characteristic grid used by the Romans to build their cities, which is still used today. Timgad lived 400 years of tranquility, before being sacked by Vandals and Berbers, and then abandoned, slowly swallowed by the sand, until it was rediscovered in 1881.
One could speak of this city, in the Indus Valley, in Pakistan, as one of the first urban centers in the world, dating back to the Bronze Age . It was built around 2600 BC, and flourished for around 600 years, before being abandoned, and only rediscovered in 1922. Many artifacts bear witness to this ancient civilization, but the writing of this people has not yet been deciphered. Mohenjo-daro, meaning “the mountain of the dead”, is a modern name; his real name was probably “Kukkutarma.”
Zimbabwe bears this name for the stone ruins complexes found throughout the country, which are also called “Zimbabwes” . The largest of these is Great Zimbabwe , which was built in the 1200s by the native Bantu people . The city continued to grow for around 300 years when it peaked with a population of 18,000. Then the decline began, perhaps due to famine, or political instability, or lack of water.
Hatra, in Iraq, was the capital of the first Arab kingdom. Its thick, high walls helped repel the Romans as well. It flourished as a commercial and religious center under the Parthians, but was eventually destroyed by the invasion of the Persian Sassanids. The architecture of the city reflects oriental, Greek and Roman influences. Currently, the ancient city runs the risk of being demolished by the Islamic State, which has already destroyed some statues and parts of the facades of the buildings.
Sanchi, an Indian site consisting of Buddhist religious buildings, was built over the course of more than a thousand years, starting from the 3rd century BC until 1200. It was abandoned in 1300, with the decline of Buddhism in India, and then overrun by the jungle . In 1818 it was rediscovered by a British officer, but it was not until 1881 that it began to be restored.
Hattusa became the capital of the Hittite empire in what is now Turkey, in the 17th century BC.About 600 years later, with the fall of the Hittite empire, it was destroyed, along with many other Bronze Age settlements, in the regions of the eastern Mediterranean. In its heyday, the city had a number of inhabitants between 20,000 and 40,000. The site was still occupied, even after the collapse of the city, by different populations, and still today, in a village called Boğazkale, at the foot of the ancient capital, a population of Turkmen origin lives.
Chan Chan has the honor of being the largest pre- Columbian city in South America and is located in Peru. It was built by the Chimu people around 850 AD, and remained populated until it was conquered by the Inca Empire in 1470. It is estimated that the city could accommodate around 30,000 inhabitants.
“Sukhothai”, literally “dawn of happiness”, is a huge complex of temples and ancient palaces, which was the capital of the first independent kingdom of Thailand : the Kingdom of Sukhothai, which flourished for about 140 years, between 1238 and 1378 Nearby is a modern city, New Sukhothai, which supports the large number of tourists who visit the archaeological park.
Mesa Verde, Colorado was home to many generations of people, the ancient Ancestral Peoples, also called Anasazi , who lived in villages built into the rock recesses, also known as cliff-dwelings . Over time, their construction developed to the point that a single house could have 150 rooms. In addition to their architecture, the Anasazi are also known for their mysterious disappearance, which took place around 1300, after a few hundred years of civilization. The ancient dwellings were abandoned for reasons still unknown, and rediscovered in the 16th century by the Navajo, who gave the name of Anasazi to the people who had lived before them in that region.
This ancient city, in what is now Turkmenistan , was once the capital of the Kingdom of Corasmia, but its foundation could possibly also date back to the Achaemenids; it was an important trading center from the 10th to the 14th century, and also rose again after one of the bloodiest massacres in history, when it was invaded and destroyed, in 1221, by Ghengis Khan and his army. However, when the nearby Amu-Darya River suddenly changed course, trade declined and the city was abandoned in 1500. The modern city of Urgench is today in Uzbekistan, just across the border.
Around 1500, Vijaynagar, India , had about 500,000 inhabitants, and was the second largest city in the world, after Beijing, and nearly three times larger than Paris. During the height of the Vijayanagar Empire’s power, between the 14th and 16th centuries, the city flourished, but was often in conflict with the neighboring Muslim kingdoms of the Deccan. Eventually, in 1565, the city was invaded, its temples destroyed, and its people massacred. The Vijayanagar Empire nevertheless continued to exist, but the city was never rebuilt or populated.
Tikal, Guatemala, is one of the best known ancient Mayan cities , and rivaled the city of Calakmul, Mexico . The power struggle between the two cities is usually seen as a battle between the two superpowers of the Maya civilization, which was divided into small kingdoms. Calakmul triumphed, also thanks to a network of allies, and briefly became the capital of a fragile Mayan empire, but Tikal had his revenge in a great battle in 695. Neither city survived the inevitable collapse of Mayan culture. , following the Spanish conquest, and both cities were abandoned.
Ctesiphon, which was the capital of both the Parthian and the Sassanid empires, is located on the Tigris River in Iraq. It was also the most populous city in the world, between 570 and 637. Of the ancient splendor there remain the remains of an enormous barrel vault, in the hall of the Taq Kasra, or palace of Chosroes . It is perhaps the largest unsupported vault in the world, even today.
Hvalsey was not a “city” by common standards, but it was the largest of the three Viking settlements in Greenland , dating from about AD 985; it reached 4,000 inhabitants, at its peak, but after one of the other settlements collapsed, this site too began to decline. The last event recorded in Hvalsey was a wedding, in 1408, but soon after the place became uninhabited: all the inhabitants of European origin, about 500 people, mysteriously disappeared.
In the Turkish province of Kars, on the border with Armenia , there are the ruins of the splendid city of Ani, which was the capital of the Armenian kingdom during the Middle Ages . Called “the city of 1,001 churches,” it was famous for the splendor and richness of its buildings, and what remains today displays an incredible variety of medieval architecture. It flourished until 1200, with a population of around 200,000, but the combination of an earthquake, a Mongol invasion, and the shifting of trade routes caused its decline.
Tiwanaku was the capital of a South American empire, which developed from 300 to 1000 AD It is located in Bolivia, and is known for its surprisingly precise stone architecture, as well as its people’s fondness for human sacrifice. The city was abandoned around 1100, even before the conquest of Bolivia by the Incas, around 1445. The door of the sun (in the photo) was so called, because by positioning itself in front of it at the beginning of spring, it can be observed that the sun rises exactly above the middle of the door.