Lost Cities were real, prosperous, well-populated areas of human habitation that fell into terminal decline and whose location was later lost. Most lost cities are found, and have been studied extensively by scientists. From the lost city of Pompeii to the Machu Pichu, meet the ten most fascinating lost cities in history.
1MACHU PICCHU (Peru): The Lost City of the Incas [Wiki]
Machu Picchu (“Old Peak”) is a pre-Columbian Inca city located at 2,430 m (7,970 ft) altitude on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley in Peru, near Cusco. Machu Picchu is probably the most familiar symbol of the Inca Empire. It is often referred to as “The Lost City of the Incas”. The site was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1983 when it was described as “an absolute masterpiece of architecture and a unique testimony to the Inca civilization”.
2ANGKOR (Cambodia): Contains the world’s largest religious monument [Wiki]
The ruins of Angkor are located amid forests and farmland to the north of the Great Lake (Tonle Sap) and south of the Kulen Hills, near modern day Siem Reap (13°24’N, 103°51’E), and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temples of the Angkor area number over one thousand, ranging in scale from nondescript piles of brick rubble scattered through rice fields to the magnificent Angkor Wat, said to be the world’s largest single religious monument. Many of the temples at Angkor have been restored, and together they comprise the most significant site of Khmer architecture. Visitor numbers approach one million annually.
In 2007 an international team of researchers using satellite photographs and other modern techniques concluded that Angkor had been the largest preindustrial city in the world with an urban sprawl of 1,150 square miles. The closest rival to Angkor, the Mayan city of Tikal in Guatemala, was roughly 50 square miles in total size.
3MEMPHIS (Egypt): ancient capital of Egypt[Wiki]
Estimates of population size differ widely. According to T. Chandlerm, Memphis had some 30,000 inhabitants and was by far the largest settlement worldwide from the time of its foundation until around 2250 BC and from 1557 to 1400 BC. Memphis reached a peak of prestige under the 6th Dynasty as a centre of the cult of Ptah. It declined briefly after the 18th Dynasty with the rise of Thebes and was revived under the Persian satraps before falling firmly into second place following the foundation of Alexandria. Under the Roman Empire, Alexandria remained the most important city and Memphis remained the second city of Egypt until the establishment of Fustat (or Fostat) in 641. It was then largely abandoned and became a source of stone for the surrounding settlements. It was still an imposing set of ruins in the 12th century but soon became little more than an expanse of low ruins and scattered stone. The remains of the temple of Ptah and of Apis have been uncovered at the site as well as a few statues, including two four-metre ones in alabaster of Ramesses II. The Saqqara necropolis is close to Memphis.
4PETRA: stone structures carved into rocks [Wiki]
Enclosed by towering rocks and watered by a perennial stream, Petra not only possessed the advantages of a fortress but controlled the main commercial routes which passed through it to Gaza in the west, to Bosra and Damascus in the north, to Aqaba and Leuce Come on the Red Sea, and across the desert to the Persian Gulf. Petra’s decline came rapidly under Roman rule, in large part due to the revision of sea-based trade routes. In 363 an earthquake destroyed buildings and crippled the vital water management system. The ruins of Petra were an object of curiosity in the Middle Ages and were visited by the Sultan Baibars of Egypt towards the close of the 13th century. The first European to describe them was Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812.
5PALMYRA (Syria): the Bride of the Desert [Wiki]
n the mid-first century, Palmyra, a wealthy and elegant city located along the caravan routes linking Persia with the Mediterranean ports of Roman Syria and Phoenicia, came under Roman control. During the following period of great prosperity, the Arab citizens of Palmyra adopted customs and modes of dress from both the Iranian Parthian world to the east and the Graeco-Roman west. Tadmor is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (Second Book of Chronicles 8:4) as a desert city built by the King Solomon of Judea, the son of David. Palmyra was made part of the Roman province of Syria during the reign of Tiberius (14–37). It steadily grew in importance as a trade route linking Persia, India, China, and the Roman empire. In 634 the first Muslims arrived in Palmyra. The city was taken by the Muslim Arabs under Khalid ibn Walid in 636. In the 6th century, Fakhreddine al Maany castle was built on top of a mountain overlooking the oasis. The castle was surrounded by a moat, with access only available through a drawbridge. The city of Palmyra was kept intact. After year 800, people started abandoning the city.
6POMPEII (Italy): buried by the volcano[Wiki]
Since then, its excavation has provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city at the height of the Roman Empire. Today, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Italy and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
7PALENQUE (Mexico): one of Mayan’s most exquisite cities [Wiki]
Pakal’s son Chan-Bahlum II continued Palenque’s political and economic expansion and the development of its art and architecture and presided over the construction of the Grupo de la Cruz temples, placing sizable narrative stone stelae within each. One can see the influence of Palenque’s architecture in the Mayan city of Tikal. The rival Mayan city of Toniná’s hostility was perhaps the major factor in Palenque’s precipitous decline after Chan-Bahlum II’s death in 702. Sources speak of a devastating Toniná attack on Palenque in 730. After the 10th century Palenque was largely abandoned. In an area that receives the heaviest rainfall in Mexico, the ruins lay undiscovered until the 18th century. Frans Blom, an early-to-mid-20th century investigator remarked: ‘The first visit to Palenque is immensely impressive. When one has lived there for some time this ruined city becomes an obsession.’
8VIJAYANAGAR (India): capital of one of the largest Hindu empires [Wiki]
The ruins are set in a strange and beautiful boulder strewn landscape with an almost magical quality. The undisputed highlight, the 16th century Vittala Temple, is a World Heritage Monument. Started by Krishnadevaraya, it was never finished or consecrated; its incredible sculptural work is the pinnacle of Vijayanagar art. The outer pillars are known as musical pillars as they reverberate when tapped. An ornate stone chariot in the temple courtyard containing an image of Garuda.
9EPHESUS (Turkey): one of the most important cities of early Christianity [Wiki]
Ephesus was an important center for early Christianity. Paul used it as a base. He became embroiled in a dispute with artisans, whose livelihood depended on the Temple of Artemis there (Acts 19:23–41), and wrote 1 Corinthians from Ephesus. Later Paul wrote to the Christian community at Ephesus.
10SANCHI (India): the best-preserved group of Buddhist monuments [Wiki]
The stupa itself consists of a base bearing a hemispherical dome representing the dome of heaven enclosing the Earth; it is surmounted by a squared rail unit, the world mountain, from which rises a mast to symbolize the cosmic axis. The mast bears umbrellas that represent the various heavens. Other remains include several smaller stupas, an assembly hall (caitya), an Asokan pillar with inscription, and several monasteries (4th–11th cent. CE). Several relic baskets and more than 400 epigraphical records have also been discovered.