Lost city is a term that can be used to a human settlement that which fell into terminal decline became extensively or completely uninhabited. Recently abandoned cities or cities whose location was never in question might be referred to as ruins or ghost towns. A city becomes “lost” when it is abandoned by its inhabitants and left to decay. Cities may become lost for a variety of reasons including natural disasters, economic or social upheaval, or war.
It’s hard to imagine how an entire city can get lost but that’s exactly what has happened to the lost cities on this list. Lost Cities were real, prosperous, well-populated areas of human habitation that fell into terminal decline and whose location was later lost.
Some cities which are considered lost are (or may be) places of legend such as the Arthurian Camelot, Russian Kitezh, Lyonesse, Ys, the Seven Cities of Gold, Shambhala, El Dorado, and Atlantis. Others, such as Troy and Bjarmaland, having once been considered legendary, are now known to have existed.
1) MACHU PICCHU (Peru)
MACHU PICCHU(“Old Peak”) is a pre-Columbian Inca city located7,000 feet above sea level and nestled on a small hilltop between the Andean Mountain Range, the majestic city soars above the Urabamba Valley below.
It is the most legendary icon of Inca civilisation. Archaeologists believe it was built as an estate in 1450 for the Inca emperor Pachacuti.
Machu Picchu was rediscovered in 1911 by Hawaiian historian Hiram after it lay hidden for centuries above the Urubamba Valley.
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.
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.
2) TIKAL (Guatemala)
Between ca. 200 to 900 AD, Tikal was the largest Mayan city with an estimated population between 100,000 and 200,000 inhabitants. It is located in the archaeological region of the Petén Basin in what is now northern Guatemala.
Tikal was the capital of a conquest state that became one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya.
There are traces of early agriculture at the site dating as far back as 1000 BC, in the Middle Preclassic. A cache of Mamon ceramics dating from about 700-400 BC were found in a sealed chultun, a subterranean bottle-shaped chamber.
As Tikal and its hinterland reached peak population, the area suffered deforestation, erosion and nutrient loss followed by a rapid decline in population levels. Tikal lost the majority of its population during the period from 830 to 950 and central authority seems to have collapsed rapidly. After 950, Tikal was all but deserted, although a small population may have survived in huts among the ruins.
3) PETRA (Jordan)
Petra (Arabic: البتراء, Al-Batrāʾ, Ancient Greek Πέτρα) is a historical and archaeological city in the southern Jordanian governorate of Ma’an, that is famous for its rock-cut architecture and water conduit system. Petra, the fabled “rose red city, half as old as time”, was the ancient capital of the Nabataean kingdom. Petra (“Rock”) lies on the slope of Mount Hor (Jordan) in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba.
Established possibly as early as 312 BCE as the capital city of the Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan, as well as its most-visited tourist attraction.The site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812, when it was introduced by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.
Petra’s decline came rapidly under Roman rule, in large part due to the revision of sea-based trade routes. 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.
4) Pompeii (Italy)
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. Mount Vesuvius, a volcano near the Bay of Naples in Italy, is hundreds of thousands of years old and has erupted more than 50 times. The dust “poured across the land” like a flood, one witness wrote, and shrouded the city in darkness…like the black of closed and unlighted rooms.” Two thousand people died, and the city was abandoned for almost as many years.
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. Pompeii, along with Herculaneum, was abandoned and eventually their names and locations were forgotten. They were rediscovered as the results of excavations in the 18th century. The lost cities have provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of people living two thousand years ago.
5) MEMPHIS (Egypt)
Memphis, founded around 3,100 BC, is the legendary city of Menes, the King who united Upper and Lower Egypt. 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.
The name “Memphis” is the Greek deformation of the Egyptian name of Pepi I’s (6th dynasty) pyramid, Men-nefer, which became Menfe in Coptic. According to Herodotus, the city was founded around 3100 BC by Menes, who united the two kingdoms of Egypt.
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.
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.
It was abandoned after the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 640 AD. Its ruins include the great temple of Ptah, royal palaces, and a colossal statue of Rameses II. Nearby are the pyramids of Saqqara.