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Thursday, 8 August 2013

Top 10 Lost Cities - Listverse

Top 10 Lost Cities - Listverse

Top 10 Lost Cities

Humans seem to have a need to imagine the past as grander than the present, and that the ancients had some knowledge we have lost. This has been compounded by archaeological discoveries of important cities no one had known existed. It seems absurd to us, who have the internet to remind us of every fact, that anything so large as a city could be lost. But cities have always fallen into disuse for a variety of reasons, and without a resident population, have been lost to history for centuries until rediscovered. This list focuses on cities which have been abandoned, forgotten (except perhaps by a few people living nearby) and rediscovered later.
Whenever ‘lost cities’ are discussed Atlantis springs to mind. While there is no strong evidence that Atlantis existed outside of an allegorical tale by Plato many cities have suffered the supposed fate of Atlantis – being swallowed by the sea. Pavlopetri was a town of pre-Classical Greece that was settled in the Stone Age and persisted until ~1000 BC. That the site was submerged has given archaeologists a unique insight into life at the time. Other sites have been built over, or plundered for building material, or ploughed over by farmers, but Pavlopetri is uncontaminated. The town was likely submerged by rising sea levels and subsidence of the ground caused by earthquakes. Since sea levels have fluctuated widely over the course of human existence it is entirely likely that other such sites exist in the world’s oceans awaiting discovery.
Cliff palace
The Pueblo people, the Native Americans of the US southwest, are named for the villages (Pueblos) they construct. While there are still vibrant pueblo communities today, the Anasazi, an ancient pueblo society, flourished between 900 and 1200 AD. ‘Cliff Palace’ was constructed in this Golden age of the Anasazi; dendrochronology dates most of the buildings at the site to ~1200 AD. Occupation of the site was short lived and it was abandoned by 1300 AD. It remained undiscovered in the desert, until 1888. While out looking for stray cattle Richard Wetherill, Charles Mason and an Ute tribesman called Acowitz found the site nestled under a cliff wall. Their accidental discovery turned out to be the largest cliff dwelling in North America. ‘Cliff Palace’ is actually a misnomer as the site is more like a village than what we would understand as a palace. While the reason for the site’s abandonment is not certain, the widely accepted theory is that the first of the great droughts, that has been linked to the collapse of the Anasazi golden age, disrupted farming throughout the region.
The Minoan civilization of Crete is named for the mythical King Minos, builder of the labyrinth. There is scant written material left from the Minoans, so we do not know what they called themselves. The entire civilization was largely forgotten until the turn of the 20th century. With the discovery of the great palace at Knossos the glories of the Minoans were rediscovered. Instead of the well known Knossos, I have included a Minoan outpost, Akrotiri on the island of Santorini. Santorini, or Thera, is the home of the Thera volcano. It is now thought that the explosion of Thera around 1600 BC, one of the largest eruptions in recorded history, brought about the collapse of the Minoan empire. The discovery of Akrotiri, in 1967, brought to light exceptionally well preserved frescos, homes up to three stories high, and a complex planned settlement. The water supply system suggests the people of Akrotiri had access to running hot and cold water, with the hot water provided by the very volcano which would destroy them.


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