Why would a city disappear, and what makes one of those “lost cities” enough to be “rediscovered”? Who occupied that space? How did it get “lost” in the first place, and why did it take so long to find it? It’s likely that you haven’t given much thought to these themes unless you’re a history major, archaeologist, anthropologist, explorer, or adventurer. Nonetheless, you may be intrigued enough to keep reading.

At some point in the far future, one of our descendants may visit the remains of the Taj Mahal or the Statue of Liberty and wonder about the nearby communities. It wouldn’t be shocking if many of today’s cities were already underwater. After all, many old towns all over the world have disappeared without a trace because of things like flooding, abandonment, or just being spread out.

Many of the world’s lost cities were forgotten over time, only to be rediscovered by a wanderer or historian. We owe a debt of gratitude to those who shared their knowledge of the world’s hidden beauty with us.

The number of ancient cities that have been forgotten about is practically infinite. To help you out, though, we’ve compiled a list of some of the world’s forgotten cities that were finally located. 

Let’s Explore!

1. Egypt’s ancient tombs in the city of Thebes

The lost city impressive temples of Thebes
The impressive temples of Thebes © Prin Adulyatham/Shutterstock

Between the years 2040 and 1070 B.C., Thebes served as the capital of Egypt and was also the city that was devoted to Amon, the supreme god of the sun. Even in modern times, its beauty is unparalleled. The contributions that ancient Greece made to culture and politics were mostly centered in and around the city of Thebes. 

For many centuries, the majority of it has been forgotten, and in many cases, this was done on purpose. Myth and legend surround the once-mighty and influential ancient city of Thebes, which was also the spot where the legendary ancient Greek hero Hercules was born. It is supposed that the ground of Thebes was fertilized by the dragon’s teeth when it was first settled, but Alexander the Great destroyed the city. The rich history of Thebes, on the other hand, has been largely ignored in favor of Athens and Sparta, which were Thebes’ competitors. 

Many people still think that the Karnak Complex, the Temple of Ramesses II, and the Temple of Luxor are three of the best examples of ancient Egyptian architecture in the world. It is also worth noting that Tutankhamun’s tomb can be found in this region.

2. The Religious City of Dwarka in India

People say that the ancient Indian city of Dwarka has disappeared into the Arabian Sea. Now, underwater archaeologists are looking for the foundations of the city walls to prove that the city used to be there. The city of Dwarka is not only significant from an archaeological standpoint but it is also considered one of the holiest pilgrimage centers in all of India just like that of Kashi. The old version of the city, which is called the ancient kingdom of Krishna in the epic Mahabharata, was a fortified metropolis that was about 84 kilometers long and was located where the Gomti River meets the Arabian Sea. 

Dwarka temple submerged
Photo of Dwarka temple in the Arabian sea @ Dreamstime

People say that after Krishna died, the ancient city sank into the Arabian Sea. In folklore, Dwarka is said to be the hometown of Lord Krishna, a place that was thought to be an old wives’ tale or a myth until the ruins were discovered 132 feet below the ocean’s surface. According to the text, after Krishna died, the Arabian Sea covered up the old city. The remains were discovered buried beneath the surface of contemporary Dwarka. The intricacies and splendor of this city have even left experts perplexed. 

In the second half of the 20th century, archaeologists tried to find physical proof of the sunken city off the coast of the modern city of Dwarka so they could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the city did exist. Because of this, a lot of artifacts, such as stone blocks and pillars, have been found underwater. However, the exact age of these finds is still being debated. In order to find the foundations of the ancient city walls, researchers are currently preparing an excavation that will take place underwater. 

3. Mosque City in Bagerhat, Bangladesh

The Sixty Dome Mosque in Bagerhat, Lost city
The Sixty Dome Mosque in Bagerhat, Bangladesh © Jono Photography/Shutterstock

The Mosque City of Bagerhat may be found in the southwestern suburbs of Bagerhat city, which is located to the southwest of Dhaka. The fact that this historic city was previously thought to be lost and was only found after many centuries is one of the most fascinating things about it. This region was hidden from human eyes for a considerable amount of time, despite the fact that it has over fifty monuments that are all designed in the Indo-Islamic architectural style.

This city did not come into prominence until the vegetation was cleared away, at which point it attracted the attention of people all over the world and was eventually designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In the fourteenth century, a Turkish general gave the order to build a town where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers meet. He visioned a metropolis, planning for a city with many mausoleums, mosques, and palaces, including his own. of the town’s founder, the once-proud city, which was home to an astounding 360 mosques and served as an outpost of the Islamic world, fell into disrepair. It was buried for ages by the growing vegetation, and now only a portion of it has been uncovered.

Even though the mosque with its sixty domes is the center of attention, the city itself is a good example of how a group of buildings should look. The beautiful mosque, which was built with sixty pillars and seventy-seven domes, takes you back in time and shows you how things used to be.

The Mosque City is located on the outskirts of the world-famous Sundarbans and is no more than sixty kilometers from the nearest coastline. In the 15th century, a Turkish general named Ulugh Khan Jahan started the city. At the time, it was known by its earlier name, Khalifatabad. the diverse collection of mosques that make up Mosque City in Bagerhat, Bangladesh.

4. The temples of Tikal, located in Guatemala

The Lost City of Tikal, Guatemala
The Lost City of Tikal, Guatemala © Shutterstock

Tikal, which is located in what is now Guatemala, was once one of the most important and influential Mayan cities. It was at its cultural peak between 200 and 900 AD, but not long after, it and most of the rest of the Classic Period Maya civilization quickly fell into disrepair. There are a lot of different hypotheses that try to explain why this took place, but the one that is now gaining the most traction is that it was a mix of drought and climate change that worked together to cause conflict, resource overexploitation, and ecological collapse. 

If you’re feeling uneasy because you’ve heard something before, you should be. Tikal and other similar sites have an impact on us today not only because they were built so massively but also because they may be signs that we are about to die. Sitting on top of Temple IV in the 21st century under an ever-hotter sun, one can’t help but wonder if travelers in the future will climb the sand-covered ruins of Dubai or be amazed by the deciduous trees that stretch across Manhattan and the five boroughs of New York City.

In much the same way as they did one thousand years ago, its magnificent six temples continue to dominate the landscape. Ancient buildings like these can be seen towering high above the rainforest canopy in some areas. The six huge pyramids at Tikal may have also been used as astronomical observatories as well as temples where Mayan kings were buried. This would have made it easier for Mayan priests to keep track of time and mark important events. 

The sightline that runs between Temples I and IV, for example, records the location of the sunset on August 13, the day the Maya believed the world began. When one goes there, they are inclined to ponder about the festivities that used to take place here, as well as the size of the city that has since been swallowed up by the bush.

5. The vanished city of Mohenjo-Daro, Pakistan

Early urban settlements of Mohenjo-Daro Now lost city
Early urban settlements of Mohenjo-Daro © Jawwad Ali/Shutterstock

Mohenjo-Daro is a city from the Indus Valley Civilization. It can be found in Pakistan’s Sindh Province, in the Larkana District. Mohenjo-Daro was built in the Indus Valley around 2600 B.C. It was a major rival to the Greek and Egyptian civilizations of the time, which were better known at the time. Even though not much is known about them, this place was once home to some of the first people to work in urban planning and building infrastructure. 

Erosion is a threat to the homes, stores, ramparts, and roads in the town right now. This complex community was lost for thousands of years until it was found in the early 1900s. Because of its historical value, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you are interested in archaeology or the history of the Indian subcontinent, you should not miss this splendor of the old world, which provides a glimpse into the past of what once was the vast civilization of the Indus Valley.

With a peak population of 35,000 to 50,000, this ancient powerhouse was a major hub of the Indus Valley Civilization (c. 2,600 BCE to c. 1,900 BCE) in what is now Pakistan. The Indus Valley Civilization was the first great one on the Indian Subcontinent. It grew along both sides of the mighty Indus River, which flows from the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea in modern-day Pakistan. 

Mohenjo-Daro was one of the biggest and most advanced cities of its time. It had some of the most complicated civil engineering and urban planning of the time, and its people were a mix of merchants, fishermen, and farmers. Mohenjo-daro’s ruins make one wonder how grand and advanced the city and its 5,000-year-old residents must have been. The sudden disappearance of this trade center, which was west of the big Indus River, around 1,900 BCE, is still a mystery. One theory is that the path of the Indus River changed because of the effects of climate change.

The amazing and beautiful ruins were found in 1911, but excavations didn’t start in earnest until 1922. Most of the excavations took place in the 1930s. Fearing for the safety of the remains, excavations stopped in 1965. To date, only about a third of the site is thought to have been found.

6. Greece’s Pavlopetri

Greece's Pavlopetri submerged

The name of the city that perished some 5,000 years ago is lost to history. The current name for it is “Pavlopetri,” which just so happens to stick. No one knows for sure who built this city or what culture it belonged to, although archaeologists think it was associated with the Minoans. However, the city’s history dates back about five thousand years into antiquity, as the surrounding area was populated even before the dawn of recorded Greek history.

Nicholas Flemming found an ancient Greek village underwater in 1967. It is now the oldest “lost city” in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the oldest in the world.

In 1969, British archaeologists from the University of Cambridge traveled to this astonishing site, a year after Pavlopetri’s discovery, to create a detailed map of the area and estimate the size of the ancient lost metropolis. The discovery was at first thought to be from the time of the Mycenaeans, but further investigation has shown that it is far earlier than that.

Archaeologists have been able to figure out that the first people lived in the area around 2800 BC because they found things from the Bronze Age. The original layout of the area has been kept up to this day, which is why archaeologists think it is so important. According to the research, the city was likely drowned when a trio of devastating earthquakes hit the region about 1000 BC.

The city’s original qualities were kept because of the strong earthquakes that caused it to sink to the bottom of the sea and stay there forever. Humans haven’t messed with it in hundreds of years, thus its secrets are still a mystery. According to UNESCO, Pavlopetri was one of the first “planned” cities, complete with residential areas, administrative buildings, factories for the manufacturing of pottery, markets, and so on, and it dates back more than five thousand years. The 2016 World Monuments Watch included it. Reports say an earthquake wiped out this town.

7. Great Zimbabwe, A Zimbabwean metropolis 

Massive stone structures from an African Iron Age city known as Great Zimbabwe It is in southeastern Zimbabwe, about 19 miles (30 km) southeast of Masvingo. It used to be called Fort Victoria. Great Zimbabwe is the biggest of Zimbabwe and Mozambique’s more than 150 important stone ruins. The primary area of ruins stretches around 200 acres (80 hectares).

A community of 10,000 to 20,000 Shona lived in the core ruins and the adjacent valley. From the eleventh through the fifteenth centuries, Great Zimbabwe was the center of a prosperous commercial empire centered on cattle husbandry, agricultural production, and the commerce of gold on the coast of the Indian Ocean. The name of the country, Zimbabwe, comes from a Shona (Bantu) phrase that means “stone dwellings.”

Great Zimbabwe,  world's lost cities
Great Zimbabwe, what is left of one of the world’s lost cities © Jo Reason/Shutterstock

The Hill Complex, the Great Enclosure, and the Valley Ruins make up the site’s three primary sections. Mortarless stone architecture is typical of the first two, but there are also ruins of dagâ (earthen and mud-brick) buildings there that were likely once just as impressive. Between the Hill Complex and the Great Enclosure are the Valley Ruins, which feature several mounds thought to represent the foundations of long-lost Dagassian structures.

The Gokomere people established this vanished metropolis on a plateau some 150 kilometers from present-day Harare in the eleventh century. A mile-high granite wall protected a palace in the heart of Great Zimbabwe. The ruins of a city built entirely of stone that once served as the center of a lucrative trade in gold, ivory, and livestock are now dispersed throughout a broad and lush valley.

During the 15th century, most of the population of Great Zimbabwe left. As the city declined (now in ruins), Khami to the south appears to have benefited from its stoneworking and pottery-making expertise. Even though the ruins were probably found by Portuguese explorers in the 16th century, it wasn’t until the late 19th century that their existence was proven, setting off a rush of archeological research. 

In the late 1800s, European explorers visited the area, and they were certain that they had found the famous city of Ophir, where King Solomon had his mines. It was incorrectly attributed to ancient civilizations, including the Phoenicians, Greeks, and Egyptians, despite the site’s masonry and other signs of an advanced civilization. David Randall-MacIver, an English archaeologist, concluded in 1905 that the remains were medieval and originated in Africa; in 1929, Gertrude Caton-Thompson, also an English archaeologist, verified these conclusions.

Note: This post has been split into four sections for your convenience, so please keep reading the upcoming sections. In the next two episodes of the series, there will be more interesting examples of cities that no longer exist from all over the world. Enjoy your reading!

Disclaimer: The author’s views are his or her own. The facts and opinions in the article have been taken from various articles and commentaries available in the online media and Eastside Writers does not take any responsibility or obligation for them.

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