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Six Lost Civilizations That Vanished Without a Trace

Written by Isabells Boston.

Throughout history great civilizations have been built, flourished, and have declined. Historians have documented the rise and fall of these lost societies, but some of them seem to have just disappeared leaving little to no clues as to what may have happened to them.

1. The Maya ~ The Maya empire was one of the most powerful civilizations of its time. At its peak, it once occupied the entire Yucatán Peninsula, modern-day Guatemala, parts of Mexico, and Belize. The Maya people were extremely advanced and demonstrated exceptional engineering skills and applied complex mathematics. They left behind an impressive amount of architecture and symbolic artwork including stone carvings and inscriptions on their monuments and buildings. The Maya civilization had a highly developed and sophisticated writing system and is most noted for its calendar and astronomical system. In about 900 CE, the civilization was unable to sustain itself and had a drastic decline. Although the exact cause is unknown, scholars now believe the drop was the result of overpopulation, war, climate change, and famine. Eventually this caused a large exodus and the abandonment of their largest cites. The last Maya city was conquered by the Spanish in early 1697 and was called Nojpeten. Although no longer an empire, the Maya descendants still exist today in El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, and Guatemala.

Nabta Playa. Image credit/ Wikimedia Commons.

2. Nabta Playa ~ The ancient remains of Nabta Playa were discovered in the Nubian Desert, approximately 100 kilometers west of Abu Simbel in sounthern Egypt, by a group of scientists in 1974. Little is known about these people or what may have happened to them. What archeologists do know from what they left behind is that the Nabta Playa people were farmers of domesticated animals and created ceramic vessels about 9,000 years ago. Among the ruins remain stone circles resembling Stonehenge suggesting this ancient civilization practiced astronomy.

Çatalhöyük. Image credit/ Wikemedia Commons.

3. Çatalhöyük ~ This ancient city was once part of an extensive civilization and was located in what is known today as south-central Turkey. It is most notable for its unusual architecture. The city was built without streets and the houses were all constructed in a “honeycomb” structure. These ancient people most likely used the rooftops to travel and climbed down ladders to access their dwellings. The occupants did not have communal cemeteries and buried their dead beneath the floor of their homes. The civilization flourished between 9,000 and 7,000 years ago before it just suddenly disappeared.

The Lost City of Thonis - Heracleion. Colossal statue of the god Hapy. Image credit/ Gerigk.

4. Thonis - Heracleion, Egypt ~ Now resting at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, the lost city of Thonis-Heracleion is one of the greatest underwater discoveries ever to be found. It was hidden under water for thousands of years and was once the gateway to Egypt. Archeologists believe that the lost society somehow sank beneath the waves, although they are still trying to piece together its history. There are only a few ancient texts and rare inscriptions about its existence. The port city was known as Thonis to the Egyptians and Heracleion to the Greeks and it flourished at the mouth of the Nile in the seventh century BC. It was an important center for trade and culture and then it just suddenly disappeared.

Cahokia. Image credit/ National Geographic.

5. Cahokia ~ About four centuries before Columbus came to the western hemisphere, Cahokia was a prosperous pre-American city with a population comparable to London's. It was located in southern Illinois, just eight miles from present-day St Louis. Cahokia was probably the largest North American city north of Mexico during its time. Although it was a sophisticated and cosmopolitan city, most Americans are unaware of its history. The people of Cahokia farmed, hunted, and traded. They also used astronomical alignments to lay out a low-scale metropolis of 10 - 20,000 people. They had a town centre with plazas and key buildings constructed atop vast, hand-built earthen mounds. Many of which can still be visited today. It is not known why the occupants left the city in or around 1200 AD, but some researchers believe two great floods may have contributed to the decline and abandonment of this once great civilization.

Angkor Wat. Image credit/

6. Angkor ~ Angklor Wat is one of the most recognizable and famous ruins in the world and is located in northern Cambodia. It was part of a larger city called Angkor. The gigantic Buddhist temple complex is the largest religious monument on earth occupying some 402 acres and was once part of a metropolis larger than modern-day New York City. Angkor was the capital of the Khmer Empire and flourished during much of the Khmer rule. However, the city fell into ruin 300 years before the end of the empire. It is not clear as to what may have caused the end of this civilization nor is it known how many people may have lived there at the peak of its height.

The Legacy of Angkor.

These are just some of the once-great civilizations that seem to have just vanished without a trace. Everyday new information is coming to light as to how these ancient people lived, thrived, and declined as archeologists continue to study their stories in the ruins and artifacts they left behind.

Author Bio

Isabella Boston

Isabella Boston is a multi-talented writer and the Founder of Bella’s Attic Studio. She has several years of experience in content writing, copywriting, and social media strategies. She is the author of the romantic and rare memoir, Passion of Flames. Isabella is currently working to spread awareness on the dangers and inhumanity of human sex trafficking. She has special interests in fashion and beauty, health and wellness, and natural healing as it pertains to the body, mind and soul. When Isabella is not writing, she enjoys playing the violin, learning new languages (currently Italian), and reading books of substance.

Maya Empire. Photo credit/ David Min/ Shutterstock.


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