Six Lost Cities Forgotten By Time
Aug 27, 2023 By Juliana Daniel

Rediscovering places like Pompeii or Machu Picchu sparks wonder and imagination as we stare into the remains of cultures lost long ago.

Hidden in remote jungles, buried under ash, or sunk deep beneath the waves, lost cities forgotten by time have captured the human imagination for centuries. Their rediscovery call to us to unravel their mysteries.

Here we have gathered six lost cities forgotten by time.

6 Ancient Lost Cities Of The World Forgotten By Time

1. Angkor, Cambodia

Nestled in Cambodia's steamy jungles, the ancient city of Angkor was the beating heart of the Khmer kings' vast kingdom and a thriving center of culture and commerce in Southeast Asia. Over one million people may have walked its bustling streets at its peak between the 9th to 15th centuries. Angkor was lost to history until French explorer Henri Mouhot uncovered it in the 1840s.

At the heart of this sprawling 400-square-kilometer complex is the magnificent Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. Its five iconic towers are engraved with intricate bas-reliefs depicting celestial dancers, Hindu and Buddhist myths, and scenes from daily life.

The enigmatic Bayon Temple mesmerizes with its huge carved stone faces, while Ta Prohm embraces visitors in the grasp of gnarled tree roots and vines.

Today Angkor is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, drawing visitors to wander its ruins and glimpse the lost grandeur of this ancient civilization.

2. Petra, Jordan

The ancient city of Petra is also known as the "Rose City" for its pink-hued rock-cut architecture. Petra, located on the soaring cliffs of southern Jordan, was once the capital of the Nabatean people, who carved this desert metropolis directly into the mountainsides over 2,000 years ago.

Petra thrived on vital ancient trade routes as a hub linking the Mediterranean, Arabia, and the Far East. Merchants bearing silks, spices, and other exotic goods converged here, bringing immense wealth that allowed the Nabateans to create magnificent structures cut into the living rock.

The most iconic is the Treasury, or Al-Khazneh, an ornate facade flanked by columns and decorated with intricate carvings. Petra boasts many wonders -like, the enormous Monastery carved into a mountain, the 7,000-seat Roman Theater, and the Street of Facades lined with carved tombs.

Petra's prosperity declined as trade patterns shifted, and it was eventually abandoned and forgotten until being rediscovered in 1812. In 1985, it was named a UNESCO site to preserve it for tourism.

3. Pompei, Italy

The doomed ancient city of Pompeii lies on Italy's western coast at the foot of Mount Vesuvius. Pompeii was a flourishing Roman town with its neighbor Herculaneum until its abrupt end in 79 AD.

At its peak, Pompeii had a population of around 11,000 people. It was a major commercial hub with shops, markets, taverns, and bathhouses. Pompeii had a theater that could host events with 20,000 spectators for political and entertainment events. Temples honoring Roman gods were also scattered throughout the city.

Pompeii and its inhabitants faded from memory until its rediscovery over 1,500 years later. First excavated in the mid-1700s, the site continues to be studied using the latest technologies like LiDAR mapping. This city stands as a UNESCO World Heritage Site that continues to intrigue as an ironically pristine snapshot of the Roman Empire at its peak.

4. Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu stands as a monument to the Inca Empire's sophistication dating back to the 15th century AD. Known as the "Lost City of the Incas," Machu Picchu lies nearly 8,000 above sea level in Peru's Andes mountains.

The Inca carefully cut and placed granite blocks in a style called ashlar masonry, locking the stones together without mortar. Machu Picchu contains over 150 buildings grouped into sectors, including temples, houses, plazas, and palaces.

Since native vegetation was left largely undisturbed during Machu Picchu's construction, the citadel is remarkably integrated into the natural landscape. When it was abandoned in the 16th century, the city became overgrown, protecting it from invaders. It remained unknown except to locals until Hiram Bingham's rediscovery in 1911.

Today, Machu Picchu draws over a million visitors annually. Strict regulations limit access to protect the site, named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983.

5. Babylon, Mesopotamia

The ancient city of Babylon was the capital of the mighty Babylonian empire in Mesopotamia, located in modern-day Iraq. Babylon emerged as a major power in the 18th century BC and grew into one of the ancient world's largest and most influential cities.

At its peak around the sixth and seventh century BCE, Babylon was a thriving metropolis covering over 2,500 acres. It featured immense royal palaces with beautiful gardens and temples dedicated to Mesopotamian gods like Marduk and Ishtar.

The city was home to astounding structures like the blue-tiled Ishtar Gate with images of dragons and bulls and the towering, seven-story Ziggurat dedicated to Marduk.

The hanging gardens of Babylon were one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. But some scholars debate if these gardens existed in Babylon.

Its remarkable history was forgotten until excavations in the 1800s began uncovering Babylon's lost treasures.

6. Troy, Turkey

The ruins of the ancient city of Troy, located in modern-day Turkey, provide a fascinating window into a prosperous civilization that flourished over 4,000 years ago. Troy rose to prominence during the late Bronze Age, around 1700-1200 BCE when its strategic hilltop position near the Dardanelles allowed it to grow rich from trade.

A series of excavations have uncovered the remains of nine main phases of the city, indicating Troy was repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt over its long history.

Troy's fame stems from the legendary Trojan War in the 13th century BC when a coalition of Greek forces besieged the city for 10 years. It was finally conquered by hiding inside a giant wooden horse, according to Homer's account.

After this epic conflict, Troy declined and was eventually abandoned around 500 BC, fading into myth and obscurity.

While based on myth, archaeology has confirmed Troy was a real city, rediscovered in the late 1800s by Heinrich Schliemann. Today, ongoing excavations at this UNESCO World Heritage site continue to reveal more about this iconic city made eternal by Homer's tales of gods and warriors.

Final Words

The stories of lost and forgotten cities offer a sobering reminder of the impermanence of even the greatest human achievements. Though they now exist mainly as ruins being reclaimed by nature. But the imagination flies high at the glimpses they provide into ancient life.