Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Ten Lost Civilizations

with 26 comments


If humans had eight fingers, this would be “Eight Lost Civilizations.” However, by accident of biology or God’s design (one and the same really) humans have ten fingers so we are stuck with lists of ten things. I have a number of ten things lists under construction to relieve the tedium of war, terrorism, and global warming. Here’s the first…ten lost civilizations. And yes, I have ulterior motives here, there is some logic and history hidden below. I hope.

Moving right along, there have actually been about 7000 civilizations in the course of human history, new ones are discovered all the time. I’m sure there is an actual scientific definition of the term “civilization,” for my purposes I am defining the term as “a distinct culture and society delineated by a particular region, nation, or era.” As for what I mean by lost, I mean they are no longer around. That covers such things as Rome whose institutions, myths, and language still permeate western society, to true mysteries like the demise of the Indus Valley civilization. They are roughly ordered from the least mysterious to the most mysterious, though some might quibble.

I’ve tried not to include civilizations like the Arawak or the Inca who were simply annihilated in historical times by foreign invaders. I’ve not included lost cities, there’s a whole lost cities list under construction. I’ve only included one “mythical” lost civilization, basically because it is so well known that not to include it would be a disservice. And lastly, I’ve not included lost civilizations that are still truly lost and only hints of them have been found. Again, another list. Who knew the world was so filled with mysteries?

This, like all my paranormal posts, is presented as factual entertainment. I have little patience for debunkers and true believers alike…this is aimed at the middle ground. There are amazing mysteries in the world…but there’s no need to invoke aliens or magic to explain them. Yet.

Atlantis. Atlantis is the easiest lost civilization to understand, everything we know about Atlantis comes from a few passages in the works of Plato, a classical Greek philosopher. There is not one single whit of evidence outside of Plato’s writing for the existence of Atlantis, every single reference in the world’s history mentioning Atlantis leads back to Plato. Which hasn’t stopped people from spending their lives searching for it.

Hmm, a reasonable person would have to assert that the most likely explanation is that Plato made Atlantis up for whatever reason. Oddly enough Plato wrote about Atlantis in 360 BC. Just a dozen years earlier the Greek City of Helike literally sank beneath the sea during an earthquake and tidal wave, taking all its inhabitants to a watery grave. It was big news at the time, tourists sailed over the ruins for centuries before they became buried with silt and were lost. It’s not hard for me to imagine that Helike was the inspiration for Plato’s Atlantis.

Rome. Ah yes, Rome, whatever happened to them? Whole books could and have been written about why the Roman civilization fell. Seeing as I have a paragraph or two, I will be brief. The first is that only half of the Roman Empire collapsed and was overrun by barbarians. The Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) with its capital in Constantinople lasted another thousand years after the sack of Rome. A lot of reasons have been proposed for the collapse, from corruption to barbarians to moral decay to Christianity. Truth of the matter is, no one really knows. The Empire was never particularly well run to begin with, historians generally consider there were only a handful of good emperors. The mystery then becomes, why did the Roman Empire become so large and last so long if it was so badly run? Good question.

The Maya. The Maya built fabulous cities and temples in central America, but by the time the Spanish arrived they had abandoned their cities and reverted to living in villages. What the hell happened? Good question, we still don’t know, though recent archaeology has shown that many of their cities were hastily fortified and show signs of violence near the end. So internal strife is a good bet, though caused by what is still unknown. Climate change and drought is a recent theory. The fact that a great civilization (fifteen million people at their peak!) can abandon its cities and move back into villages is food for thought, nu? The Maya are the most well known civilization who did this, but by no means the only one.

As a trivial note, much is made by some about the significance of the end of the Mayan calender in 2012. At the risk of offending people, I think this is just silly. The “end of the Mayan calender” is simply an artifact of how they constructed their calender. The Mayans put no significance to it. It’s like saying that the year 9999 will be the “end of our calender.”

Angkor Wat. This is another great civilization that abandoned its cities mysteriously. No one really knows why, though there’s some current investigation that hints that the metropolitan area got too large for its infrastructure to sustain. Of course contemporary modern civilizations know well the immense importance of infrastructure and always maintain it well. Snort.

Clovis People. Now this is an interesting one, a mysterious people using sophisticated and distinct stone tools colonized North America at the end of the last ice age, around 13,000 years ago. There were people here before them, but the Clovis people seem to be the first large scale colonization of North America. Where did they come from? No one knows, but France is a current guess. Where did they go? Their culture was destroyed during a cold period around 11,000-10,000 years ago. Possibly by weather, possibly by an impact event. The Clovis people lived on even if their culture was fragmented, and they are thought to be the forebears of most of the new world’s native people.

The Chachapoya. Called the “warriors of the clouds” these people lived high in the Andes in Northern Peru. The fought the Incas for centuries, only to be conquered by them shortly before the arrival of the Spanish. Recent discoveries are forcing a rethink of how important they were, but because they ceased to exist politically before Cortes arrived, they too are forgotten. Frankly if the Incas hadn’t been such an aggressive and warlike culture, they might have been able to resist the Spanish invasion, but I digress. And yes, the Chachapoya were conquered in historic times, I just thought they were interesting and obscure enough to include.

Goner. Who the hell were they? The Goner were a mysterious city building civilization that flourished in central Asia at the same time as the first city building civilizations in China, Mesopotamia, and Egypt. The were located in what is now Turkmenistan and are only now being revealed by archaeology. They were very possibly the first great trading civilization connecting east and west in Asia. For whatever reason their civilization failed and was covered by the sands of time.

The Minoan Culture. Ah, the Minoans. They were a pre classical Greek culture that built fabulous modern cities on the island of Crete, and unlike most ancient cities in the region, they had no city walls. Probably protected by their navy, their civilization thrived for over 1,000 years, from 2700 BC to 1450 BC. While there is much we know about them, there is far more we don’t know. What the heck is going on in the Minoan illustration above for example? We don’t even really know what happened to them. Their cities were pretty much destroyed by the terrible eruption of the island of Thera, but they rebuilt and a lasted another 50 years before they abandoned their cities or were overrun by invaders or something.

Harappan Civilization. As many as five million people once lived in one of the world’s very first large civilizations, in the Indus Valley in what is now Pakistan and Western India. They lasted for thousands of years (3300-1700 BC.) The Harappans built their cities out of mud brick so little remains but a few mounds. They were only rediscovered about 80 years ago, we know very little about them. What happened to make this thriving civilization disappear while others in China and the middle east went on to found the civilizations of the world today? It’s being looked into. A lesson here: Don’t build out of mud if you want your civilization to be remembered.

Megalith builders. At least these people built out of giant stones so we still have a lot of their stonework today. For thousands of years (4800-1200 BC) people built a variety of structures out of giant stones in western Europe, sometimes transporting stones hundreds of miles for these mysterious constructions. The idea seems to have spread out of Africa, at least one purpose of some of these structures was astronomical as in they could track the seasons and such and have a calender. Stonehenge is the most well known of these sites, but by no means the largest or most mysterious.

(The above image of “bull-leaping” from the Minoan Palace of Knossos in Crete is public domain under US copyright law. What these people were doing is still a mystery. A sport? Right of passage? Entertainment? Extreme bull baiting? Let’s make up some nonsense to confuse people in the future?)

Written by unitedcats

August 31, 2007 at 10:34 am

Posted in History, Paranormal, World

26 Responses

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  1. Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? Piss off God and that’s what ya get… Even the Bible says so.

    Rick A Hyatt

    August 31, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    • That is just dumb. “Don’t tick off that LOVING because he will kill your babies.” Real divine!

      percy fartworth

      February 16, 2013 at 8:26 am

  2. Interesting post, Doug. I wish we knew more about how they fell. We could learn some valuable lessons.


    August 31, 2007 at 11:26 pm

  3. At a glance look interesting. Will read it when get time.


    September 1, 2007 at 6:42 am

  4. Well, a recurring theme in collapsed civilizations is that the local climate changed. Fortunately being a global civilization, that can’t happen to us. @@


    September 1, 2007 at 6:46 am

  5. The Goner?

    The Goner are goners?

    You’re sure this isn’t nine lost civilizations and one “I’m just pulling your leg this time” civilization? You and Plato, you guys are great kidders.


    September 3, 2007 at 3:06 am

  6. So how will WE write it? How shall it read when we look back on December 21, 2012? We certainly have the elements in place to destroy ourselves. The planet has experienced cataclysmic events in its history – polar shifts, ice ages, etc. No one really knows. What the Mayan’s meant with their End-Count calendar will always be up for speculation. It fires the imagination, for sure. SOooo let’s write it like we want it. That is what Chris Fenwick did in the #1 Visionary Novel: “the 100th human.” You choose…


    September 9, 2007 at 11:13 am

  7. I find all of this very interesting, although I did notice that you failed to mention any of the African civilizations. An interesting one was (and I forget the name of the nation) the civilization centred around the ruins in what became Zimbabwe. The colonial forces couldn’t understand why the tribes were living outside the city ruins in nomadic enclaves rather then maintaining what must have been a thriving civilization. Actually this particular site was the origin (or at least scientific rationalization) of the Hamitic theory of African descent. (To make a long story short, all Africans are cursed descendents of the cursed biblical character Ham).

    I’m looking forward to the ten cutest kittens post.


    September 14, 2007 at 9:36 am

  8. Satalite technology is now showing ancient sites that have been engulfed by the jungle..Perhaps there are more ancient civilizations waiting to be discovered…I agree, December 21st 2012 will be very interesting if the Mayans are correct..


    April 6, 2008 at 2:58 pm

  9. Rome? _They_are_still_here_. What do you think we’ve been living in for the past 1600 years?


    January 29, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    • Rome is just a city. The roman empire os no longer exsists. The city of rome is there just as reminder of the once great empire. It is nothing more or nothing less.


      November 3, 2009 at 12:43 pm

      • The Roman empire collapsed because it invested heavily in financial derivatives and went bankrupt. History repeats itself just ask the Germans.


        November 26, 2011 at 8:41 am

  10. For an interesting discussion of at least some of what the Megalith Builders were about, see the book Uriel’s Machine, by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas.

    That’s a book for the “middle ground” noted above.


    January 29, 2009 at 3:47 pm

  11. It’s “Gonur” not “Goner” and its a city not a civilization.


    May 7, 2009 at 12:08 am

  12. Rome is not a lost civilization. It transformed from an empire to a city-state to a national region, but there was always an awareness of it’s existence and a continuity that remains today in culture, language and tradition.


    June 20, 2009 at 11:12 am

  13. A couple of points: Plato did not make up the tale of Atlantis; he merely passed it on. The story came from the Egyptians, so it is very unlikely that Helike had anything to do with it. Atlantis was actually a supervolcanic island off Portugal that exploded and sank in the 17th century BC. Also, there is no evidence that the Thera (Santorini) eruption did any very serious damage to Crete. The island was simple overrun by the warlike Achaeans about 80 years later (See Roots of Cataclysm: Geopulsation and the Atlantis Supervolcano, Algora Publ. NY 2009).

    Richard Welch

    March 13, 2010 at 8:05 pm

  14. No one has found a single mention of Atlantis anywhere that didn’t originate with Plato. If there is a pre-Plato origin for the story, there’s not a shred of evidence for it. The damage the Thera eruption did to the Minoan civilization is debatable, yes, they survived the eruption, but it may very well have significantly weakened their civilization which led to their being invaded and overrun. In any event this article is meant as a quick overview and hopefully inspiration for further reading, it’s not meant as any sort of scholarly treatise. Thanks for commenting!


    March 13, 2010 at 8:16 pm

  15. […] civilisationer har kommit och gått under årtusenden, och vissa finns det inte mycket spår kvar av. Det kan finnas något kvar men i vissa fall finns […]

    Minnen av oss « ASPO Sverige

    December 12, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    • actually, the reason some believe that Atlantis may have existed is that plato also wrote about troy and it was considered myth until it was discovered by archeologist.So…..


      February 11, 2011 at 9:32 am

      • Plato also wrote about a noble republic governed by wise and honest leaders. It, and they, still remain myths.


        November 26, 2011 at 8:45 am

  16. Michael, a photographer for some of that kind of his teeth to feel.


    June 15, 2011 at 9:10 pm

  17. Well, wrapping her luscious lips widefor him. Pleaseeeeeeeeeeee. Some girls even like hours.


    June 17, 2011 at 3:03 pm

  18. In the Thousands of years to come that is of course if Mankind or Mother Nature does not destroy the Planet will we learn the answers…And if we should “Learn from Mistakes” we will continue for millions of years to come as we populate our solar system and beyond. Hopefully the Scientists of the World will come to understand what they preach us to be true, after all as we try to understand it all, try to think of GODS creation of it all, the Big Bang, I mean there was in the beginning absolutely nothing! No Universe Etc. So where did Nothing come from? On and on and on…


    June 30, 2011 at 5:28 am

    • Actually, the origin of the Big Bang is not the unknowable mystery it once was, and scientists never said the Universe originated from nothing, they said they didn’t know whence it originated. Now they have workable testable theories about the origin of the Universe: What is outside the Universe or A Universe from Nothing. :) —Doug


      June 30, 2011 at 7:59 am

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    October 1, 2013 at 8:29 pm

  20. You want answers but you are not getting them from traditional science. Well, here it is. The earth harbored intelligent life in the extreme past, millions of years ago. The new discovery of a comet that exploded in Egypt confirms this. In fact, research on a lost moon of Earth dates the Maya back 65 million years. See my blog: or email me: Mr. Black.


    December 12, 2013 at 11:27 am

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