The world history has seen several civilizations with variety of skills, time zones and variations. These human civilizations had their own cultures, rituals and mysterious ceremonies. There were periods in the timeline of human civilizations around the world without much record. Some of the widely known civilizations such as Chinese, Egyptian and Greek are famous and many things are known about their existences. These civilizations were powerful and widespread which made them strong and never collapse. Few famous civilizations like the Mayan and Indus Valley Civilizations have left some intriguing mysteries to us to solve. Many once thriving and flourishing civilizations, empires and cultures are mysteriously lost from earth.
Here is the list of 10 mysterious lost ancient civilizations without much clue:
10. Moche Civilization, Peru (100 to 700 A.D.)
Moche Civilization was a flourishing culture from the present day Moche, Peru. This civilization is comparatively younger culture than the other lost civilizations in this list. They were a group of autonomous polities sharing a common elite culture as seen even today in their rich iconography and monumental architectures. The people of Moche Culture were prevailing from 100 to 700 A.D. after which their existence is unknown. There are several theories to what led to the collapse of the Moche political structure and the people living there. According to a theory, severe glacial eruptions with 30 years of rain and flooding and again 30 years of drought continue to the collapse of the civilization. Other evidences suggest that these factors didn’t cause the final Moche demise. So it is hard to determine the exact cause behind the mysterious loss of the Moche culture.
9. Tiwanaku, Bolivia (1,500 to 1,150 B.C.)
The mysterious Tiwanaku civilization had influence on the later Inca Civilization. Tiwanaku was a city and the capital of the Tiwanaku Empire. We can trace the settlements of the civilization back to as much as 1,500 B.C. The city was the highest city in the ancient world. The civilization is known for their striking examples of ceremonial and religious activities. Wall niches, drainage, canals and hearth have been recovered from the site. The Wari culture has also been part of the civilization later. What led to the collapse of the Tiwanaku Empire is a mystery. The widely accepted theory is that the empire fell due to severe droughts due to changing climatic patterns and the inability to grow surplus foods. Other archaeologists support theory that the Tiwanaku fell due to uprising, as almost all rituals, ceremonial structures and public areas show signs of intentional destruction.
8. Mayan Civilization (2,600 B.C.)
Mayan Civilization is a Mesoamerican civilization by the Maya people. The classic Mayan Civilization met its fate of collapse between 8th and 9th centuries. Again in 2nd century the preclassic Mayan Civilization met a similar collapse. We know that the people from the civilization still live in parts of Mexico and other parts of South America. But, what led to the sudden collapse and abandonment of the civilization is one of the biggest archaeological mysteries in the world. Around a hundred theories exist to prove the collapse and decline of the civilization. The Classic Maya collapse is one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in archaeology. Many of the flourishing cities of Maya were left for an unknown reason. Theories such as disease epidemic, foreign invasion, drought and systematic ecological collapse are prevailing today.
7. Mycenaean Civilization, Greece (1,600 to 1,100 B.C.)
Mycenaean Civilization is a Greek late Bronze Age civilization which has links with The Minoans. The civilization flourished from 1,600 to 1,100 B.C. in the ancient Greece. Their achievement on the engineering fields, trade, military, art, architecture and language is known today and the dominance of the warrior elite society. The reason behind the collapse of this flourishing society is unknown. The Greek Dark Ages follow the Mycenaean period. Many records of the civilization were lost due to the Greek Dark Ages. Several theories have been put forth to the downfall of the civilization, such as the Dorian invasion and natural disaster or climatic change. The popular Greek civilization became the historical setting of much ancient Greek literature and mythology.
6. The Minoans, Crete (3,650 to 1,400 B.C.)
The Minoans were a mysterious civilization from the Bronze Age which flourished on the islands of Crete and Aegean. They were a civilization from the Greek history. This civilization was followed by the ancient Greece and Mycenaean Greece. The civilization came to light by the British archaeologist Arthur Evans in the 20th century. The name “Minoans” refers to the mythic King Minos of Greece. The flourishing and powerful civilization’s culture reached as far as the Cyclades, Egypt’s old kingdom and even to Anatolia. Around 1,400 B.C. the civilization came to an end by an unknown cause. The cause has been heavily disputed and theorized by scholars around the world. One of the theories says that the civilization came to an end due to an invasion whereas another says that it was due to a volcanic eruption. Their language is another mystery which remains indecipherable.
5. Nok Civilization, Nigeria (1,000 to 300 B.C.)
Nok Civilization was a mysterious and advanced ancient civilization in Nigeria, Africa. By far the most enigmatic and intriguing aspects of the Nok culture was their famous terracotta statues and their mysterious disappearance. The culture got its name from the Nok village in Nigeria. After the discovery of the terracotta sculptures in 1928, the first evidence of Nok culture came to light. The unknown reasons behind the disappearance of the civilization that lasted approximately 1,500 years are hard to believe leaving us mystified. Even the functions of these terracotta statues are unknown. The once flourishing Iron Age civilization were masters in farming, sculpting, iron smelting, architecture, pottery and ceramics. Around 500 B.C. the population of the region started to decline for a mystery reason. A sharp decline in population, statues and pottery during that period marks the slow collapse. After 300 B.C. no evidences of their existence were found.
4. Sanxingdui Culture, China (12th to 11th Centuries B.C.)
Sanxingdui is an interesting archaeological site in China and is in the major Chinese city of Sichuan. The culture is famous for its previously unknown Bronze Age culture. The culture came to light only in 1929 and again in 1986. Archaeologists are identifying the Sanxingdui Culture with that of the ancient kingdom of Shu. Radiocarbon dating of the excavations dates the culture to 12th and 11th centuries B.C. The culture was spread across multiple phases and was one of the mysterious civilizations in southern China.
The decline of the civilization is either due to invasion by another culture or natural disaster. There are several theories suggesting the demise of the civilization and none has been accurate enough to solve the mystery. With extensive trade links to bronze from Yin and ivory from Southeast Asia, the culture was a strong central theocracy. The evidence of such independent cultures in different regions of China defies the traditional theory that the Yellow River was the sole “cradle of Chinese civilization.”
3. Ancient Olmec Civilization, Mexico (1,500 to 400 B.C.)
The ancient Olmec Civilization is the first Mesoamerican civilization and became the foundation to many later cultures and civilizations. They were the first major civilization in Mexico and Guatemala. This artistic society is known for the Olmec heads known as “colossal heads”. There are several speculations on the origins of the Olmecs. Before someone could find their exact origin, their decline is a bigger mystery. Scholars are yet to find the cause of the eventual decline of Olmec culture. Volcanism is one of the theories relating to their fall. There are several theories such as climactic and environmental changes and slitting up of rivers due to heavy farming and agriculture. The culture has similarities to the Mayan cultures. The features of the civilization is also similar to the one found at Izapa. What led to their decline is one the biggest mysteries from the ancient world.
2. Cucuteni-Trypillian Culture, Eastern Europe (4,800 to 3,000 B.C.)
Cucuteni-Trypillian culture is from the Neolithic-Eneolithic era which has a live history from 4,800 to 3000 B.C. This Eastern Europe civilization’s existence was in the regions of present day western Ukraine, Moldova, and northeastern Romania. The majority of the settlements were small and high density settlements. During the middle Tryphilla phase, population belonging to the culture built the majority of structures (3,000 structures) and had a population in the range of 20,000 to 40,000 people. This culture is known to be the first to have built the largest settlements in the history of Neolithic Europe. Several female statues and amulets have been found from archaeological sites and excavations.
The end of the culture is a mystery among the scholars. There are several theories by researchers regarding how the civilization came to an end. Forceful destruction by other cultures is one theory which has an explanation by the archaeologist Marija Gimbutas in her book “Notes on the chronology and expansion of the Pit-Grave Culture“. According to another theory, the culture fell due to climatic changes during the Blytt–Sernander Sub-Boreal phase. The culture with a stable and static existence of nearly or probably 2,750 years came to an end in a mysterious way which is unexplainable today.
1. Indus Valley Civilization, India, Pakistan & Afghanistan (3,300 to 1,300 B.C.)
Indus Valley Civilization is one of the greatest and oldest civilizations in the world. This advanced civilization flourished near the Indus River, spanning across the current day Pakistan, northwest India and northeast Afghanistan. IVC is one the early civilization of the Old World, along with ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Harrapan Civilization is the other name of IVC.
The language of the civilization is undecipherable. What led to the demise of the civilization is a mystery and many theories explaining its collapse exist. Previously, researchers thought that the demise of this Bronze Age civilization led to an interruption of urban life in the Indian subcontinent. But, later excavations have revealed that the civilization didn’t decline or vanish suddenly. Its culture and Cemetery H culture still exists in the current day Hinduism. There are no proof of what happened to the people, its language and their Vedic religion.
Special mentions of other lost civilizations and cultures mysteriously:
The Khmer Empire, Cambodia
Easter Island Civilization