As the millennia passed, civilizations have risen and fallen, much like the crests and troughs of ocean waves. Some of these peoples left traces of their art, culture, and society behind while others vanished without a trace. They flourished and peaked till natural disasters, disease, famine or mysterious circumstances led to the collapse of these lost civilizations of the world.
Remember the myth of the Minotaur? This is where the legend was born, off the coast of Greece on the island of Crete. The civilization was named after King Minos of Crete from the mythological tale and flourished 7000 years ago as a vibrant trading civilization. They were natural builders and erected monuments of unbelievable complexity, had a script (that remains undeciphered to this day) and had repeatedly rebuilt their civilization following earthquakes and eruptions of the volcano Thera. Its capital was Knossos, the location of the labyrinth that the hero Theseus navigated to slay the Minotaur, according to legend. They Minoans reached their peak sometime around the 16th century BCE and they mysteriously vanished in around the 14th century BCE.
Migrating from Arabia, the Aramaic speaking Nabateans settled Jordan, Canaan and certain parts of Arabia in the 6th century BCE. Their most well-known monument is Petra, the magnificent city carved into the sandstone rocks of Jordan. They thrived in the harsh arid climes of the desert by mastering irrigation building dams and canals to harvest water effectively, a pretty remarkable achievement in those conditions. They were eclipsed by the expansive Romans, who took over control of the entire region by 106 BCE, Vae Victis. The people of the Nabatean civilization left the area and split into smaller disparate groups moving into Greece and other nearby regions, they left no culture and the few writings they left behind are on displayed in a museums.
The Indus Valley Civilization
The Indus Valley or Harappan culture was a civilization in the truest sense, flourishing for nearly 6000 years before they vanished. The earliest settlement site was dated to circa 7500 BCE located in the northern Indian state of Haryana. The major cities of Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa and the port of Lothal were excavated in the early 20th century and were found to have a complex sanitary system in place with drainage and public baths. They also established trade with the Mesopotamians, another well-established civilization in Euphrates and Tigris Valley. As the name goes, the major settlements were in the Indus and now dried up Saraswati basin. They were also quite technologically advanced in the areas of engineering and mathematics. The civilization was lost sometime in the 17th century BCE either due to western invasions or changing climate degrading the agriculture, but the exact cause largely remains a mystery.
The Olmec Civilization
One of the earliest civilizations in the Americas was that of the Olmecs, a mysterious and technically advanced civilization in southern Mexico. Among the ruins of the Olmec excavation sites were colossal stone heads which even today spark debate about their incredible craftsmanship and sheer size. The Olmecs practiced sacrificial rituals and developed a writing system, the first ones to do so in the western hemisphere. Historians inferred that the civilization crumbled under changing climate due to extensive volcanic activity and earthquakes.
The Mycenean Civilization
The militaristic Myceneans conquered much of southern Greece during their peak during the 16th century BCE. Their influence spread across the Adriatic and they were the primary aggressors in the epic battle of Troy, which was the subject of Homer’s ‘Illiad.’ The Myceneans left behind a wealth of artifacts, architecture and art that spread and were found as far away as Ireland. They dominated the region with their mighty war machine for five centuries before their downfall, which was caused by any number of factors ranging from foreign invasions to climate change.
Content Inputs: Karan Wagh