Understanding our past is what historians and anthropologists seek to do. Looking back we will witness civilizations rise and fall, as humanity walks down a very repetitive path of construction and destruction. Still, there are some ancient cultures that seem incredibly alien to us, legends and strange encounters cast nothing but shadow over some of these peoples. Some are said to be very advanced and tranquil only to vanish with some cataclysm and others, despite stories and accounts of encounters, never seem to have existed.
Let's take a look at top 10 Mysterious lost Civilizations that once existed:
1. The Clovis Civilization
We do not know much about the Clovis culture, this prehistoric Native American culture is believed to have existed in North America. Its name comes from Clovis site, an archaeological site located near the town of Clovis, New Mexico. Artifacts found on this site in the 1920s consist of stone blades and bone. It is believed that these people came from Siberia to Alaska across the Bering Strait by the end of the last ice age. Whether it was or not the first culture in North America no one knows. The Clovis culture has gone rather abruptly. Is it because they too hunted and destroyed their own food supply? Or is it because of climate change, disease or predators? Or did the members of this culture are simply dispersed to join other Native American tribes? Or was the fall of a meteorite was the cause of their disappearance?
2. Easter Island Civilization
The people of Eastern Island represent another classic "lost" civilization, famed in part for its enigmatic, enormous stone statues of human heads (called Moai) lined up along the island's coastline. How did this thriving Polynesian civilization disappear after centuries of monument-building and navigating hundreds of miles of ocean waters to go from island to island? Jared Diamond sums up what many scientists now believe in his book Collapse, which is that the Easter Islanders were incredibly sophisticated, but their methods weren't sustainable. During the time they settled Easter Island, possibly between 700-1200 AD, they used up all the island's trees and agricultural resources, and then had to move on.
3. The Mycenaean Civilization
Unlike the Minoan, Mycenaean flourished not only through trade but also through conquest, to the point where their empire spanned nearly all of Greece. The Mycenaean civilization has experienced five centuries of dominating power before disappearing around 1100 BC. Several Greek myths are centered around this civilization, like that of the legendary King Agamemnon who led the Greek army during the Trojan War. The Mycenaean civilization was rich culturally and economically, and has left behind many artifacts. It is not clear why they disappeared: earthquake, invasions, or may be peasant revolts!
4. The Indus Valley Civilization
One of the great civilizations of the ancient world is called simply the Indus or Harappan civilization. Thousands of years ago, it may have boasted up to 5 million people, almost 10 percent of the world's population, spread over a region that encompassed parts of today's India, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. But its grand walkways (with sophisticated roadside drainage), metallurgy shops, and massive, multistory, brick hives of houses were abandoned over 3,000 years ago. It's likely that this ancient civilization, like the Maya, suffered from gradual changes in rainfall patterns that made it difficult for its peoples to raise enough food for their massive population.
5. The Olmec Civilization
There once flourished the great pre-Columbian civilization of the Olmecs. The first traces of civilization dates back to 1400 BC. In the city of San Lorenzo, there is one of the three main centers of the Olmecs with Tenochtitlan and Potrero Nuevo. The Olmecs were master builders. One found on these sites large monuments of giant stone heads. This civilization laid the foundation of all Mesoamerican cultures that followed. It is believed that the Olmecs were the first to develop a writing system, they would probably have invented the compass and the Mesoamerican calendar. They knew the use of bloodletting, did human sacrifices and invented the concept of the number zero. This civilization was not discovered by historians until the mid-19th century. Its decline occurred due to climate changes caused by volcanic eruptions, earthquakes or perhaps harmful agricultural practices.
6. The Minoan Civilization
Minoan Civilization arose on the island of Crete and other Aegean islands and flourished from approximately 3650 to 1400 BCE. It belongs to a period of Greek history and arose in the 20th century. Minoan refers to the mythical King Minos. Over the course of time, the cities and palaces were built and rebuilt becoming increasingly complex. One of these was that palaces of Knossos, the labyrinth associated with the legend of King Minos (from which the civilization gets its name). It is now an important archaeological center.
7. The Nabataean Civilization
The Nabataean civilization flourished in southern Jordan, Canaan region and northern Arabia from the 6th century BC. The Semitic people built the breathtaking city of Petra, carved into the sandstone cliffs of Jordan Mountains. We also know about their talents in hydraulics and their complex system of dams, canals and reservoirs that enabled them to grow in a desert region. No written record has reached us and we know close to nothing of their culture. This however was a thriving civilization thanks to its geographical position which allowed them to create a network for the exchange of ivory, silk, spices, precious metals, precious stones, incense, sugar, perfume and medicines. Unlike other civilizations of the time, the Nabataeans were not aware of slavery and each contributed to the tasks of the city.
8. The Maya Civilization
The Maya are perhaps the classic example of a civilization that was completely lost, its great monuments, cities and roads swallowed up by the central American jungles, and its peoples scattered to small villages. Though the languages and traditions of the Maya still survive up to the present day, the civilization's peak was during the first millennium AD, when their greatest architectural feats and massive agricultural projects covered a vast region in the Yucatán — today, an area stretching from Mexico to Guatemala and Belize. One of the largest Mesoamerican civilizations, the Maya made extensive use of writing, math, an elaborate calendar, and sophisticated engineering to build their pyramids and terraced farms.
9. The Aksum Empire
The Aksum Empire began establishing itself in the first century AD in the area where Ethiopia is now located. Legend has it that this is the birthplace of the Queen of Sheba. Aksum was an important trading center where we ivory exported, resources, agriculture and gold to the Roman Empire and to India. It was a rich society and the first African culture to issue its own currency, which at the time was a sign of great power. The most distinctive monuments are his steles of Axum, gigantic carved obelisks playing the role of funeral terminals for kings and nobles. The first Aksumite worshiped many gods, the main one being Astar. Then, in 324, King Ezana II was converted to Christianity and became Axum therefore a fiercely Christian culture. According to local legend, a Jewish queen named Yodit defeated Aksumite Empire and burned churches and books. Others believe that it is a pagan queen Bani al-Hamwijah would have caused the decline of the empire.
10. The Khmer Empire
Most people have heard of the magnificent temple Angkor Wat in Cambodia. But it was only one small part of a massive urban civilization during the Khmer Empire called Angkor. The city flourished during the late middle ages, from 1000-1200 AD, and may have supported up to a million people. There are a lot of good reasons why Angkor may have fallen, ranging from war to natural disaster. Now most of it lies beneath the jungle. A marvel of architecture and Hindu culture, the city is mysterious mostly because we still aren't certain how many people lived there. Given all the roads and canals connecting its many regions, some archaeologists believe it may have been the biggest urban site in the world at its height.