Abandoned Civilisations

Abandoned Civilisations : The Mysteries Behind More Than 90 Lost Worlds

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Ruined cities overgrown by jungle. Towns buried beneath the ground. Statues lying half- hidden in the sand. Why do civilisations collapse? Why are towns abandoned? And how do once mighty cities come to be forgotten about?
From the pyramids of Egypt to the ruins at Angkor in Cambodia and on to the mysteries of the Easter Island moai statues, Abandoned Civilisations is a brilliant pictorial work examining lost worlds. What emerges is a picture of how vast societies can rise, thrive and then collapse. We admire how whole cities develop, but equally fascinating is what happens when their moment has passed.
From the 9th century temples at Khajuraho in India which were lost in the date palm trees until stumbled across by European engineers in the 19th century to Mayan pyramids in the Guatemalan jungle to Roman cities semi-buried - but consequently preserved - in the North African desert, the book explores why societies fall and what, once abandoned, they leave behind to history. With 150 striking colour photographs exploring 100 worlds, Abandoned Civilisations is a fascinating visual history of the mysteries of lost societies.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 224 pages
  • 233 x 303 x 27mm | 1,370g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 150 photos; 150 Illustrations, unspecified
  • 1782746676
  • 9781782746676
  • 385,374

Table of contents


The Great Sphinx of Giza - The oldest known monumental sculpture, but we're not sure who made, when exactly or why. At times so much sand built up that it only seemed to be a stone head in the desert.
The Egyptian Pyramids - Nineteenth century explorers thought that there were 67 pyramids in Egypt - in fact there are twice that number, many buried in the sand.
Abu Simbel, Egypt
Luxor Temple, Egypt
Carthage, Tunisia
Cave paintings, Tassili, Algeria
Timgad, Algeria - The Roman city of Timgad was abandoned more than once. When the Byzantines arrived in the city in the 6th century, they found it empty. It was later gradually consumed - but preserved - by the sands of the Sahara.
Naqa or Naga, Sudan - including Lion Temple of Apedemak and Temple of Amun Nubian Pyramids, Meroe, Sudan
Laas Geel Cave Art, Hargeisa, Somaliland - Laas Geel's rock art is estimated to date to somewhere between 9,000 and 3,000 years BC.
Cave of Beasts, Western Desert of Egypt - cave art from more than 7,000 years ago. Wadi Mathendusch, Libya - engraving of ox
Twyfelfontein, Namibia - rock art
Terracotta artefacts from Djenne peoples of Mali, from 13th century
Great Zimbabwe

Harappa/Indus Valley Civilization/Mohenjo-daro, Pakistan
Dharmarajika Stupa, Taxila, Pakistan - 2nd century CE, devastated by White Huns in 5th century and then abandoned
Angkor, Cambodia - Built in the early 12th century AD, the temple city fell into decline in the 16th century.
Persepolis, Iran - The capital of the Achaemenid Empire (550-330BC). Alexander the Great allowed his troops to loot the city and it was also partly destroyed by fire.
Naqsh-e Rustam, Iran - 12km from Persepolis
Chogha Zanbil, an Elamite ziggurat in Iran abandoned in 640BC
Borobudur, Java - A ninth century temple with 504 Buddhas, the compound was abandoned in the 14th century with the conversion of Java to Islam. Lost in the jungle, it was rediscovered in the 19th century.
Khajuraho, India - Temples from the 9th century AD that were lost in the date palm jungle until a British engineer in the 19th century was led to them. Now a new town has built up around them.
Sat Mahal Ziggurat, Sri Lanka
Ajanta Caves, India - Hindu and Jain temples as old as the 2nd century BC lost in the jungle until they were stumbled across in the 19th century.
Merv, Turkmenistan
Erk Kala (or Kyz-Kala) - the citadel in the city of Merv, Turkmenistan
Van Fortress, Urartu, Armenia - 9th century BCE
Terracotta Army, China - A collection of 8,000 sculptures of the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210-209BC, the purpose of which was to protect the emperor in his afterlife. It was found by chance by farmers in 1974.
Stone City Kashgar, China
Mogao Caves, China - Beginning in the 4th century AD, these caves in northwest China were on the Silk Road trade route west. They include some of the most impressive Buddhist art. After the Silk route ceased being used in the 10th century, the caves were gradually abandoned. Today, manuscripts are still being found as new caves in the complex are discovered.
Niya ruins, Xinjiang, China - ruins of a city once important on the Silk Road
Jiaohe ruins, Xinjiang, China - ruins of a city once important on the Silk Road Bhimbetka rock shelters, Raisen District, Madhya Pradesh, India
Maros Rock Art, South Sulawesi, Calabria, Indonesia

The Middle East
Masada, Israel - It is believed that in 73/74AD, the 700 Jews besieged in the mountain city of Masada killed themselves rather than surrender to the Romans. Although the story was known from histories, the location of Masada itself was not identified until the 19th century.
Beit She'an, Israel - Roman city
Temple of Bacchus, Baalbek, Lebanon - well-preserved Roman temple
Temple of Obelisks, Byblos, Lebanon
Ain Dara Temple, Syria - Iron Age Syro-Hittite temple. According to the excavator Ali Abu Assaf, it was in existence from 1300 BC until 740 BC.
Ruins of Ebla, Syria - an important centre throughout the third millennium BC and in the first half of the second millennium BC.
Roman Theatre, Bosra, Syria
Serjilla, Dead Cities of Syria - abandoned in 7th century with Arab conquest Mushabbak Basilica, nr Aleppo, Dead Cities of Syria
Kharab Shams Basilica, nr Aleppo, Dead Cities of Syria
Church of Saint Simeon Stylites, nr Aleppo, Dead Cities of Syria
Palmyra, Syria, including the Valley of the Tombs/necropolis
Hattusa, Capital of Hittite Empire, Turkey
Fortress of Van, Turkey
Ziggurat Birs Nimrud, Borsippa, Iraq
Site of the Settlement of Uruk, Iraq
Ctesiphon, Iraq - One of the great cities of late ancient Mesopotamia, Ctesiphon fell into ruin in the 7th century AD.
Petra, Jordan - Established possibly as early as 312BC, the site was unknown to the Western World until 1812. The city had declined under Roman rule, suffered from earthquakes and a weakened water supply. It was finally abandoned after the Arab invasions in the 7th century AD.
Harran, Turkey
Catalhoeyuk, Southern Anatolia, Turkey - Neolithic and Chalcolithic proto-city settlement
Ani, Turkey - A medieval settlement destroyed by the Mongols in the 13th century.

Europe & Eurasia
Stonehenge, England - Built sometime between 3,000BC and 2,000BC by a culture that left no written text, this prehistoric monument still mystifies us: what was it for and how was it built?
Hadrian's Wall, England
Carnac Standing Stones, Brittany, France
Dolmen Er-Roc'h-Feutet., Brittany, France
Hagar Qim, Malta - a megalithic temple complex dating from the Ggantija phase (3600- 3200 BC)
Minoan Civilization - Knossos Palace, Crete
Pompeii, Italy - Destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD, Pompeii was lost and buried for 1500 years before being rediscovered in the 16th century.
Acropolis, Athens, Greece
Cerveteri, Etruscan Necropolis, Italy
Saintes Roman Amphitheatre (Mediolanum Santonum), Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France - overgrown amphitheatre
Pula Amphitheatre, Pula, Croatia - The Arena is the only remaining Roman amphitheatre to have four side towers and with all three Roman architectural orders entirely preserved.
Catacombs, Rome - Chambers under Rome were used for hundreds of years to bury both Christian and Jewish dead. Churches with even built and frescos painted on the walls. After the waning of Roman civilization in the city in the 5th century AD, the catacombs were forgotten about for 1000 years until they were rediscovered in 1578. Lascaux Cave Art, France
Magura Cave, Bulgaria
Cueva de El Castillo (Cave of the Castle), Cantabria, Spain - Europe's oldest cave art Cave of Altamira, Cantabria, Spain - cave art
Creswell Crags, Derbyshire, England - evidence of Prehistoric occupation in the caves and some cave art
Chauvet Cave Art, France

The Americas & The Pacific
Cueva de las Manos (Cave of Hands), Santa Cruz, Argentina - cave art
Great Mural Rock Art, Baja California, Mexico
Teotihuacan pyramids, near Mexico City - Begun around 100BC, the city of Teotihuacan was sacked in the 6th century. At its height, it would have been the largest pre-Columbian city in the Americas, with a population of 125,000.
Tikal, Guatemala - Lost in the jungle until 1853, the civilization began in the 4th century BC and reached its peak - with its Mayan pyramids - in the 2nd to 9th centuries AD.
Copan, Honduras - A major Mayan city from the 5-9th century AD that was abandoned by the time the Spanish arrived in the 15th century AD.
Olmec, Mexico
Tulum, Mexico - A Mayan, coastal city
Palenque, Mexico - A Mayan city that flourished in the 7th century AD. The ruins date back to 226BC. After its decline, it was absorbed by the jungle.
Calakmul - Mayan city and pyramid, Campeche state, Mexico
Templo Mayor at Tenochtitlan, Mexico City - Aztec ruins
Nazca Lines, Peru
Macchu Picchu, Peru - A 15th-century mountain Incan site that was abandoned before the Europeans reached Peru. The site was unknown to the wider world until brought to international attention in 1911 by an American historian.
Choquequirao, Peru - Incan site similar to Macchu Picchu
Pyramids of the Caral Supe civilization, Peru - One of the oldest urban centres in the Americas, this desert settlement, including pyramids and a giant stone face, lasted from c.2600 to c.2000BC, and was discovered in 1948.
Terraces of Pumatallis, ancient Inca fortress and mountains, Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo, Peru
Moray circular terraces, Inca civilization, Ollantaytambo, Peru
Tucume Mounds, Valley of the pyramids, Peru
Ciudad, Perdida, Colombia - A Tairona settlement abandoned during the Spanish conquest.
Cahokia Mounds, Illinois, USA - Native American city
Mesa Verde, Colorado - The Anasazi inhabited Mesa Verde cliff dwellings between 600 and 1300AD.
Burro Flats Painted Cave, Simi Valley, Ventura County, Southern California, USA - dating to 500AD.
L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, Canada - Viking settlement
Arnhem Land Plateau, Australia - cave art
Nan Madol, Temwen Island, Micronesia
Easter Island - By the time the Europeans reached Easter Island in the 18th century, the Polynesian population had fallen to 3,000 from 15,000 a century earlier. Why had the population collapsed? And what was the mystery surrounding the fallen statues around the island?
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About Kieron Connolly

Kieron Connolly is a graduate in history from Edinburgh University and in film from the National Film & Television School. An author and journalist, he has written for the Mail on Sunday, the Daily Mail and The Times. His books include Dark History of Hollywood, Abandoned Places, Abandoned Civilizations, Abandoned Castles, and Bloody History of America. He lives in London.
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