How many mysteries lie beneath the ground we live on or the sea we swim in? The world is an incredibly large place and we make new discoveries every day about ancient civilizations. Endless ancient cities were buried by natural phenomena, like sand, water or vegetation. Sometimes, we rebuilt atop these ancient ruins, only to later discover what lies beneath and other times these places are rediscovered by explorers or treasure hunters (yes that happens!)
This article will go through lists of ancient lost cities that later resurfaced and were rediscovered and still partially, or fully, intact for humans eyes! The fact that structures can stand without maintenance for centuries is incredible and definitely gives us the impression that we were never meant to see them. This article will also list places that were unfortunately covered and lost forever. While structures or artefacts may have been found, modern day humans are, sadly, not able to lay eyes on these places any longer. It leaves us to wonder what other mysteries have been buried and lost forever?
Read on to learn lots more about the ancient world and amazing discoveries (or rediscoveries) that were made in modern history!
25 Never meant to see: Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu was an ancient city in the mountains of Peru. It was estimated to have been established in the mid 15th century and abandoned one century later (roughguides). It is made up of over 150 buildings including religious structures, public baths and homes. Today, it is deemed one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, however approximately one century ago, we did not even know it existed! Historian Hiram Bingham made the discovery while searching for another lost city, meaning we may never have had the chance to see this city.
24 Never meant to see: Derinkuyu, Turkey
Derinkuyu is an ancient underground city located in Turkey. According to Wikipedia, Derinkuyu is about 200 feet deep and was capable of housing nearly 20,000 individuals! This underground city had multiple different levels and had storage rooms for food and held livestock! These tunnels were used until the 20th century, but abandoned in 1923. They were later rediscovered in 1963 and opened to visitors later that decade. These tunnels are incredibly impressive, but also so obscure that we’re lucky we get to tour them today.
23 Never meant to see: Palenque, Mexico
Palenque was a city that was swallowed up by the Mexican jungles. It originally was a thriving Mayan city that was built in 226 BCE (wikipedia). The city fell into decline after the year 800 and the Mexican jungle covered it from human eyes entirely. In the 1700s, Europeans rediscovered this lost city and it is now an incredibly popular site for historians to study. Wikipedia states that only 5% of the city has been uncovered to date, meaning that much more of the city will be uncovered eventually!
22 completely covered: Baia, Italy
Baia was a resort city for the Roman elite in the ancient world. It was famous for its hot springs and attracted prominent figures in history like Caesar, Nero and Cicero (atlasobscura). In the 8th century, this luxurious city was sacked and it was later abandoned in the year 1500. On top of its decline and abandonment, the city was drowned under the waters of the nearby bay. While it remains completely covered, tourists can actually visit the site today usually glass-bottomed boats, scuba diving or even snorkelling!
21 never meant to see: Caral, Peru
The city of Caral was an ancient metropolis that housed six large pyramids, temples, amphitheatres and residential neighbourhoods (ancient-origins). The inhabitants practiced agriculture as a means of survival. This city was located in Peru, but was later buried in the sand for thousands of years (ancient-origins). The site was later excavated, revealing the giant pyramids which were buried for years as well as extensive amounts of architectural structures. While we only recently discovered it in 1970, the excavation has taught us lots about the inhabitants of this lost city.
20 never meant to see: Petra, Jordan
Petra was an ancient Jordanian city whose structures were carved directly out of the bright and beautiful sandstone cliffs! It was once a flourishing trade centre and was the capital oft he Nabataean empire. It fell into decline and was abandoned for centuries and only rediscovered in the early 19th century. In 1985, it was declared a world heritage site and was later named amongst one of the new seven wonders of the world. Archaeologists are still uncovering and excavating Petra and making fascinating discoveries!
19 completely covered: Mologa, Russia
In the 1930s, Russia was under Soviet control. The Soviet government decided they would build the Rybinsk Reservoir on the Volga River (mentalfloss). This plan however failed to account for the 130 000 people who lived in nearby villages, like Mologa. The inhabitants of Mologa were forcefully evacuated before the city was entirely submerged by water in 1940 (mentalfloss). While this city was completely covered for nearly 80 years, in 2014 lowered water levels resulted in the town being partially re-exposed!
18 never meant to see: Skara Brae, Britain
Skara Brae was a stone age settlement in Britain that was inhabited between 3200 BCE and 2200 BCE (interestingengineering). Historians suggest that sand dunes pressed the population to abandon the settlement, as it was later completely covered by a sand dune. While it was hidden for so many centuries, a storm blew through and exposed the lost city in the year 1850 (interestingengineering)! The sand dune actually helped preserve the site, meaning it is still impressively intact today. It is actually amongst the best preserved Stone Age Settlements in Britain (interestingengineering)!
17 never meant to see: La Ciudad Perdida, Colombia
La Ciudad Perdida literally translates to “the lost city” (wikipedia). Despite being less popular, it is actually 6000 years older than Machu Picchu (roughguides). It was inhabited by the Tayrona civilization, who were farmers and fishers. This city was completely forgotten and no one knew it existed until 1972. It was rediscovered by treasure hunters and opened to tourists in the early 21st century. Had it not been for the adventurers that found this magical place, we might not have had the chance to see it.
16 Completely covered: Akrotiri, Greece
Santorini is an incredibly beautiful and popular spot for tourists to visit, yet many do not know what lies beneath this glorious vacation destination. Santorini was founded atop an ancient city called Akrotiri (mentalfloss). A volcanic eruption, retroactively named the Minoan eruption, destroyed the city, as well as other nearby settlements near Akrotiri. The site was rediscovered and then excavated originally in 1867 and again in 1967 by Spyridon Marinatos (wikipedia). Interestingly enough, a series of fresco paintings were found at these excavation sites. All artefacts were placed in the Museum of Prehistoric Thera and are still conserved there.
15 never meant to see: Knossos, Greece
Knossos was a city that was deeply rooted in Greek mythology and was heavily featured in Homer’s ancient writings. While it remained mythology for centuries, it was discovered in 1848 by Minos Kalokairinos and was later excavated by infamous archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans (wikipedia). The palace was built around 1700 BCE, yet it still stands partially today! The palace walls are decorated with vibrant fresco paintings that often tell a story. The palace complex can actually still be toured today, so count yourself lucky!
14 Never meant to see: Tikal, Guatemala
Tikal was an ancient city of the Maya civilization that is now located in Guatemala. It was an incredibly powerful city in the ancient world and it displayed its power through its immense monuments. These large structures were built in the 4th century BCE and can still somewhat be spotted as they soar higher than the large jungles that now surround it (roughguides). It’s an incredibly remote site, as it’s burrowed away in the midst of a jungle, however people have managed to discover and tour this site for years now (wikitravel).
13 completely covered: Thonis, Egypt
Thonis was a city that Herodotus, the first historian, accounts for in his writings. It was described as a thriving Egyptian Port city located in the Mediterranean around the first century BCE. Thonis was later described as mysteriously falling into the sea and being lost forever after this incident. Shockingly, historians have discovered underwater remains that are believed to be from this ancient place! According to biblicalarchaeology, these artefacts include a large monumental statue, a temple, golden coins, ships, sarcophagi and inscriptions! This city is fully submerged beneath the sea, but we still have really cool pieces of it.
12 Never meant to see: Mosque City Of Bagerhat, Bangladesh
In the 15th century, a Turkish official commissioned the creation of a town where the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers meet. This town was ordered to be filled with palaces, mosques and tombs. According to roughguides, over 350 mosques were actually built in this city, yet unfortunately it fell into despair after the Ulugh Khan Jahan, or administrator, of the city passed away! This city was abandoned and consequentially covered entirely by vegetation for centuries, this is why it’s so impressive that it’s been rediscovered and parts of it restored today!
11 never meant to see: Leptis Magna, Libya
Leptis Magna was a city in the Carthaginian Empire that was founded in the 7th century BCE (wikipedia). Roman emperor Septimius Severus was known for greatly expanding this city during his rule. It was raided several times during its existence and was eventually abandoned in the first century. The sands of the Libyan desserts mostly covered this city, making it totally unknown to us. It was rediscovered in the 19th century and was still intact as it was preserved by the sand!
10 never meant to see: Mohenjo-Daro, Pakistan
Mohenjo-Daro was a city that was founded in 2500 BCE in modern-day Pakistan. According to Wikipedia, it was known as one of the largest civilizations made by the Indus Valley civilization and was one of the earliest major cities. Sadly, it was deserted in the 19th century BCE and remained hidden until the 20th century! That is an extremely long time for a city to be “lost,” it’s certainly incredible that we actually get to see parts of it today. Mohenjo-Daro was excavated and partially restored and can be seen in fragments by tourists.
9 never meant to see: Plompe Toren, Netherlands
Plompe Toren is a small town on a small island in the Netherlands. The Netherlands has a series of small islands and peninsulas and they use complex forms of engineering to prevent the sea from swallowing them up. All that remains of Plompe Toren is a large tower, as the rest of the town was submerged by water. The city took a unique approach to this however and painted the inside of the walls of this tower with an inventive tale about a mermaid and a curse, creating a sort of mythology for what happened to the town (atlasobscura)! How quirky!
8 never meant to see: Pompeii, Italy
Pompeii became an incredibly famous city as a result of an incredibly tragic disaster. This Italian city was covered with ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD (wikipedia). Pompeii intrigued historians and scientists because as the ash buried the city, it also managed to preserve it entirely. This provided us with an impressive time capsule into Roman life. While the city was excavated after being covered, some parts of it remain buried and covered to this day.
7 never meant to see: Church of San Juan Parangaricutiro, Mexico
In 1943, a volcano erupted in the town of San Juan Parangaricutiro in Michuacán, Mexico (bikehikesafari). The volcano, which was later named Parícutin, erupted for nine years and almost entirely covered the city of San Juan Parangaricutiro and several other nearby towns. While the entire city was evacuated and left in ruins, the San Juan Parangaricutiro Church somehow managed to survive! Tourists often flock here because of how baffling and miraculous the existence of this church is. According to Bikehikesafari, it has now become one of Mexico’s most unique tourist site!
6 Completely covered: Olous, Greece
Olous was a city in ancient Greece and now lies near modern day Elounda. Olous was estimated to have existed from 3000 BCE to 900 BCE and had approximately 40 000 inhabitants (cretetip). The city was once known for its Apollo sanctuary, however, in 1540 BCE the city was wiped out. Many hypothesize that a volcano first destroyed the city and then it eventually sunk into the sea. Today, it is still submerged under water, however some building walls can be seen peeking out above the ocean water. How mysterious!
5 completely covered: Pyramids Of Yonaguni Jima, Japan
In 1986, ancient pyramids were shockingly discovered underwater, near the city of Yonaguni Jima in Japan. Marine geologist Masaaki Kimura believes that these pyramids are the remains of a city that were lost due to an earthquake approximately 2000 years ago! The site has caused much controversy, as not everyone believes Kimura’s claims. However, many scientists argue that these are the remains of an ancient Japanese city named Mu. Today, the city remains mostly hidden from human eyes and submerged under the sea and is still largely unexplored.
4 completely covered: Hallsands, UK
In 1917, the village of Hallsands, located in Devon, quite literally fell into the sea! There were no casualties, however nearly all the town’s homes fell into the sea (mentalfloss). This was partially caused by the British government's attempt to expand a nearby dockyard by clearing large amounts of sand and gravel from the very ground that upheld Hallsands. A storm that blew through the village was also to blame, causing the already weakened land to fully collapse into the sea (mentalfloss).
3 completely covered: Dwarka - India
Often our grandparents pass down myths to us that they learned as children and while it sounds like complete fiction to us, they make for a great story. In the case of Dwarka, the myth of this ancient city was actually completely real. This city was believed to be the home town of Krishna, a Hindu god. An underwater city was discovered and excavated and considered to be the place referred to in the ancient scripts (themysteriousindia). The city that was discovered is believed to be over 9 centuries old, as the Gulf of Cambay flooded the area at that time (themysteriousindia).
2 completely covered: Port Royal, Jamaica
Port Royal was located on the southeast coast of Jamaica in the 17th century and was notorious for its pirates and alcohol production (atlasobscura). It might sound like a film, but it’s real! On June 7, 1962, it was hit by an earthquake that completely destroyed the city. The earthquake was followed by a tsunami which proceeded to cover the port city by water forever (atlasobscura). Today, the city is covered by 40 feet of water, however many artefacts have been excavated from this location and placed in museums.
1 covered and uncovered: Timgad, Algeria
Timgad was a Roman city in Algeria founded in 100 BCE (wikipedia). This city was initially a military colony but endured peace for the first century of its existence. Unfortunately, it was sacked by the Vandals tribe in the 5th century and then was abandoned and briefly reoccupied by the Berbers tribe. Its history was tumultuous and the city was mostly destroyed by the 8th century (wikipedia). It was entirely covered by the sand of the Sahara desert. While it was hidden for years, it was later discovered and excavated. Timgad taught historians essential knowledge on the way Romans built and planned out the constructions of their cities!