Last week, archeologists in Oaxaca, Mexico, found a crazy pyramid left by the Zapotec civilization. Part-tomb, part-sports-bar, the 1,500-year-old structure contains graves laid to rest next to pictographs of the ritual ball game the Zapotecs loved to play, which actually sounds a little like Battlestar Galactica's pyramid sport. Such a great find got us thinking about other bygone cities we'd love to know more about, so hop into our time machine as we look at the top five most mysterious lost civilizations of all time!
5. Minoan Civilization of Crete: The Minoans were named after the mythical King Minos, the jerk who had Daedalus build a labyrinth for him and then not only didn't pay up, totally imprisoned him! Talk about shoddy workers rights. Anyway, the civilization is a lot older than the myth: Crete was settled by these folks some 7,000 years ago. Volcanoes and earthquakes kept screwing with them, but they just kept rebuilding like little troopers. If you lived on an island as beautiful as Crete, wouldn't you? Then, about 3,500 years ago, they disappeared. The most tantalizing part of the story? Their written language, called Linear A, is still undeciphered. Arg!
4. The Harappan Civilization of India: From around 3,300 BCE to 1,300 BCE, the Harappan Civilization was rocking out. They were remarkably neat and tidy for a Bronze Age culture, and had drainage systems, brick houses and even dentistry. Maybe dental patients even got lollipops if they were good? We'll never know, because yes, you guessed it, their written language is also still undeciphered. Double arg!
3. Roanoke Colony of North Carolina: Roanoke was first colonized by an English wave of pilgrims in 1585 but when the next boatload arrived in July of 1587, there was only a skeleton there to greet them. The leader of the group, John White, re-set up camp with 100-odd of the new settlers and went back to England. When he came back in 1590, the whole colony was gone again, leaving only a fence post marked with the word, "Croatoan," the name of a local native group. Spooky-ville, U.S.A.! And while this time the language is decipherable, we have no clue what it means! Triple arg!
2. The Nabateans of Jordan: Ever seen Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade? The awesome giant rock palace that collapses due to Holy-Grail-attainment is the ancient city of Petra, built by the Nabateans. They were an ingenious bunch of folks who pioneered all sorts of ways to live in their desert climate. They were eventually taken over by the Romans (sigh, wasn't everyone?). But they chafed under foreign rule, and decided to peace out around the 4th Century CE We have no idea where they went, but we can bet it had some pretty awesome sand castles.
1. Helike of Greece: The people of Helike were probably freaked out by the fact that rats and snakes had been hightailing it out of their city for a while. Turns out the vermin were running for higher ground due to an earthquake that would pull the city into a watery grave, and then then send a tidal wave to grab any survivors. The second creepiest part of this whole debacle is that for decades afterwards, Helike's structures were visible at the bottom of a lagoon and fishermen kept getting their nets stuck on its famous Poseidon statue. The creepiest part? The excavation of the city reveals that the exact same thing happened to several previous cities built on the same spot. I guess what happens in Helike really does stay in Helike.
What lost civilizations would you want to time travel to?