5 Lost Civilisations That May Have Existed

World map, produced in Amsterdam in 1689.
World map, produced in Amsterdam in 1689. (Image source: Public Domain)

We know very little of the ancient world because records of it have been mostly destroyed. The Library of Alexandria, the greatest store house of ancient knowledge, was nothing but a heap of rubble and ash by 642 AD. The library’s successor, the city of Baghdad, was also destined to fall, sacked and burned by stampeding Mongol forces in the thirteenth century. Decades later, when the Spanish conquered the Americas, the ancient knowledge of those lands was lost too – tossed into the fire by those who considered it heresy. These cycles of destruction have left us with little more than glimpses into incomplete histories and lost peoples. With that in mind, is there any truth in the stories, passed down from one generation to another, of mysterious peoples who once flourished with an abundance of technology and culture? Are the legends of lost civilisations true?

5 – El Dorado

Fundacion de Santiago by Chilean painter Pedro Lira
Fundacion de Santiago, by Chilean painter Pedro Lira. (Image source: Public Domain)

When Europeans first discovered the New World, there was one thing that fascinated them above all else – gold. There was gold everywhere. Natives adorned houses and clothes with the precious metal, frivolously using it as a beautiful substance to be moulded for ornamental use. For Europeans, gold – for all its beauty – had a far more practical purpose. Gold was the means to acquire land and title back in Europe.

In their feverish pursuit of wealth, many Europeans encountered tales of a city filled with indescribable riches and gold. The stories described the city as imperial in size, with kings who doused themselves in gold and offered riches to their gods. This wondrous place was said to lie in the jungles of South America, and was referred to as the empire of El Dorado. The empire of the golden man.

One report of this legendary kingdom comes from Francisco de Orellana, a Spanish conquistador who claimed to have visited an advanced and wealthy kingdom as he journeyed along the Amazon river in the 16th century. 1 In the centuries since, his reports have been largely ignored or ridiculed as exaggeration. However, in 2011 a BBC documentary reported on discoveries in the Amzon rainforest which do indeed suggest a large, successful civilisation once lived there. Because of this, many now think that Orellana was telling the truth, and that he did indeed discover El Dorado.

READ MORE ABOUT EL DORADO

4 – Kumari Kandam

The lost continent: Kumari Kandam is said to have been the cradle of civilisation by the Tamil people. (Image Pradeep.doodh / Wikimedia Commons)

Indian mythology is filled with accounts of cities and lands being submerged by the sea.

One such myth comes from the Tamil people. In their history, it is reported that a great civilisation that once existed on a large landmass off the southern tip of India. This ancient land was called Kumari Kandam. Spoken of as the cradle of civilisation, the land was supposedly ruled by a Tamil dynasty of kings for close to 11,000 years. 2

According to legend, the once great continent was gradually consumed by the sea thousands of years ago. Threatened by the cruel hand of nature, the people of Kumari Kandam left their ancient home, travelling up into India, where they are said to have settled and established the Tamil culture which still exists there today.

In the 19th century, scholars put forward the theory of Lemuria. Lemuria was the name given to a submerged continent thought to have connected India, Africa and Australia. It was proposed to explain the similarities in language and geography between these locations. The resemblance between this theorised land mass and the legendary of Kumari Kandam did not escape the notice of Tamil scholars. For them, this was affirmed a truth which they already knew. Despite the theory now being regarded as defunct, many still regard it as providing evidence of the lost civilisation of Kumari Kandam. 3

READ MORE ABOUT KUMARI KANDAM

3 – Shambhala

High in the Himalyas is one of the supposed locations of Shambhala. (Image source: Public Domain)

For millennia people have heard that somewhere around Tibet there exists a utopian kingdom of peace and harmony known as Shambhala. Quite literally, Shambhala is a Sanskirt word which means “place of peace” or “place of silence”. 4

According to legend, Shambhala is a kingdom where an advanced civilisation of people lived in perfect peace. In this kingdom, technology reached such a supremacy that people neither suffered nor felt old age – they had uncovered the secrets of immortality. Shambhala was a veritable heaven on Earth. For this reason, it was said that the kingdom could only be found by the select who have attained spiritual enlightenment in the ways of Buddhism. 5

While some regard Shambhala as a metaphorical place, others are certain that it is a physical destination. As such, over the centuries, many daring explorers have sought the kingdom out.

In the 1920s, the Russian archaeologist and philosopher Nicholas Roerich led several expeditions to find Shambhala. During his journeys, he documented many accounts of the mystical kingdom. It is even said that he experienced the advanced technoligies of the people of Shambhala firsthand, when he and his son witnessed a golden, spherical object in the sky close to the Mongolian border. 6

READ MORE ABOUT SHAMBHALA

2 – Hyperborea

Arctic continent on the Gerardus Mercator map of 1595.
Arctic continent on the Gerardus Mercator map of 1595. (Image source: Public Domain)

“[…] in the regions beyond the land of the Celts there lies in the ocean an island no smaller than Sicily. This island, the account continues, is situated in the north and is inhabited by the Hyperboreans, who are called by that name because their home is beyond the point whence the north wind (Boreas) blows; and the island is both fertile and productive of every crop, and has an unusually temperate climate.” 7

Such were the words of Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian of the first century BC. The land that he was describing was Hyperborea, an ancient, advanced kingdom said to be located somewhere in the Arctic Circle. Later chroniclers would elaborate on Pindar’s and Herodotus’ accounts of these exotic, northern people. Greeks credited the Hyperborean as genius people untouched by the usual hardships faced by humanity, like war and old age. So advanced were Hyperboreans, that – according to the Greeks – it was in fact them who built the great temple of Apollo at Delphi. It was from their land that the god Apollo originated, and in which a theocracy ruled with three priest-kings serving in Apollo’s name at its head. 8

The kingdom was also described as experiencing twenty-four hours of sunlight, with only one sunrise and sunset a year. As a result, many have suggested that the kingdom – if real – may have existed somewhere in the Arctic Circle.

For an advanced civilisation to have existed contemporary with the Greeks in such an unforgiving location is not as improbable as one might thinking. Recent archaeological evidence from Siberia regions in Russia has uncovered such a culture. While older than what is said of the Hyperboreans, it does help the possibility of an advanced culture being able to thrive in a northern environment without the aid of modern technologies.

READ MORE ABOUT HYPERBOREA

1 – Atlantis

A map of Atlantis from Ignatius L. Donnelly's Atlantis: the Antediluvian World, 1882
A map showing the supposed location of Atlantis, from Ignatius L. Donnelly’s Atlantis: the Antediluvian World, 1882 (Image source: Public Domain)

“[…] histories tell of a mighty power which was aggressing wantonly against the whole of Europe and Asia […] This power came forth out of the Atlantic Ocean, for in those days the Atlantic was navigable; and there was an island situated in front of the straits which you call the Columns of Heracles [the Strait of Gibraltar, known as the Pillars of Hercules] […] in the island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire” 9

It is thanks to Plato that we have this record of the legendary city of Atlantis. It is said that this was the story told to Solon, an Athenian statesman visiting the temple of Sais in Egypt in 600 BC. The records of the temple now destroyed, all we can do is wonder what was meant by this tale.

The priests of the Egyptian temple also told of the cataclysm which destroyed Atlantis, which occurred some 9000 years earlier, in 9600 BC. This is a curious date, for it coincides with the end of an era of rapid cooling which occurred for over a thousand years, called the Younger Dryas period. Around 9600 BC, a rapid warming period was occurring which many argue caused great floods around the world. The cause of the Younger Dryas period, it is theorised, was a comet. It is this sudden rise in sea level which is associated with the sinking of Atlantis.

Certainly, there is much evidence of a comet striking earth in this period. It can be found recorded in the histories of cultures like the Ojibwa people of America. There are is also physical evidence, such as compressed nanodiamonds which are believed to be remnants from the comet. Even the megalithic structure of Göbekli Tepe in Turkey hints at knowledge of a cosmic cataclysm. Such findings are rewriting history, proving that what we thought we knew of our ancient past, is far from a complete understanding. Thus, it is entirely possible that the world once looked very different, and the lost island of Atlantis may be closer to the truth than one would initially think.

READ MORE ABOUT ATLANTIS

READ MORE FROM ARCHAEOLOGY

You may also enjoy: