ARCHAEOLOGY

11 lost civilizations and how they might have fallen

When ancient civilizations fall, the reasons for their demise often remain a mystery. But modern science has helped us paint a clearer picture of what may have brought a few of the most famous cultures to extinction. For more fascinating facts, check out Listomania.

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Sumer
Middle East
5000s-2000s BCE

Probable cause of demise: Invasion

Pictured: U.S. Soldiers climb the steps of the Ziggurat of Ur, a Sumerian monument built during the Early Bronze Age (21st century BC).

Spc. Samantha Ciaramitaro/U.S. Army

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Minoan
Southern Europe
2700s-1500s BCE

Probable cause of demise: Natural disaster, invasion

Pictured: A fresco found at the Minoan site of Knossos, indicating a sport or ritual of "bull leaping", the red skinned figure is a man and the two light skinned figures are women.

Public Domain

03-harappa-coach.jpg

Harappa
Indian Subcontinent
3300s-1300s BCE

Probable cause of demise: Environmental collapse

Pictured: A Harappan coach driver, ~2000 BCE

Miya M.

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Nok
Africa
1000s BCE-500s CE

Probable cause of demise: Unknown

Pictured: Nok sculpture. Terracotta, 6th century BCE–6th century CE, Nigeria.

Federal Republic of Nigeria

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Maya
Central America
2600s BCE-900s CE

Probable cause of demise: Environmental collapse, overpopulation

Pictured: North Acropolis, Tikal, Guatemala.

Public Domain

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Anasazi
North America
1200s BCE-1300s CE

Probable cause of demise: Environmental collapse, overpopulation

Pictured: Remains of multistory dwellings constructed into the side of the canyon wall at Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico.

Public Domain

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Polynesians of the Pitcairn Islands
South Pacific
1000s-1400s

Probable cause of demise: Invasions, disease

Pictured: NASA Satellite Image of Pitcairn Island in the Pacific Ocean.

NASA

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Aztec
Central America
1200s-1500s

Probable cause of demise: Invasions, disease

Pictured: The Aztec Pyramid at St. Cecilia Acatitlan, Mexico State.

Public Domain

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Inca
South America
1200s-1572

Probable cause of demise: Disease, overpopulation

Pictured: Machu Picchu Temple of the Sun (also named "the watch tower"), located in the Cusco Region of Peru, South America.

Fabricio Guzmán

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Rapa Nui
South Pacific
300s-1800s

Probable cause of demise: Environmental collapse, overpopulation

Pictured: Moai, monolithic human figures carved from rock, at Rano Raraku, Easter Island.

Public Domain

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Beothuk
North America
1500s-1829

Probable cause of demise: Invasion, disease

Pictured: A Beothuk archaeological site and museum in northeastern Newfoundland.

Carl B.

11 lost civilizations and how they might have fallen

When ancient civilizations fall, the reasons for their demise often remain a mystery. But modern science has helped us paint a clearer picture of what may have brought a few of the most famous cultures to extinction. For more fascinating facts, check out Listomania.

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