4 Lost Civilizations (and what might have happened to them)

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I've been to Pompeii, the Italian town that was buried by the 79 CE eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. To see a town that was abandoned so abruptly, coupled with plaster casts of the victims who weren't able to evacuate in time, was positively chilling. I can only imagine that visiting the remains of the four civilizations Nathan Johnson from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside dug up for this story would be equally sad and thought-provoking. Nathan is an Economics major who came to UW-P from the University of Minnesota, making me think he has an affinity for below-zero temperatures. - Stacy Conradt

4 Lost Civilizations
by Nathan Johnson

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1. The Lost Colony of Roanoke

croatoanIn 1585, after receiving a patent from Queen Elizabeth I to colonize America, the inexorable Sir Walter Raleigh sent a group of men to an island called Roanoke, Virginia. These colonists didn't fare very well, had run-ins with Native Americans and quickly ran out of supplies. When none other than Sir Francis Drake landed at Roanoke, they returned to Britain, but not before the ship left 15 of its own men behind at the colony. These men were never heard from again. In 1587, Raleigh sent another group to Roanoke, including 17 women and 9 children. The governor of the colony, John White left immediately for England to get food and other supplies for the colony. Not until 1590 was White able to return to Roanoke Island. When he arrived, no sign of the colonists could be found; all the settlements were dismantled. The only trace of life was the word "Croatoan" carved on a post. The fate of the colonists still remains unknown to this day.

2. The Anasazi

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The Anasazi tribe of the southwestern United States emerged around 1200 B.C., developing an amazing modern culture which included agriculture and the unique multi-story stone structures they built into the sides of canyon walls and lived in. However, late in the 13th century these communities were abandoned, for reasons unknown. Theories include drought, enemy attack, poor sanitation, and environmental collapse, as well as the always popular alien abduction.

3. The Khmer Empire

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The largest continuous empire of South East Asia, the Khmer Empire of Cambodia reached its zenith in the early 14th century, centered around the temple complex of Angkor Wat. The city of Angkor itself contained an area bigger than that of New York City. The entire empire was abandoned for unknown reasons in about 1432. Adventurers from Europe began to hear tales of a "mystic city of the gods" and sought out the site of the former empire. Archaeologists continue to uncover the vast ruins from their jungle camouflage.

4. Easter Island

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Also known as Rapa Nui, Easter Island has forever been capturing the imagination with its plethora of moai, or stone carved statues. But the story of the island's inhabitants is a bit less known "“ evidence suggests the island was populated around 1200, probably by Polynesians. It was first discovered by Europeans in 1722, who witnessed a devastated landscape supporting a few thousand emaciated islanders, and were dumbstuck by the gigantic statues and how they could possibly have been made and transported by the islanders. The most likely explanation for the population's decline was the devastation of the island's resources. The extinction of the Easter Island palm meant no more canoes, which spelled disaster for the 63 square mile island.

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February 10, 2008 - 3:30am
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