Monday, July 27, 2015

 Arykand, Turkey, dates to the 5th century BCE.
(Photo: Jen Pinkowski)
By Jen PinkowskiMake sure your passport is current,
book your flight, and let yourself imagine the lives of the people who called
these ancient cities home.
 These aren’t the "best" cities, or the Top 15—just
some mental_floss favorites, in no particular order.
1.
Ciudad Perdida, ColombiaNot for the faint of heart, Ciudad Perdida
("Lost City") is a strenuous, four-day hike through steamy, dense mountain
jungle in northern Colombia that requires local guides.
(Seriously: don’t attempt this on your own.
) In the last stretch, you climb up 1,200 stone steps.
But once you reach the top: whoa.
Thought to date to the early 8th century CE but largely constructed a few
centuries later, Teyuna (as the locals call it) consists of 169 terraces,
tiled roads, and small circular plazas.
Up to 8,000 people once lived here.
2.
Hampi, India Photo: Mona Dutta
The last capital of the Hindu kingdom
of Vijayanagar, Hampi is a gorgeously preserved city built by ridiculously
wealthy princes in the 14th to 16th centuries CE.
Located in the southwest Indian state of Karnataka, the city was attacked by
the Deccan Muslim confederacy in 1565, pillaged for the next six months, and
then abandoned.
Yet some 1,600 structures remain, including royal complexes, temples, homes,
gateways, pillared halls, and, most strikingly, stone chariots‚ which
are actually shrines.
3.
Arykand, Turkey Built into the mountainside near the Mediterranean coast
of Turkey, Arykanda is mostly overlooked in the region because there are
dozens of stunning ancient cities dotting this coast, including Perge, Side,
and Xanthos.
Arykanda is special because of its spectacular setting above a river valley.
You can’t even see it from the ancient road.
The earliest ruins date to the 5th century BCE.
 The city was constructed in levels into the mountain, so as you climb
up, you find new ruins.
In the ancient literature, Arykandans were rumored to be drunkards—and
archaeologists have found thousands of wine bottles at the site.
4.
Shi Cheng, China
In 1959, the Chinese government flooded Shi Cheng
("Lion City"), a 600-year-old city in southeast China, when it dammed the
Xin’an River for a hydroelectric power plant.
Since then, the city has been deep beneath the surface of Qiandao Lake.
The first scuba dives to visit what some call "The Atlantis of the East" took
place in 2001.
The water preserved the city quite well, and you can still see large building
complexes and wide streets with hundreds of stone archways featuring lions,
dragons, and phoenixes.
Some dive footage is above.
Related: An Ancient and Delicious Road Trip From Bodrum to Ephesus 5.
Herculaneum, Italy You know Pompeii.
It’s one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world.
But do you know its neighbor city Herculaneum, which was equally devastated
by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE? Most visitors overlook the small
seaside town, once a summer retreat for rich Romans.
But Herculaneum has a wealth of ruins to see, including columned buildings,
Roman baths, wide streets, and villas with stunning mosaics and frescos.
  6.
Ollantaytambo, Peru Ollanta, as it’s known, isn’t quite as
famous as Machu Picchu, but it’s still a much-visited expanse of city
ruins located in the Sacred Valley of the Incans in southern Peru.
It was built in the 13th century by the Incan ruler Pachacuti ("he who shakes
the Earth"), who constructed a royal estate, the city, military defenses, and
a ceremonial center 9,000 feet up in the Andes.
Perhaps its most dramatic feature is its steep stone terracing.
Want to hike the Incan trail? Start here.
7.
Teotihuacan, Mexico Photo: Thelmadatter/Wikimedia Commons
Teotihuacan may
be Mexico’s most famous archaeological site — and as an
ancestral home to the Maya, Mexico has no shortage of ancient wonders —
but you’ll still be infused with awe by the mighty pyramids here.
Located about 50 kilometers northeast of Mexico City, the city dates to the
1st century BCE and continued to expand over the next six centuries as the
Maya Empire grew in might and influence.
At its height, the city was home to some 25,000 people.
"It was the largest city anywhere in the Western Hemisphere before the
1400s," archaeologist George Cowgill says.
"It had thousands of residential compounds and scores of pyramid-temples and
was comparable to the largest pyramids of Egypt.
"    Related: The Ancient Oasis Towns of Oman: An Explorer’s
Dream
8.
Xi’an, China By the time Qin, the first emperor to unite China under a
single ruler, died in the 3rd century BCE, Xi’an had been one of
China’s most important political and cultural capitals for nearly 1000
years.
Buried with Qin was an astonishing wealth of treasure (and, brutally,
hundreds of living people) and the Terracotta Warrior Army, at least 7,000 of
which have been unearthed since 1974, all of them carrying real bronze
weapons.
Qin’s remains are just outside Xi’an, a bustling modern (and
smoggy) city of 8 million where you can walk atop the ancient city wall, which
was built just decades after Qin died.
Xi’an is also the eastern end of the famed Silk Road.
9.
Tiwanaku, Bolivia Photo: Lemurian Grove/Flickr)Located near Lake Titicaca
nearly 12,000 feet up in the Andes of western Bolivia, Tiwanaku was once the
spiritual and political center of an empire that from the 8th to the 11th
centuries CE ruled a vast region and spread its technological advances, from
irrigation technology to basket design, far and wide.
But its roots go back more than 4,000 years.
While archaeologists know residential areas were once part of Tiwanaku,
it’s the ceremonial centers that are mostly above ground, including the
Gateway to the Sun, the Gateway to the Moon, and the Kalasasaya temple
complex.
10.
Aksum, Ethiopia Aksum was the capital city of an Ethiopian kingdom that
was the most powerful state between the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia for
hundreds of years.
Aksum’s ruins date from the 1st to the 13th centuries CE and include
giant stelae, royal tombs, villas, and, most famously, monolithic obelisks.
(Mussolini stole one in 1937; Italy finally returned it, in three pieces, in
2005.
It was restored and erected in 2008.
) Located in northern Ethiopia near the Red Sea, the city was well positioned
at the place where Africa, the Mid-East, and the Greco-Roman world met, and
its kings capitalized on that well.
Indiana Jones should’ve looked in Aksum for the Ark of the Covenant;
some Christians believe it is stored in a church here.
  11.
Cohokia, United States It looks like a collection of grassy mounds now, but
Cahokia was once the largest pre-Columbian city in North America.
Located just north of St.
Louis, the city was once the political, religious, and economic capital of
the Mississippian culture (800 to 1350) and home to 10,000 to 20,000 people at
its peak from the mid 11th to the mid 12th centuries — as large as many
European cities of the time.
Today you can visit 51 of its 120 mounds, which were once homes, buildings,
ceremonial centers, and even an astronomical observatory.
The largest is Monks Mound.
With four terraces, at 90 feet tall it’s the largest prehistoric
earthen structure in the New World.
  12.
Thebes, Egypt The Valley of the Kings.
The Valley of the Queens.
The Temple of Luxor.
Karnak.
These are some of the most famous archaeological sites in the
world—and they’re all in what was once ancient Thebes, the
capital of Egypt during the late Middle Kingdom and throughout most of the New
Kingdom (1550 to 1070 BCE).
These sites aren’t exactly off the beaten path, but they are
undeniably powerful.
The sheer scale of these ruins is overwhelming.
You’ll never feel as awe-inspiringly small than you will while
standing near the monumental statue of a pharaoh whose big toe is twice the
size of your head.
13.
Persepolis, Iran Photo: Ali Mjr/Wikimedia Commons 
If you’re
American, you might have a tough time visiting Persepolis, but regardless of
today’s political realities, this famed ancient city in southwest Iran
is well worth a visit.
The capital city of the Persian Empire during the Achaemenid Dynasty
(550–330 BCE), Persepolis still features the 2,500-year-old ruins of
the royal palace, the treasury, and a military compound that miraculously
survived Alexander the Great’s invasion, burning, and looting of the
city in 330 BCE.
Related: Book Your Trip! Iran Expecting Tourism Boom After Nuclear Deal
14.
Mesa Verde, United States The cliff-dwelling Ancestral Puebloans lived in
this remarkable city in what is today southwest Colorado from the 6th century
to the 13th century CE.
Mesa Verde ("green table" in Spanish) is just one of 5,000 archaeological
sites and 600 cliff dwellings dramatically built into the harsh landscape of
the region.
The most famous ruin is the Cliff Palace.
The people who called the region home grew vegetables and hunted game here
for centuries — until a drought hit in the late 13th century and the
city was abandoned.
15.
Mohenjo Daro, Pakistan The Indus Valley (or Harappa) civilization dates to
5,000 years ago — and is one of the most mysterious in the ancient
world.
Located in southern Pakistan, Mohenjo Daro’s ruins include public
baths, a large residential structure meant to house thousands of people, a
marketplace, and many homes with inner courtyards, private baths, and drainage
systems.
Though the Harappan culture thrived for about 1,000 years, we know little
about its people or its Indus Script, which remains undeciphered to this day.
We’re not even sure it’s a language.
It’s one of archaeology’s greatest puzzles.
More from Mental Floss:25 Things You Should Know About Philadelphia 6
Responses to Sneezes From Around the World
25 Things You Should Know About Detroit
WATCH: The Ancient City that Looks
Like A Scene from Star Wars
Let World traveling club Travel inspire you every day.
 Watch World traveling club Travel’s original series "A Broad
Abroad.
"
Book your flight and let yourself imagine the lives of the people who called
these ancient cities home.
.
Related: An Ancient and Delicious Road Trip From Bodrum to Ephesus 5.
Herculaneum, Italy You know Pompeii.
It’s one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world.
But do you know its neighbor city Herculaneum, which was equally devastated
by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE? Most visitors overlook the small
seaside town, once a summer retreat for rich Romans.
But Herculaneum has a wealth of ruins to see, including columned buildings,
Roman baths, wide streets, and villas with stunning mosaics and frescos.
  6.
Ollantaytambo, Peru Ollanta, as it’s known, isn’t quite as
famous as Machu Picchu, but it’s still a much-visited expanse of city
ruins located in the Sacred Valley of the Incans in southern Peru.
It was built in the 13th century by the Incan ruler Pachacuti ("he who shakes
the Earth"), who constructed a royal estate, the city, military defenses, and
a ceremonial center 9,000 feet up in the Andes.
Perhaps its most dramatic feature is its steep stone terracing.
Want to hike the Incan trail? Start here.
7.
Teotihuacan, Mexico Photo: Thelmadatter/Wikimedia Commons
Teotihuacan may
be Mexico’s most famous archaeological site — and as an
ancestral home to the Maya, Mexico has no shortage of ancient wonders —
but you’ll still be infused with awe by the mighty pyramids here.
Located about 50 kilometers northeast of Mexico City, the city dates to the
1st century BCE and continued to expand over the next six centuries as the
Maya Empire grew in might and influence.
At its height, the city was home to some 25,000 people.
"It was the largest city anywhere in the Western Hemisphere before the
1400s," archaeologist George Cowgill says.
"It had thousands of residential compounds and scores of pyramid-temples and
was comparable to the largest pyramids of Egypt.
"    Related: The Ancient Oasis Towns of Oman: An Explorer’s
Dream
8.
Xi’an, China By the time Qin, the first emperor to unite China under a
single ruler, died in the 3rd century BCE, Xi’an had been one of
China’s most important political and cultural capitals for nearly 1000
years.
Buried with Qin was an astonishing wealth of treasure (and, brutally,
hundreds of living people) and the Terracotta Warrior Army, at least 7,000 of
which have been unearthed since 1974, all of them carrying real bronze
weapons.
Qin’s remains are just outside Xi’an, a bustling modern (and
smoggy) city of 8 million where you can walk atop the ancient city wall, which
was built just decades after Qin died.
Xi’an is also the eastern end of the famed Silk Road.
9.
Tiwanaku, Bolivia Photo: Lemurian Grove/Flickr)Located near Lake Titicaca
nearly 12,000 feet up in the Andes of western Bolivia, Tiwanaku was once the
spiritual and political center of an empire that from the 8th to the 11th
centuries CE ruled a vast region and spread its technological advances, from
irrigation technology to basket design, far and wide.
But its roots go back more than 4,000 years.
While archaeologists know residential areas were once part of Tiwanaku,
it’s the ceremonial centers that are mostly above ground, including the
Gateway to the Sun, the Gateway to the Moon, and the Kalasasaya temple
complex.
10.
Aksum, Ethiopia Aksum was the capital city of an Ethiopian kingdom that
was the most powerful state between the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia for
hundreds of years.
Aksum’s ruins date from the 1st to the 13th centuries CE and include
giant stelae, royal tombs, villas, and, most famously, monolithic obelisks.
(Mussolini stole one in 1937; Italy finally returned it, in three pieces, in
2005.
It was restored and erected in 2008.
) Located in northern Ethiopia near the Red Sea, the city was well positioned
at the place where Africa, the Mid-East, and the Greco-Roman world met, and
its kings capitalized on that well.
Indiana Jones should’ve looked in Aksum for the Ark of the Covenant;
some Christians believe it is stored in a church here.
  11.
Cohokia, United States It looks like a collection of grassy mounds now, but
Cahokia was once the largest pre-Columbian city in North America.
Located just north of St.
Louis, the city was once the political, religious, and economic capital of
the Mississippian culture (800 to 1350) and home to 10,000 to 20,000 people at
its peak from the mid 11th to the mid 12th centuries — as large as many
European cities of the time.
Today you can visit 51 of its 120 mounds, which were once homes, buildings,
ceremonial centers, and even an astronomical observatory.
The largest is Monks Mound.
With four terraces, at 90 feet tall it’s the largest prehistoric
earthen structure in the New World.
  12.
Thebes, Egypt The Valley of the Kings.
The Valley of the Queens.
The Temple of Luxor.
Karnak.
These are some of the most famous archaeological sites in the
world—and they’re all in what was once ancient Thebes, the
capital of Egypt during the late Middle Kingdom and throughout most of the New
Kingdom (1550 to 1070 BCE).
These sites aren’t exactly off the beaten path, but they are
undeniably powerful.
The sheer scale of these ruins is overwhelming.
You’ll never feel as awe-inspiringly small than you will while
standing near the monumental statue of a pharaoh whose big toe is twice the
size of your head.
13.
Persepolis, Iran Photo: Ali Mjr/Wikimedia Commons 
If you’re
American, you might have a tough time visiting Persepolis, but regardless of
today’s political realities, this famed ancient city in southwest Iran
is well worth a visit.
The capital city of the Persian Empire during the Achaemenid Dynasty
(550–330 BCE), Persepolis still features the 2,500-year-old ruins of
the royal palace, the treasury, and a military compound that miraculously
survived Alexander the Great’s invasion, burning, and looting of the
city in 330 BCE.
Related: Book Your Trip! Iran Expecting Tourism Boom After Nuclear Deal
14.
Mesa Verde, United States The cliff-dwelling Ancestral Puebloans lived in
this remarkable city in what is today southwest Colorado from the 6th century
to the 13th century CE.
Mesa Verde ("green table" in Spanish) is just one of 5,000 archaeological
sites and 600 cliff dwellings dramatically built into the harsh landscape of
the region.
The most famous ruin is the Cliff Palace.
The people who called the region home grew vegetables and hunted game here
for centuries — until a drought hit in the late 13th century and the
city was abandoned.
15.
Mohenjo Daro, Pakistan The Indus Valley (or Harappa) civilization dates to
5,000 years ago — and is one of the most mysterious in the ancient
world.
Located in southern Pakistan, Mohenjo Daro’s ruins include public
baths, a large residential structure meant to house thousands of people, a
marketplace, and many homes with inner courtyards, private baths, and drainage
systems.
Though the Harappan culture thrived for about 1,000 years, we know little
about its people or its Indus Script, which remains undeciphered to this day.
We’re not even sure it’s a language.
It’s one of archaeology’s greatest puzzles.
More from Mental Floss:25 Things You Should Know About Philadelphia 6
Responses to Sneezes From Around the World
25 Things You Should Know About Detroit
WATCH: The Ancient City that Looks
Like A Scene from Star Wars
Let World traveling club Travel inspire you every day.
 Watch World traveling club Travel’s original series "A Broad
Abroad.
"
Book your flight and let yourself imagine the lives of the people who
called these ancient cities home.

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