Oct 11, 2021

By M. W. Byrne

World's Most Mysterious Civilizations

Khmer Empire

The Khmer is a vast area that encapsulates what is now Angkor Wat, but was once the metropolis of Angkor. Sprawling and grand, Khmer died from overfarming, war, and droughts that caused scarcity of resources.

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The Clovis

Historically thought to be the oldest culture in North America, the Clovis have no written records, which is the only reason they don’t throw all of us out for trespassing.

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Anasazi

Existing largely around the 12th century, BCE, the Anasazi spanned the Four Corners region of the United States (southeastern Utah, northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico, and southwestern Colorado).

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The Olmec

Once residing in the tropical region of Mexico, the Olmec were a nasty group who tended to favor human sacrifice and bloodletting. They are known for the immense stone heads they carved from a volcanic rock (basalt).

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Mayans

Former pride of the Yucatán with massive structures spreading across the land from Mexico into South America, there’s quite a bit known of Mayan teachings: complex calendar, mathematics, and engineering systems.

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Mycenaeans

Popping up in southern Greece around 1600 BCE, the Mycenaeans were known to be a powerful naval force and adept traders. How they declined is an unknown quantity, though invasion, regional earthquakes, or civil unrest.

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Rapa Nui

Capable of building impressive heads (Moai) that are attached to immense stone bodies, the Rapa Nui are better known as the Eastern Islanders. Clearly artists and artisans of grand skill they were also capable of island hopping around treacherous waters

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Aksumite Empire

The Aksumites are the first major empire to convert to Christianity, they had a developed alphabet and liked to build obelisks, like the Obelisk of Axum, which stands today.

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Catalhöyük

Known to many as “the world’s oldest city,” this is the capital of a larger group that lived in lower Turkey. The reason this city is notable is because it is built like a hive.

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The Cucuteni-Trypillian People

Neolithic humans who enjoyed patterned pottery, they would also burn their entire village to the ground every 60 to 80 years and build atop the ashes a new place.

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Nabta Playa

Likely the same group that would later found Egypt and major civilizations in the Mesopotamia region. Nearly 11,000 years ago, the Nabta Playa people were creating stone circles that helped diagram the stars.

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Minoans

We’ve only known about the Minoans for about a hundred years, which isn’t a lot of time to unravel much of their mysteries. Dedicated to living on the isle of Crete, they hit their peak in 1600 BCE, but were then rocked by a flurry of natural disasters.

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Cahokia

In the midwest lies an oddity. It’s a small mound city of a people who existed circa 1250 CE. An extensive place, it is estimated that this metropolis probably held a maximum of 40,000 inhabitants at one time. Immense for the era.

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The Harappan

Pakistan was once the beating heart of the world, when the Indus Valley Civilization, called The Harappan during their power, held a huge city under their sway a couple thousand years before the common era.

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Silla

The Silla kingdom ruled south-eastern Korea during the Three Kingdoms period from the 1st century BCE to 7th century CE.

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The Nabateans

A nomadic tribe - the Nabateans began migrating gradually from Arabia during the 6th BCE. Over time they settled in in southern Jordan, the Naqab desert in Palestine, and in northern Arabia. Their capital city was the legendary Petra.

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The Sanxingdui

A whole pop-up culture, the Sanxingdui appeared in China for a while, then huge earthquakes in the region altered the entire landscape, and these people dropped off the planet. A quick whack-a-mole society.

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Moche

Also known as the Mochica civilization, the Moche have flourished between 1 CE and 800 CE along the northern coast and valleys of ancient Peru, in particular, in the Chicama and Trujillo Valleys.

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The Sea Peoples

A band of pirates that spent a century attacking the Hittite Empire and the Egyptians, generally terrorizing the Mediterranean, then disappearing to a secret location when their pillaging was done. Lost pirates from nowhere.

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