Exploring Lost Places

Image
02

Stonehenge

Stonehenge originally served both as a permanent abode for the ancestral dead and as a renowned place of healing.

01
Stonehenge
02

Caesarea Maritima

The aqueduct that brought it freshwater might be Caesarea Maritima's most spectacular ruin. But the city that the biblical King Herod had built on Israel's Mediterranean shores was, above all, a seaport. A series of excavations there in the 1980s, led by archaeologist Robert Hohlfelder, revealed its harbor to be one of the largest and most sophisticated in the ancient world. Geo-archeologist Beverly Goodman has since discovered that a tsunami struck it sometime in the first or second century A.D., probably hastening its decline.

01
Caesarea Maritima
02

Persepolis

Envoys bearing tribute march eternally up a ceremonial staircase in the spectacular ruins of Persepolis, capital of the once mighty Achaemenian Empire, which during the time of Xerxes (486-465 B.C.) had dominated the civilized world. Assyriologist Matthew Stolper of the University of Chicago is spearheading a drive to clean, conserve, and digitally capture the tens of thousands of crumbling clay tablets found in the ruins, which once comprised the empire's administrative archives.

01
Persepolis
02

Colossi of Memnon

The fabled Colossi of Memnon have loomed over the Egyptian desert near Luxor for nearly 3,500 years. But it was only in the 1970s that an archaeologist actually studied these twin statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III from a modern engineer's perspective. Using neutron activation analysis, Robert Fleming Heizer discovered that the stone quarries from which they were hewn were located near Cairo, hundreds of miles away. Though weighing nearly a thousand tons apiece, they were probably transported by barge to their present site via a canal dug through the desert.

01
Colossi of Memnon
02

Tulum

Perched dramatically on seaside cliffs jutting off of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, the ancient ruins of Tulum once overlooked an important pre-Columbian port. As the distinguished Mexican archaeologist Pilar Luna first demonstrated in the mid-1980s, its most prominent structure, known for years as El Castillo, was most likely not a citadel but rather an ingeniously designed navigational beacon, so situated that the view of the lamps in its windows told sailors how and when to work their craft safely through the reefs.

01
Tulum
02

Grand Canyon

Prehistoric granaries tunneled into the face of Nankoweap Canyon, an offshoot of the Grand Canyon, were among the sites surveyed and excavated by anthropologist Douglas W. Schwartz, who in the 1960s pioneered the archaeological investigation of the famous landmark. Working in both the tremendous gorge itself and on its adjoining North Rim, he discovered pictographs, building foundations, and even the remains of cleverly constructed waterworks.

01
Grand Canyon
02

Angkor Wat

Still serene despite centuries of war and neglect, the great Cambodian temple of Angkor Wat was once the heart of the great Angkor Empire, which flourished from the 9th through the 16th centuries. Archaeologists like Roland Fletcher have recently been transforming our understanding of that realm. They have discovered just how densely populated it once was. Using airborne imaging radar systems, they have found evidence that urbanized landscapes employing sophisticated water delivery systems once sprawled out for hundreds of miles in every direction.

01
Angkor Wat
02

Bamian

Closed to outsiders for centuries, Afghanistan had by 1931 opened enough to admit the Society-supported Citroen-Haardt Transasiatic Expedition. Using half-tracked vehicles, the expedition was in the midst of achieving the first motorized crossing of Asia from the Mediterranean to the Yellow Sea. When the team arrived in Afghanistan's stunning Bamian Valley,they unlimbered a large-format camera and made the first color photographs ever taken of the giant 6th-century Buddhist statues in their cliffside niches.

01
Bamian
02

Bamian

Incensed when in 2001 the Taliban government destroyed the two great statues, Afghan archaeologist Zemaryali Tarzi has since been searching for a third one, the buried Sleeping Buddha of Bamian, a reclining figure that ancient texts claim is a thousand feet long. So far he has found the remnants of a smaller such figure beneath a nearby temple but continues his search for the larger one.

01
Bamian
02

Petra

Petra, hidden in a deep gorge in Jordan, was once described as "the rose red city half as old as time." Yet it is still young compared to neighboring Iron Age settlements. Whereas the façade of its famous Treasury was carved some two thousand years ago.

01
Petra
02

Machu Picchu

Though called simply the "Peruvian Expeditions 1912-15," they rank among the most important field projects because they represent the first adventures in archaeology. The scene of these initial endeavors could not have been more spectacular: a cloud-wreathed Andean peak, where together with Yale University the Society undertook the original excavation of that "Lost City of the Incas," Machu Picchu.

01
Machu Picchu
02

Herculaneum

Pompeii and Herculaneum were two ancient Italian cities that were not slowly buried beneath the sands of time. They were instead entombed beneath tons of rock and ash blasted out of nearby Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Many inhabitants fled toward the Mediterranean seafront, as Dr. Sara Bisel poignantly discovered when she excavated Herculaneum in the 1980s. She found human beings frozen in positions of terror, though turned to ash, and skeletons still garbed in jewelry and wrapped protectively around the bones of their children.

01
Herculaneum
02

La Venta

The eleven colossal stone heads unearthed from the steamy jungles of southern Mexico were the first sign that a previously unknown civilization, eventually called the Olmec, were buried beneath the soil. Spading away between 1938 and 1942, he excavated a basalt-pillared tomb, a jaguar-faced sarcophagus, and troves of jade artifacts that put such hamlets as La Venta and San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán permanently on the archaeological map.

01
La Venta
02

El Brujo

In 2006, while excavating in a mud-brick Moche culture pyramid at El Brujo in northern Peru, they were amazed to find the tattooed mummy of a young woman who had died some 1,500 years ago. Finding that the mummy was surrounded by sumptuous grave goods, Verano likened the discovery to that of King Tut's tomb in Egypt.

01
El Brujo
02

Aphrodisias

When archaeologists first saw the site in Turkey where the classical city of Aphrodisias once stood, it was a tumbled ruin, weed-choked and overgrown. But over the next two decades (1966-1988), the painstaking excavations revealed an astonishingly complete city"a "miracle in marble" with plazas, public baths, and a Temple of Aphrodite (above)"that flourished for seven centuries before wars and earthquakes forced its abandonment.

01
Aphrodisias
Share facebook twitter gplus

Related Slideshows