Five Legendary Lost Cities that have Never Been Found
The story of Atlantis is one of the most renowned and enduring tales of a lost city, said to have been swallowed up by the sea and lost forever. Yet, the story of Atlantis is not unique, as other cultures have similar legends of landmasses and cities that have disappeared under the waves, been lost beneath desert sands, or buried beneath centuries of vegetation. From the ancient homeland of the Aztecs, to jungle cities of gold and riches, we examine five legendary lost cities that have never been found.
Since Europeans first arrived in the New World, there have been stories of a legendary jungle city of gold, sometimes referred to as El Dorado. Spanish Conquistador, Francisco de Orellana was the first to venture along the Rio Negro in search of this fabled city. In 1925, at the age of 58, explorer Percy Fawcett headed into the jungles of Brazil to find a mysterious lost city he called “Z”. He and his team would vanish without a trace and the story would turn out be one of the biggest news stories of his day. Despite countless rescue missions, Fawcett was never found.
In 1906, the Royal Geographical Society, a British organization that sponsors scientific expeditions, invited Fawcett to survey part of the frontier between Brazil and Bolivia. He spent 18 months in the Mato Grosso area and it was during his various expeditions that Fawcett became obsessed with the idea of lost civilizations in this area. In 1920, Fawcett came across a document in the National Library of Rio De Janeiro called Manuscript 512. It was written by a Portuguese explorer in 1753, who claimed to have found a walled city deep in the Mato Grosso region of the Amazon rainforest, reminiscent of ancient Greece. The manuscript described a lost, silver laden city with multi-storied buildings, soaring stone arches, wide streets leading down towards a lake on which the explorer had seen two white Indians in a canoe. Fawcett called this the Lost City of Z.
In 1921, Fawcett set out on his first of many expeditions to find the Lost City of Z, but his team were frequently hindered by the hardships of the jungle, dangerous animals, and rampant diseases. Percy’s final search for Z culminated in his complete disappearance. In April 1925, he attempted one last time to find Z, this time better equipped and better financed by newspapers and societies including the Royal Geographic Society and the Rockefellers. In his final letter home, sent back via a team member, Fawcett sent a message to his wife Nina and proclaimed “We hope to get through this region in a few days.... You need have no fear of any failure.” It was to be the last anyone would ever hear from them again.
While Fawcett’s lost city of Z has never been found, numerous ancient cities and remains of religious sites have been uncovered in recent years in the jungles of Guatemala, Brazil, Bolivia and Honduras. With the advent of new scanning technology, it is possible that an ancient city that spurred the legends of Z, may one day be found.
The Aztec people of Mexico created one of the most powerful empires of the ancient Americas. While much is known about their empire located where today’s Mexico City can be found, less is known about the very start of the Aztec culture. Many consider the missing island of Aztlan to be the ancient homeland where the Aztec people began to form as a civilization prior to their migration to the Valley of Mexico. Some believe it is a mythical land, similar to Atlantis or Camelot, which will live on through legend but will never be found in physical existence. Others believe it to be a true, physical location that will someday be identified. Searches for the land of Aztlan have spanned from Western Mexico, all the way to the deserts of Utah, in hopes of finding the legendary island. However, these searches have been fruitless, as the location – and existence – of Aztlan remain a mystery.
The formation of civilization at Aztlan comes from legend. According to Nahuatl legend, there were seven tribes that once lived at Chicomoztoc – “the place of the seven caves.” These tribes represented the seven Nahua groups: Acolhua, Chalca, Mexica, Tepaneca, Tlahuica, Tlaxcalan, and Xochimilca (different sources provide variations on the names of the seven groups). The seven groups, being of similar linguistic groups, left their respective caves and settled as one group near Aztlan.