The 13th Floor

5 Real Civilizations that Mysteriously Vanished

Anyone who has ever played SimCity can attest to how hard it is to create a working society. Not only do you have to balance industry, commercial, and residential properties, but you also have to deal with the occasional volcanic eruption and UFO invasion. Then there are those times when you just get bored with the game, so you start clicking the earthquake button repeatedly. But mysterious things happen in real life, and sometimes in our human history entire civilizations and townships have simply vanished without a trace. Here are five civilizations that ended up vanishing under unexplained circumstances.


Anasazi, which means Ancient Ones, are thought to be the ancestors of modern Pueblo Indians. They inhabited the Four Corners region of the United States: southern Utah, southwestern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, and northern Arizona from 200 to 1300 AD. What began as a nomadic culture eventually turned agrarian when they began to abandon gathering for farming. Around this time, they also built amazing and extensive cities into the cliffs and rock formations of the desert.  By 500 AD, the Anasazi also became known as skilled basketmakers using handwoven baskets to store everything from food to their dead. Around the 13th century, a cataclysmic event forced the Anasazi from their cliff dwellings. There has never been any clear indication of what this event was although evidence has been found to suggest warfare, internal conflict and even cannibalism.


Khmer Empire

The Hindu-Buddhist Khmer Empire occupied Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and southern Vietnam from 800 to 1430 AD. Expanding out from its capital of Angkor, the Khmer people were known as great builders, constructing huge temples and reservoirs as well as an extensive system of roads and bridges. The Khmer Empire’s demise began around the 12th century with the Thai migration. Thai inhabitants of the Yunnan region, the border region of China and Southeast Asia, began their migration for unknown reasons. It started out as small groups, but when the Mongols eventually took Yunnan the remainder of the Thai population quickly headed south. They established their kingdom on the western side of the Khmer Empire where they began attacking and annexing smaller parts of the group. Eventually, they seized the capital of Angkor in 1431, putting an end to the Khmer Empire.  The old buildings of Angkor were later reclaimed by the jungle. Centuries later these would become well-visited tourist destinations.


Aksumite Empire

The Kingdom of Aksum was a trading empire located in the northern part of Ethiopia along the Red Sea which existed during the Iron Age. At its height, the Aksumite Empire extended throughout Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. Around 325, under the rule of King Ezana, the entire empire converted to Christianity and was the first state to put the cross on their coins. Unlike their Christian European counterparts, the Aksumite remained on good terms with their Islamic neighbors. However, the Islamic Empire eventually took over control of the Red Sea, forcing the Aksum into an economic isolation. They eventually left their capital and abandoned their costal lands as they were forced farther inland and into the highlands. It is believed that the Jewish Queen Yodit finally defeated the empire then went about burning all their churches and literature.


Indus Valley Civilization

This Bronze Age civilization occupied the northwestern regions of South Asia, in part of what is now known as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. At the height of their civilization, their population reached around 5 million. The Indus Valley Civilization were known for manufacturing mud bricks which they used to construct their cities. These 4,000-year-old bricks were so sturdy that in 1856 British engineers working on the East India Railroad used bricks from the Indus city of Brahminabad. By the time the railroad was completed, the entire city had been dismantled in order to provide ballast for the tracks. It is believed that their initial decline occurred around 1800 BC when they began to abandon their cities. Although some evidence suggests that they were invaded by Indo-European tribes from Central Asia, other evidence suggest that they were mostly wiped out by internal violence and disease. Another theory states that the monsoon fed Ghaggar-Hakra river, which once flowed through their civilization, eventually dried up due to urbanization.



The Mycenaeans occupied the southern peninsula of Greece and were the first civilization to speak Greek. They prospered between 1650 and 1200 BC and were heavily influenced by the nearby island of Crete. The beginning of the end came around 1250 BC when for some unknown reason several of their cities were burned to the ground. Other cities showed evidence of invasion before being burned. This first wave of destruction was immediately followed by a fortification. However, this fortification was short-lived as a second wave of destruction began around 1190 BC. There is no consensus on how the final collapse happened.Some believe it was outside invaders and others believe that internal warfare among the Mycenaean states led to civil unrest which was their ultimate demise.