Special Report

25 Ancient Civilizations Destroyed by Natural Disasters

Every year, cities around the world are devastated by natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Although modern technology has given us earthquake-proof buildings, urban flood planning, and radar that can predict the path of dangerous storms, severe damage still occurs as a result of these natural forces. And such extreme events are becoming more frequent and more intense due to climate change. (The U.S. has had its share of catastrophes. Here is the worst natural disaster in every state.)

Ancient civilizations, however advanced they were, often lacked much of the scientific knowledge we have these days about the forces of nature, and many paid the ultimate price for it. 24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of 25 of once-thriving centers of human settlement destroyed or emptied by natural disasters. 

Some of these cities’ abilities to sustain a prosperous settlement were weakened gradually by climate-related crop failures, leading to their eventual abandonment or decimation at the hands of invading forces. Others were completely wiped out in the course of a day as a result of tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, or earthquakes. (Here are great cities that came back after being nearly destroyed.)

Click here to see 25 ancient civilizations that were destroyed by natural disasters

Relics of these ancient civilizations remain to this day. Excavations through volcanic sediment, sand, and mud have uncovered intact artifacts from many of them. Underwater exploration has also revealed monuments, buildings, and artifacts from cities that were inundated by the sea. (With sea levels continuing to rise, here are 28 amazing places that could be underwater by 2050.)