The search for ‘lost cities’ | History Files

By Tim Raetzloff | Jan 07, 2018

A great deal of effort and money has been expended searching for the "lost cities" of Atlantis, Troy, Camelot, El Dorado and Ubar. No one actually knows whether any of those cities ever really existed.

But there are real "lost cities" that have been abandoned over the years for various reasons.

Many know that I like to visit the locations of ghost towns such as Alpine and Skagit City, and the towns once located between Edmonds and Mukilteo, Meadowdale and Mosher.

The written history of our state isn't much over 200 years old, but, in that time, towns -–some important to the history of the region – have been born and died and lost to memory.

But our ghost towns or "lost cities" pale compared to the ones that exist around the world. In 1601, conquistador Juan de Onate described a city of 20,000 people that he called Etzanoa. Historians since have been skeptical of Onate's claim.

Only recently has evidence emerged that Etzanoa did exist and was located near the present location of Arkansas City, Kansas.

Viroconium was a city, or civitas in Latin, of perhaps 15,000 people located in west-central England. Ruins of the town have now been excavated near the village of Wroxeter. There was a fortress, a marketplace and baths that were a necessary part of Roman civilization.

Tourists may now visit the 2,000-year-old stone ruins.

In the U.S., even in Alabama few have heard of Cahaba. But Cahaba was the first state capital of Alabama. Apparently, the site was poorly chosen and subject to floods and an unhealthy climate. The state capital is now Montgomery, and the county seat Selma, and Cahaba is an unpopulated state park.

But the biggest ghost town of which I have heard is Ani.

Ani was once the capital of the Armenian nation. But borders have moved over the centuries, and Ani is no longer in Armenia. It stands in eastern Turkey. Politics and religion affect its status – if it were a few miles east in Armenia, it would probably be a venerated, protected site.

Its location in Turkey is a nuisance for all involved. The Turks really don't want to be reminded that Armenia was once much larger than it is now. Armenia is now a country a little less than half the size of Washington, and a little less than half the population.

The ruins of many buildings still stand in Ani, including churches. According to internet sites, Ani was once known as the city of 1,001 churches. The stones of some of those churches still stand abandoned. Photos of town give evidence of the importance it once possessed.

The ruins of Ani stand silently, reminding us that all is fragile. What seems important and permanent may be only transitory.

It is important to preserve even small bits of history before they are lost forever.


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