10 Civilizations You’ve Never Heard Of

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Lost languages and mysterious disappearances are just some of the interesting things about these 10 lesser known civilizations. (See Alltime 10s video below.)

01. YONAGUNI (3000BC – 400AD) Yonaguni is one of the Yaeyama Islands. It is the westernmost inhabited island of Japan and lies 108 kilometers (67 mi) from the east coast of Taiwan, between the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean proper. In the 1980s, local divers discovered a striking underwater rock formation off the southernmost point of the island. This so-called Yonaguni Monument has staircase-like terraces with flat sides and sharp corners.

Although the majority of the academic society regard the rock formation as natural joint, Masaaki Kimura, a professor of seismology in University of the Ryukyus and some media believe it is an artificial (or artificially modified) structure engraved or built 2,000 to 3,000 years ago.

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Photo of an underwater Pyramid in Yonaguni

02.  CATALHOYUK (7500BC – 5700BC) Çatalhöyük is Turkish for “fork”, höyük for “mound”) was a very large Neolithic and Chalcolithic settlement in southern Anatolia, which existed from approximately 7500 B.C. to 5700 B.C. It is the largest and best-preserved Neolithic site found to date. In July 2012, it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Çatalhöyük was composed entirely of domestic buildings, with no obvious public buildings. While some of the larger ones have rather ornate murals, these rooms’ purpose remains unclear.

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Archeologists working at Çatalhöyük

03. INDUS VALLEY (3300BC – 1300BC) The Indus Valley is one of the world’s earliest urban civilizations, along with its contemporaries, Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt. At its peak, the Indus Civilization may have had a population of well over five million. Inhabitants of the ancient Indus river valley developed new techniques in handicraft (carnelian products, seal carving) and metallurgy (copper, bronze, lead, and tin).

The civilization is noted for its cities built of brick, roadside drainage system, and multistoried houses.

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Photo of Indus Valley

04. MINOAN (3500BC – 1500BC) The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that arose on the island of Crete and flourished from approximately the 27th century BC to the 15th century BC.It was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century through the work of the British archaeologist Arthur Evans. Will Durant referred to it as “the first link in the European chain.” 

The early inhabitants of Crete settled as early as 128,000 BC, during the Middle Paleolithic age. However it was not until 5000 BC that the first signs of advanced agriculture appeared, marking the beginning of the civilization.

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Ruins on Crete, Knossos. Center of Minoan civilization.

05. ETRUSCAN (900BC – 200BC) Etruscan civilization is the modern English name given to a civilization of ancient Italy in the area corresponding roughly to Tuscany, western Umbria, and northern Latium. The ancient Romans called its creators the Tusci or Etrusci. Their Roman name is the origin of the terms Tuscany, which refers to their heartland, and Etruria, which can refer to their wider region.

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The Etruscans used to build their cities on the slopes and hills, called Acropolis, while their thumbs on the level of the Sea, called Necropolis.

06. NORTE CHICO (3000BC – 1800BC) The Norte Chico civilization also Caral or Caral-Supe civilization) was a complex pre-Columbian society that included as many as 30 major population centers in what is now the Norte Chico region of north-central coastal Peru. It is the oldest known civilization in the Americas and one of the six sites where civilization separately originated in the ancient world. It flourished between the 30th century BC and the 18th century BC.

The alternative name, Caral-Supe, is derived from the Sacred City of Caral in the Supe Valley, a large and well-studied Norte Chico site.

Complex society in Norte Chico arose a millennium after Sumer in Mesopotamia, was contemporaneous with the Egyptian pyramids, and predated the Mesoamerican Olmec by nearly two millennia.

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Ariel photo of ancient ruins that were built by the Norte Chico civilization

07. HITTITE (1750BC – 1200BC) The Hittites were an ancient Anatolian people, who established an empire at Hattusa in north-central Anatolia around the 18th century BC. This empire reached its height during the mid-14th century BC under Suppiluliuma I, when it encompassed an area that included most of Asia Minor as well as parts of the northern Levant and Upper Mesopotamia.

After c. 1180 BC, the empire came to an end during the Bronze Age collapse, splintering into several independent “Neo-Hittite” city-states, some of which survived until the 8th century BC. The Hittite military made successful use of chariots.

Although belonging to the Bronze Age, they were the forerunners of the Iron Age, developing the manufacture of iron artifacts from as early as the 14th century BC, when letters to foreign rulers reveal the latter’s demand for iron goods.

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An entrance to the ancient city built by the Anatolian people.

08. MOCHE (100AD – 700AD) The Moche cultural sphere is centered around several valleys on the north coast of Peru in regions La Libertad, Lambayeque, Jequetepeque, Chicama, Moche, Virú, Chao, Santa, and Nepena. The Huaca del Sol, a pyramidal adobe structure on the Rio Moche, had been the largest pre-Columbian structure in Peru.

However, it was partly destroyed when Spanish Conquistadores mined its graves for gold. Fortunately the nearby Huaca de la Luna has remained largely intact; it contains many colorful murals with complex iconography. It has been under archeological excavation since the early 1990s.

Other major Moche sites include Sipan, Pampa Grande, Loma Negra, Dos Cabezas, Pacatnamu, San Jose de Moro, the El Brujo complex, Mocollope, Cerro Mayal, Galindo, Huanchaco, and Panamarca.

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The massive Huaca del Sol of the Moche civilization.

09. OLMEC (1200BC – 400BC) The Olmec were the first major civilization in Mexico. They lived in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico, in the modern-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco. They were the first Mesoamerican civilization and laid many of the foundations for the civilizations that followed. Among other “firsts”, the Olmec appeared to practice ritual bloodletting and played the Mesoamerican ballgame, hallmarks of nearly all subsequent Mesoamerican societies.

The most familiar aspect of the Olmecs is their artwork, particularly the aptly named “colossal heads”.The Olmec civilization was first defined through artifacts which collectors purchased on the pre-Columbian art market in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Olmec artworks are considered among ancient America’s most striking.

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Some researchers believe that the Mesoamercian Olmec culture has Chinese origins

10. RAPA NUI (700AD – 1700) The Rapa Nui or Rapanui are the native Polynesian inhabitants of Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, in the Pacific Ocean. The easternmost Polynesian culture, the Rapa Nui people currently make up 60% of Easter Island’s population and have a significant portion of their population residing in mainland Chile. They speak both the traditional Rapa Nui language and the primary language of the island, Spanish.

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The island is basically famous for the giant Moai statues carved from the mountain thousand of years ago